TWO Euro 2016 qualifiers meet in Cardiff. Who is Chris Graham (@chrisgraham79) backing to succeed?
Wales v Northern Ireland | Thursday 19:45 | BBC Two
Imagine the backslapping that will be going on on in this match? Both sides will be falling over themselves to congratulate each other for reaching this summer’s European Championship. But in what state will the teams be in in six months time?
I think Northern Ireland might suffer a tortuous summer in France and the agony may begin here. Michael O’Neill’s side have been drawn against Germany, Poland and Ukraine in the group stages and three defeats out of three is a serious possibility.
While it was an outstanding achievement for the nation to win their group, I’m not sure the form of Group F will stand up as rock solid. Greece were top seeds and fellow qualifiers Romania and Hungary don’t look like they’ll be competing at the business end of the competition.
For me, Wales’ group was a lot stronger and they ended the section with just one defeat to their name and that was when qualification was all but wrapped up.
Group opponents Belgium look like one of the favourites for Euro 2016 while Bosnia were smart enough to qualify for the World Cup in Brazil. Israel and Cyprus are both sides that on their day can cause superior nations real problems.
Wales have lost just one of their last nine home games and that came against an angry Netherlands side hurting after missing out on Euro 2016 qualification.
Chris Coleman’s side are missing Gareth Bale, Aaron Ramsey and an assortment of other players as they host Northern Ireland but I still think they’ll have enough.
Researching this match I stumbled across some gory Northern Ireland stats. They’ve haven’t beaten Wales in seven matches stretching back to 1980, they’ve won just one of their last 21 friendly matches and have failed to score in their last 13 away friendlies. Pass me the sick bucket!
Of course, one must never take friendlies too seriously but I was surprised to see Wales as big as 7/5 on their own turf. I think they’re a stronger side than the Irish with a far better group of players. They missed Bale and Ramsey last November in their narrow defeat to the Netherlands and can overcome their absence at the expense of Northern Ireland on Thursday.
Wales v Northern Ireland – Wales to win (7/5 Betfred)
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