MARK O’Haire’s (@MarkOHaire) scoured Thursday night’s Euro 2016 qualifying card to find the best bets from the continent.
Portugal v Denmark | Thursday 19.45 | ITV4
The Portuguese public are expecting to see their side book their place at Euro 2016 on Thursday night in Braga. Requiring just a point to seal automatic qualification, Fernando Santos’ side are understandable odds-on favourites to get the job done but those tuning in and expecting a thriller should make alternative arrangements.
It’s Denmark’s final qualifier and the visitors arrive three points behind the hosts in Group I and just one clear of third-placed Albania having played one game more. The Red and White know avoiding defeat is imperative if they’re to stand any chance of succeeding in a top-two finish.
Despite having 500-goal machine Cristiano Ronaldo in tow, Portugal are far from the fluent, attack-minded and sexy side they’re probably portrayed at. They’ve not been for some time but the appointment of Fernando Santos post-World Cup has brought their dour ways under the spotlight.
Santos is the man who brought Greece back to their mean, low-scoring and effective ways, leading the Pirate Ship to the World Cup and an outstanding W26-D17-L6 in his 49 matches in charge. Those 49 fixtures returned just 14/49 (29%) of winning Over 2.5 Goals selections and that’s a trend that’s continued now he’s taken over the Seleccao.
Including friendlies, Portugal have W7-D0-L4 of their 11 games since Santos returned home with 8/11 following the Under 2.5 Goals trend and seven matches being settled by a solitary goal. Portugal have kept clean sheets in five of those fixtures to tally nicely with the 25/49 shutouts he oversaw in charge of Greece.
Between both stints, Santos has therefore delivered a huge 43/60 (72%) of Under 2.5 Goals winners as well as 30/60 (50%) clean sheets. Efficient.
Delve a little deeper into his reign with Ronaldo and co. and we can see that only twice have Portugal scored two or more goals, hitting the back of the net 11 times in those 11 previous outings. Twice the Seleccao have required stoppage-time winners against the Danes and Albania during qualifying.
Denmark have W3-D3-L1 and been held to goalless draws in their previous two qualifiers. Head coach Morten Olsen is another safety-first operator and so the Red and Whites are unlikely to stray too far from their tried-and-trusted containment tactics in the Estadio Municipal.
The Danes have fired blanks in their last three away from Copenhagen but have at least kept their sheets clean in their most recent three qualifiers. Five of their seven qualification matches have featured fewer than three goals and so when we couple those figures alongside Santos’ overwhelmingly strong trends, another Under 2.5 Goals encounter looks likely.
We can back Under 2.5 Goals at 8/11 with Marathon whilst Under 1.5 Goals can be snapped up at 28/13 with the same firm. Collectively during Group I qualification these two nations have managed 9/13 (69%) winning Under 2.5 Goals selections and 6/13 (46%) in the Under 1.5 Goals department, making both bets excellent value and worthy of pursuing.
Finally, it’s also worth pointing out that in five meetings between the pool’s top three teams (Portugal, Denmark and Albania), only five goals have been scored in total with Under 2.5 Goals banking on each occasions and Under 1.5 Goals in four of the five showdowns.
Romania v Finland | Thursday 19.45 | Sky Sports Red Button
Ah, Romania. Home to the Carpathian mountains and Dracula, the producer of Gheorghe Hagi and the Cheeky Girls, and more importantly, owners to the most stable statistical records in European football right now. Romania, I like you.
The Tricolours trail table-toppers Northern Ireland by a point in Group F (W4-D4-L0) and can feel Hungary breathing down their necks. Having opened their account with W4-D1-L0, three successive goalless draws have seen top spot pinched and qualification still unsealed.
But Anghel Iordanescu’s men have been running like clockwork in a couple of major markets that are well worth a look at on Thursday night. For starters, Romania have kept clean sheets in seven of their eight Group F encounters thus far, including a sequence of six on the spin dating back a year.
Add in friendly internationals and the hosts have shut out their opposition in 12 of their last 15 matches as well as in 10 of their 15 outings at their Arena Naționala home in Bucharest. Immediately the 20/21 (Boylesports) on Finland scoring Under 0.5 Goals starts to come into focus.
On top of that, all eight of the Tricolours qualifiers have failed to break the Over 2.5 Goals barrier. Throw in non-competitive matches and 14 of their most recent 16 have featured Under 2.5 Goals including 10 of their previous 11 on home soil.
Finland have followed suit with six of their eight Group F duels producing two goals or fewer as well as 10 of 13 when including friendly internationals. Away from Helsinki, seven of their last 11 qualifiers were also winning Under 2.5 Goals selections.
The Eagle-Owls have failed to net in three of their Euro 2016 qualifiers, only once notched more than one goal in a game, enhancing our view that a Romania clean sheet looks more than achievable. But with Under 2.5 Goals trading at a restrictively low price, it’s worth adding a Romania win to the Under 2.5 Goals equation.
Backing Romania to win and Under 2.5 Goals is 11/5 with Boylesports and should be well worth a poke. As well as the Tricolours needing to pick up maximum points, the hosts have managed a decent W15-D11-L2 return from Bucharest games in the past five years.
Finland’s road record is far from poor but it’s notable that their 10 points in the pool have been picked up against bottom-two dwellers Faroe Islands and Greece whilst their four fixtures with teams above them (Northern Ireland, Romania and Hungary) have returned four losses and just one goal scored.
Romania v Finland – Romania to win and Under 2.5 Goals (11/5 Boylesports)
Romania v Finland – Finland to score Under 0.5 Goals (20/21 Boylesports)
Portugal v Denmark – Under 1.5 Goals (28/13 Marathon)
Portugal v Denmark – Under 2.5 Goals (8/11 Marathon)
Just four clean sheets in their last 12 away qualifiers, Ireland stand a great chance of notching on Thursday night. After all, they've done so in 23 of their last 25 Dublin outings so how do you fancy backing them to net a goal at 5/1?
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