WILL DYER (@w2Dyer) has found his form on the international break. In this preview he looks at four games from around the continent.
Ukraine v Kosovo | Sunday 17:00 | Sky Sports Red Button
Kosovo were well beaten by Croatia on Thursday but that 6-0 defeat looks to have caused a bit of an overreaction amongst the odds compilers.
They’ve gone from being 4/1 to beat Finland last month to 16/1 to beat Ukraine – that looks quite inflated to me and give us room to manoeuvre on the Asian lines.
Whilst they did concede six goals and failed to score against the Blazers, they weren’t penned in all the time; the Dardanians actually managed 12 shots at goal, with five of them on-target.
Ukraine went to Turkey and drew 2-2, a very respectable result but they did squander a 2-0 lead and it’s now five Internationals without a win after they lost every group game at Euro 2016 and failed to beat Iceland at home in the opening game of their World Cup qualification campaign.
Kosovo losing heavily to Croatia is not something to be embarrassed by in my opinion. Croatia have very dangerous wingers and imperious target men, enough to score a few goals against anyone and I believe they’ll win Group I at a canter.
Kosovo to keep this pretty close looks the best angle. Kosovo +1.5 is 43/40 on the Asian Handicap at Bet365. Win, draw or lose by one goal and we get a full pay-out.
In 44 competitive home games since 200, Ukraine have only scored four or more goals on three ocassions and they were against Andorra, San Marino and Faroe Islands. To put it simply, they don’t demolish teams.
Iceland v Turkey | Sunday 19:45 | Sky Sports Red Button
Turkey lost 3-0 in Iceland on the road to Euro 2016. It was the first game of qualification back in September 2014 and their poor discipline once again proved to be their Achilles heel when Omer Toprak was sent off early in the second half.
Iceland have since then shocked the continent by beating the likes of the Netherlands home and away and England and Austria at the Euros.
They were 10/3 to beat Turkey back then but after all that’s happened I feel they should be shorter than 6/4 here. It took two very late goals for them to beat Finland earlier this week but they were all over them.
That victory now means that they’ve lost just one of their last 13 home games with a W9-D3-L1 record.
Beating Turkey at home is not even something new for the Icemen. They beat the Crescent Stars twice in World cup qualification in the 80s and are now unbeaten against them in four in Reykjavik.
The current Turkish squad is lacking a good goalkeeper and has little experience in the way of caps in midfield. Emre Mor looks likely to be a brilliant player for Borussia Dortmund but he’s still just 19.
With Burak Yilmaz not in the 23-man squad it means that their top scorers are Hakan Calhanoglu and Mevlut Erdinc, both on just eight for their country. That’s not to take anything away from the former who is a set piece master.
Iceland and Turkey are almost 3,000 miles apart and that distance alone has to have an effect. This is a nation of 300,000 taking on one of 75 million but I’ll back Iceland to make the most of their windy and cold climate with another scalp at 31/20 with Bet365.
Serbia v Austria | Sunday 19:45 | Sky Sports Red Button
Serbia had a good 3-0 win on Thursday but beating Moldova isn’t anything to shout about. The Eagles have certainly underachieved in recent years with a strong defence and the likes of Dusan Tadic and Zoran Tosic going forward.
The problem seems to be the lack of a really decent striker. Aleksandar Mitrovic is not bad but his international strike rate is poor at four goals from 23 games. Not since Predrag Mijatovic, the former Real Madrid player, and Savo Milosevic have they had forwards with goals in them.
The Serbs face Austria who had a very poor summer in France at Euro 2016 when much more was expected of them. They didn’t win a single game at the tournament and suffered defeat to both Iceland and Hungary.
However, Das Team did have a brilliant qualification campaign topping their group with nine wins out of 10, no defeats and a goal difference of +17. They deserved to beat Wales on Thursday but an own goal from Kevin Wimmer and a stunning strike from Joe Allen held them to a 2-2 draw.
The win away in Georgia was a decent result against a dogged defence. So I’m a little surprised to see Serbia chalked up as almost even-money favourites for this. I’ll happily back the visitors to avoid defeat at 4/5 with 188Bet.
Marko Arnautovic bagged a brace against Wales and I think it’s only a matter of time until Marc Janko finds his shooting boots for his country again. The 33-year-old has 24 in 41 games for Basel since joining last season.
Serbia only won two of eight group games in Euro 2016 qualification and Austria have much more to offer going forward. Youngsters like Marcel Sabitzer have big futures and David Alaba is world class as we know.
Albania v Spain | Sunday 19:45 | Sky Sports 3
It took France until the 90th minute to open the scoring against Albania in the group-stage of Euro 2016. The Red and Blacks have some technically gifted players in the form of Elseid Hysaj, Taulant Xhaka and Amir Abrashi but it was still a surprise to see them run both France and Switzerland close and beat Romania.
I’ll keep this one short and sweet as I’m running out of time but I had to find a way of getting with Albania. Spain, although they outplayed Italy on Thursday, are not the team they once were and 12/1 for the home side to win makes them a little undervalued if you ask me.
Both Teams To Score is as big as 6/4 and that’s appealing but I’ll opt for Albania +1.5 on the Asian Handicap at 33/40 with Bet365. They should keep this fairly close.
Spain have not scored more than two goals in any of their last 10 away games and took a while to get going in their last qualification campaign.
Ukraine v Kosovo – Kosovo +1.5 Asian Handicap (43/40 Bet365)
Serbia v Austria – Austria +0.5 Asian Handicap (4/5 188Bet)
Iceland v Turkey – Iceland to win (31/20 Bet365)
Albania v Spain – Albania +1.5 Asian Handicap (33/40 Bet365)