WITH little else on this midweek to capture our imagination, we asked Mark O’Haire (@MarkOHaire) to pick out a few fancies from Wednesday’s friendly international card.
Poland v Serbia | Wednesday 19.45
Poland continue their preparations for their third successive crack at the European Championships this summer with a non-competitive clash with Serbia from Poznan on Wednesday night.
The White-Red sealed qualification when finishing as runners-up in Group D, just a point behind world champions Germany, whom they famously beat 2-0 in Warsaw. Two draws with Scotland and four points from the Republic of Ireland ultimately proved decisive in securing an automatic spot in France
Now Adam Nawalka's side are keen to continue their upwards momentum and iron out necessary tweaks with the tournament just over 10 weeks away.
So what can we expect from the Poles? Nawalka has moulded an industrious and formidably confident attacking side designed to serve Robert Lewandowski. Alongside the often-lethal Arek Milik, the White-Reds two forwards contributed 19 of the 33 goals that Poland racked up during qualification.
It’s a far cry from the opening months under Nawalka's tenure – Poland notched just once in the head coach’s first six fixtures. However, the hosts have since scored in all bar one of their previous 16 outings, netting at least twice on 12 occasions.
As hosts, the White-Red are unbeaten in 10 (W7-D3-L0) and have shown good friendly form over the past two years (W7-D4-L2). If we look at all of Poland’s results from the past 12 months – W9-D6-L1 – we can see they’re clearly in good nick.
Opponents Serbia endured a chaotic campaign. A talented but deeply fractious squad failed to produce the goods in Group I, finishing fourth of five with just four points to their name.
The Serbs were stripped of three points due to the violent scenes that marred their match with Albania in Belgrade and put alongside their dreadful road record (W1-D1-L3 in qualifying), the Eagles’ qualification dreams went up in smoke.
Dick Advocaat began the failed campaign in charge but walked out in October 2014 with Radovan Curcic taking over the lead role since. His W4-D0-L7 return has continued Serbia’s underperforming theme with their last outing a comprehensive 4-1 defeat to Czech Republic in a November friendly.
The Eagles have been beaten in all three of their non-competitive matches since 2014 and lost four of their last five on the road too. I’d fancy Poland to extend that streak on Wednesday night.
However, seeing as it’s a friendly we might as well have a nibble on something a bit bigger. Despite Serbia’s recent poor form, the visitors have only failed to score just twice in their last 20 matches and in no fewer than 10 of their last 12 away.
With those strong scoring stats in mind, plus Poland’s potent attackers on show, this could be quite an intriguing contest. I’ll have a wee wager on the Poles to win and Both Teams To Score at 4/1 (Betfair) for interest – it’s proven profitable in five of Serbia’s last six losses and all four of Poland’s most recent victories.
Romania v Lithuania | Wednesday 18.00
Romania take on Lithuania at the Stadionul Marin Anastasovici in Giurgiu on Wednesday evening and I’m expecting anything but a classic.
Anghel Iordănescu’s hosts are understandably short in the pre-match markets (2/5) having qualified for this summer’s tournament off the back of an unbeaten Group F campaign (W5-D5-L0), in which the Tricolorii recorded a mammoth eight clean sheets.
Romania have motored up the FIFA world rankings to 16th following a 15-match unbeaten streak (W8-D7-L0) and last time out the eastern Europeans were full value for a 2-2 draw with Italy in November.
The Tricolorii are fearsome operators on home soil too – Romania’s past 26 fixtures in front of their adoring fans have returned just two defeats (W14-D10-L2) and although former politician Iordănescu has left the likes of Alexandru Chipciu, Cristian Tanase and Alexandru Maxim out of the squad, we should expect a strong show.
Scoring goals has been an issue for the hosts but with Bogdan Stancu and Raul Rusescu set to lead the line this midweek, and Constantin Budescu also in the fold, there should be enough gas in the tank to see off Lithuania.
The visitors finished fifth in Euro 2016 qualifying Group E behind Estonia, Slovenia, Switzerland and England, only finishing above rank outsiders San Marino. Indeed, Igoris Pankratjevas paid price for the unsuccessful campaign with Edgaras Jankauskas taking over the reins.
This is Jankauskas’ debut in the away side’s hot-seat but it’s fair to say the former Soviet republic are focussing more on their upcoming Baltic Cup challenge. And with their only away point from a possible 15 during Euro 2016 qualifying picked up in San Marino, Lithuania are unlikely to cause Romania too many problems.
The Rinktine’s terrible travelling record has seen them collect just W3-D5-L17 across their past 25 road trips and with seven losses in their last eight head-to-heads with Romania, I’m happy to explore avenues alongside a home triumph.
Romania to win ‘to nil’ at evens with Skybet will be my weapon of choice. It’s succeeded in 12 of the hosts’ last 13 victories as well as nine of Lithuania’s last 11 defeats with the guests failing to notch in six of their past seven on the road.
Poland v Serbia – Poland to win and Both Teams To Score (4/1 Betfair)
Romania v Lithuania – Romania to win ‘to nil’ (1/1 Skybet)
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