WILL DYER scans the Monday UEFA World Cup qualifying coupon. Here he picks out three selections from some of the lower profile games with Macedonia, Georgia and Austria the focus.
Macedonia vs Liechtenstein | Monday 9th October 2017, 19:45 | Sky Sports
Macedonia recorded one of the best results in their history with the 1-1 draw at the Stadio Olimpico on Friday night. Indeed, it wasn’t even a result that flattered them with the Red Lynxes mustering as many shots on target (3) as the four-time World Champions.
That stalemate made it just one loss in their last six games and that was only a 1-2 reverse at home to an upwardly mobile Spanish team back in June. Even prior to this string of games their previous defeat was a 2-3 loss at home to Italy which needed a 92nd minute Ciro Immobile winner to deny them.
There is no doubt then, that this team is soon to rise back into the top 100 of the world. Last year they held their lowest ever FIFA ranking of 162 since the breakup of Yugoslavia and their formation in 1994. Their highest ever ranking was 54 back in 2006 and they are back up to 103rd after September’s performances.
The trio of veteran Goran Pandev, Aleksandar Trajkovski and Ilija Nestorovski all ply their trades in Italy with the latter two both at Palermo. Nestorovski has scored four in eight appearances in the group stage and bagged 11 in the Serie A last season.
The nation’s biggest ever win came in Liechtenstein back in 1996 when winning an impressive 11-1. They are their opposition on Monday and it’s a country they’ve beaten more times than any other; five.
The reverse fixture in Vaduz back in March saw the visitors run out three nil winners and it should have been more. Nestorovski missed a last-minute penalty to record a second half hattrick as Macedonia completely dominated the game with 69% possession and 20 attempts at goal.
As for Liechtenstein, they are set to record another pointless qualifying campaign. They have scored just the solitary goal, away at Israel. It would be unfair to criticise a nation of just 40,000 people – a statistic that isn’t bandied amount anywhere near as much as it is for San Marino.
The Blues-Reds squad holds just eight players playing outside of their small principality. I like the prices on Macedonia having a field day with this team trending in the right direction, so it’s a shot at the hosts on the -3 handicap at 11/4 with PaddyPower for me.
Moldova v Austria | Monday 9th October 2017, 19:45 | Sky Sports
Austria licked their wounds with the 3-2 win over Serbia last week. They were certainly placed in a competitive group but this was a nation being tipped to go well by everyone at Euro 2016 after topping their group undefeated.
Cue a group stage exit at the tournament proper with just one point recorded, albeit against eventual winners Portugal. Since then Austria have spiralled from 10th in the world to 57th, the win over Serbia was a welcome relief.
Das Team shouldn’t have too much trouble against whipping boys, Moldova. The hosts of Monday’s affair haven’t won a match yet this campaign and failed to register a shot on target when visiting Vienna.
Austria have a host of talent to call upon; David Alaba and Marko Arnautovic being the household names but many other players ply their trade in the Bundesliga and Watford stalwart Sebastian Prodl and Aleksandar Dragovic are also in the Premier League, although the latter is yet to feature for the Foxes.
Prodl misses out through injury and Martin Harnik and Zlatko Junuzovic are other notable absentees put perhaps some fresh faces was the tonic they so needed. Guido Burgstaller and Louis Schuab, players with just a handful of caps were amongst the goals against table-toppers Serbia whilst Maximilian Wober made his debut and Kevin Danso and Moritz Bauer also entered the fray in a new-look defence.
Two young Florians, Grillitsch and Kainz, who play for Hoffenheim and Werder Bremen made up half of the attacking corps and could well have made a case for regular selection.
Austria should be back on track after that result and look good value to me on the -1.0 Asian Handicap line at 10/13 with 188Bet. Win by two or more goals and we have a winner, win by one and our stake is refunded.
Serbia v Georgia | Monday 9th October 2017, 19:45 | Sky Sports
This one’s a stats based pick. Georgia may not have won a game in this qualifying campaign but they have scored in nine of their last 12 away games in all competitions. That includes goals against Germany in Leipzig and even an unbelievable 1-0 friendly win in Spain last year when priced at over 50/1.
By the same token, Serbia may top the group but they’ve managed just two clean sheets in 15 home games; those coming against Moldova and Armenia. Their supposed classy defence containing Branislav Ivanovic, Matija Nastasic and Aleksandar Kolarov rarely pulls through.
The Eagles have conceded a total of 10 goals in nine group games and after shipping three on Friday night their confidence could come into question in this automatic qualification decider.
Serbia could still be pipped to top spot if they lose and Wales and Ireland draw or if they draw and Wales or Ireland win. That pressure could well get to them and I like the price on Both Teams To Score at 13/8 with 888Sport with plucky Georgia seemingly written off.
Macedonia vs Liechtenstein – FYR Macedonia -3 Handicap (11/4 PaddyPower)
Moldova vs Austria – Austria -1.0 Asian Handicap (10/13 188Bet)
Serbia vs Georgia – Both Teams To Score (13/8 888Sport)