World Cup Qualifiers: Goals look underrated in Armenia

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MARK Stinchcombe (@markstinchcombe) makes a return to WLB, with a preview of Sunday’s best bets in the World Cup qualifiers.

Armenia v Kazakhstan | Sunday 16:00 | Sky Interactive

5th takes on 6th in group E here with both sides in need of points having registered just one win in eight between them. Having come back from 2-0 down in their previous game to beat Montenegro 3-2, Armenia go into this as 10/11 favourites. However, I wouldn’t be rushing to back them having failed to win any of their matches in qualification for Euro 2016, losing six of eight to finish bottom of the group.

Kazakhstan meanwhile managed one better and grab a win and place higher in their Euro qualifiers. With Armenia rated as 0.6 goals the better side, I was keen to investigate whether that disparity is justified.

Whether it is or not, with a goal expectation of just 2.35, it means the chances of the Kazak’s scoring isn’t rated as high, something I would be inclined to disagree with.

They’ve scored in 22 of their last 33 games (67%), including 15 of their last 20 away games (75%). This includes home and away to Holland and Czech Republic, Turkey, Poland, Denmark, Ireland, as well as in Nurnberg against Germany to show they can score against anyone.

Which brings me nicely onto Armenia who ship goals for fun. Since the beginning of 2014, they’ve conceded 50 goals in 23 games, over two a game on average (2.17pg).

However, it looks a tough job for Kazakhstan to stop Henrikh Mkhitaryan and co with them having conceded 23 goals on their travels in just seven games against Cyprus, Denmark, Montenegro, Czech Republic, Turkey, Holland and Hungary in the last two years. Both teams to score is priced 6/5 and my ratings have it more in the 8/11 area.

England v Lithuania | Sunday 17:00 | ITV1

Gareth Southgate comes into his 6th match as England manager following his first defeat in charge in a 1-0 defeat away to Germany on Wednesday. In truth England outplayed the Germans for large parts of the game in a new 3-4-2-1 system and only a wonder strike from outgoing veteran Lukas Podoloski cost them at least a draw.

In Southgate’s two qualifiers at Wembley so far they’ve beaten Malta 2-0 in his debut and Scotland 3-0. Lithuania enter here on the back of two away games both ending in convincing defeats, 3-0 to Czech Republic in a friendly and 4-0 to Slovakia in a qualifier.

Having failed to score in 13 of their last 19 internationals, and missing both attackers in Fedor Chernykh and Lukas Spalvis who contributed 67% of their goals in this two-and- half-year period (6 of 9), it looks to be a case of how many will England win to nil. As well as their previous two games, Lithuania have suffered convincing defeats away to Russia 3-0, Hungary 4-0 and Switzerland 4-0.

Southgate’s men produced expected goal tallies of 1.97 and 1.66 v Malta and Scotland respectively, showing their potential for scoring 3+ goals, and with only three players in the squad with five goals or more, we shouldn’t be expecting a demolition job.

You can dutch England to win 3-0 and 4-0 at 5/1 and 15/2 giving us odds of around 5/2 which look more than fair for a team 1/8. These two met twice in 2015 with England running out 4-0 winners at home and 3-0 away.

Montenegro v Poland | Sunday 19:45 | Sky Interactive

Staying with Group E, 2nd takes on 1st with both sides getting off to good starts. Despite throwing away a 2-0 lead at Armenia, Montenegro have won in Denmark, held Romania away and thrashed Kazakhstan.

Poland have taken the handbrake off that held them back at the Euro’s, winning three of their four, having thrown away a 2-0 lead against the Kazak’s in the other. Montenegro appear somewhat rejuvenated from their Euro qualifying having only managed 10 goals in 10 games they already have nine at this stage.

That probably has something to do with their talisman Stevan Jovetic being fully fit. He only managed to start five games in the Euro qualifiers, here he’s played 90 minutes in every one, scoring three goals.

After a disappointing summer in France, Poland have taken off where they left the last qualifiers, attacking at will and not worrying too much defensively, keeping just two clean sheets in their last 10 qualifiers.

Going back further, there can’t be many teams who’ve conceded to both Gibralter and San Marino. The goal expectancy in this match has also been chalked up at 2.35 which seems far too low and in all honesty, lazy.

Over the last four years Poland’s matches are averaging 2.93 goals. For me the angle I like again here is both teams to score at 23/20. In recent years, Austria, Russia, Ukraine and even Moldova have been to Montenegro and scored 3+.

And with Arkadiusz Milik back fit to partner Robert Lewandowski upfront, with Grosicki, Zielinksi and Blaszczykowsi attacking from midfield they look justified in their odds on quotes. These two met in the last World Cup qualification with it finishing 1-1 in Poland and 2-2 here in Podgorica.

Best Bets

Armenia v Kazakhstan – Both Teams To Score (6/5 888 Sport)

England v Lithuania – England to win 3-0 (11/2 William Hill)

England v Lithuania – England to win 4-0 (15/2 Paddy Power)

Montenegro v Poland – Both Teams To Score (23/20 32Red)

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