WILLIE DUNCAN (@Willie_Duncan) picks out his favourite fancies from Saturday’s World Cup qualifying card in games not involving the Home Nations.
Poland v Denmark | Saturday 19.45 | Sky Sports Red Button
Despite their failure to beat Scotland (twice) on the road to Euro 2016, I am still struggling to shake my belief that Poland are a fairly formidable prospect – particularly on home soil.
Maybe it’s the Robert Lewandowski factor, the memory of that stunning 2-0 win against Germany in Euro 2016 qualifying that put the Poles firmly on the path to Paris or the fact that they’ve been beaten in just one of their last 10 home major tournament qualifiers – in truth, I just can’t put my finger on it.
Whatever it is, Adam Nawalka’s men look like superb value to pick up three precious points in World Cup 2018 qualifying when they play host to Denmark on Saturday evening.
The Danes rarely deliver on the road; excluding participation in the Kirin Cup this summer, Age Hareide’s men have won just once in 10 matches on their travels, failing to find the net in five of their last six fixtures away from home.
As such, the hosts are too good to resist at 21/20 (Bet365) to win this weekend.
Germany v Czech Republic | Saturday 19.45 | Sky Sports Red Button
Remember that time that the Germans made a complete hash of qualifying for a major tournament? No, me neither – and that’s why Die Mannschaft carry so much appeal ahead of Saturday’s showdown.
Of course, the 1/4 quote offered up for a home win is prohibitive, but there are plenty of ways for punters to back Joachim Low’s men.
For me, the best of them is the even-money quote (BetVictor) on offer from the odds compilers for the 2014 World Cup winners to win to nil against the shot-shy visitors this weekend.
Despite plenty of huffing and puffing, the Czechs could not blow the Northern Irish defensive wall down in Prague last month and, likely to be starved of possession here, it’s hard to see the visitors having a goal to cheer against the Germans.
Low’s side have kept a clean sheet in seven of their last nine matches, while Czech Republic have failed to find the net in three of their last five games.
Backing Die Mannschaft to win to nil at evens, therefore, is the recommended play for punters ahead of this tussle.
Slovenia v Slovakia | Saturday 19.45 | Sky Sports Red Button
Slovakia will, one day come in handy as the correct answer to the pub quiz question “Who were the only team that Sam Allardyce faced as England manager?”
However, having reached the knockout stages at the European Championships earlier this summer, Jan Kozak’s side will have loftier ambitions than that – and they can kick-start their bid to reach World Cup 2018 by getting the better of Slovenia on Saturday night.
Before suffering a dismal defeat at the hands of Wales in their opening game at Euro 2016, Slovakia had been beaten just twice in 20 games – and their warm-up for the finals in Paris included a memorable 3-1 victory over Germany.
Slovenia showed heart to fight back from 2-0 down against Lithuania in their opening group game but, let’s be frank, if you’re ever 2-0 down to Lithuania, you aren’t that good to begin with – and recent results back that up for Slovenia’s four wins from their last 16 games have come against Macedonia, Estonia and San Marino (twice).
For that reason, I fancy Kozak’s charges to flex their muscles in Ljubljana and pick up three precious points from Saturday’s showdown at 23/10 (Bet365).