WILL DYER (@w2Dyer) is back for Tuesday night’s European World Cup qualifiers. Here he picks out bets from Groups A and H with two of Europe’s elite travelling to lesser lights.
Belarus v France | Tuesday 19:45 | Sky Sports 2
Interestingly Belarus have scored in all of their four previous games against Les Bleus and hold a W1-D1-L2 record which is more than respectable. These nations have now been paired together in three of their last four major tournament qualification groups.
In Group I for the 2014 World Cup qualification campaign Belarus scored twice in the home leg and once in the away and in Group D for the Euro 2012 qualifiers they held France to a 1-1 draw at home and beat them 1-0 away at the Stade de France.
Results have also picked up of late for the White Wings. A 1-0 away success was recorded in Norway last week and they also beat the Irish in their own backyard 2-1 back in May.
Belarus were left disappointed after failing to qualify for Euro 2016 finishing fourth in Group C but they were always going to struggle being matched with Spain, Ukraine and Slovakia.
Performances though did improve in their last few group games when the pressure was off; they ended the campaign with a credible 1-0 away defeat in Spain before beating Slovakia on the road and Luxembourg at home.
The French had a weird summer. Ante-post favourites, the hosts toiled in the Group Stages to get the job done; scoring three of their four group goals after the 89th minute and failing to beat Switzerland.
Goals flowed against Iceland but they were actually beaten in the second-half with some pretty suspect defending on show. They were very professional against Germany, winning the game with hardly any of the ball but then that inability to put teams away early re-emerged in the final against Portugal which they eventually lost in extra-time.
All told I don’t think they should be 2/5 favourites to go to Borisov and get the win. Belarus are trending in the right direction and there is good value in backing both sides to score here at 5/4 with Betfair. That French hangover should still be lingering.
Cyprus v Belgium | Tuesday 19:45 | Sky Sports 3
Cyprus finished bottom of an average qualifying group at their last attempt. They managed just 5 points against Switzerland, Norway, Slovenia, Iceland and Albania.
Given Iceland and Albania’s brilliant performances at Euro 2016 we should perhaps cut them a little slack but the absence of any truly big nation in that previous group still points towards a disappointing campaign to me.
Their lowest ever FIFA ranking was posted after that World Cup 2014 qualifying attempt in June 2014 when they hit 142nd in the world. Overall they have played 327 international matches and posted a W62-D57-L208 record with an abysmal goal difference of -434. World Cup qualification is where they’ve struggled the most; winning just 11.5% of their games and losing 76%.
The Cypriots improved during Euro 2016 qualifying though, 2 goals from Christofi earnt them an away win against Bosnia and they also won 2-1 away in Jerusalem. They scored in eight of their 10 games and only lost by more than one goal once despite playing both Wales and Belgium, who both made it to the latter stages of the tournament proper.
Oddly they hosted Belgium at home exactly a year ago to the game they’ll play on Tuesday. It took Belgium until the 86th minute to break the deadlock and only win 1-0 with Cyprus hardly dominated.
17 of the 23-man squad play in their home country but these days’ clubs like Apollon Limassol and APOEL have vast European experience and this has obviously helped their players.
Belgium are in my opinion no way near FIFA’s estimation of them as the 2nd best side in the world and pretty much everyone reading this will probably agree.
The Red Devils have bags of talent but that doesn’t usually translate into a fluid performance on the pitch. A 3-1 defeat at the hands of Wales in the quarter-finals of Euro 2016 further reiterated that.
It’s true that the likes of Thibaut Courtois, Toby Alderweireld, Eden Hazard and Kevin De Bruyne are world class players. Add to that list an embarrassment of attacking riches in players like Michy Batshuayi, Romelu Lukaku and Yannick Carrasco and there’s certainly firepower but the squad looks a little unbalanced.
Indeed, you could class nine of the 25 players called up as wingers/forwards. Whilst only Axel Witsel, Moussa Dembele, Steven Defour and Radja Nainggolan are true midfielders.
They posted another poor result last week losing a home friendly 2-0 to Spain, having just 37% possession and mustering just the solitary shot on target.
Consequently, I’m getting with the underdogs here on the +1.5 Asian handicap at 10/11 with Betvictor. Win, draw or lose by one goal and we get paid out. Only if Cyprus lose by more than one goal will the bet lose.
Belarus v France – Both Teams To Score (5/4 Betfair)
Cyprus v Belgium – Cyprus +1.5 Asian Handicap (10/11 BetVictor)