MARK O’Haire’s (@MarkOHaire) scoured the coupon from Friday’s crucial Euro 2016 qualifiers in the hope of landing a few international winners.
Montenegro v Russia | Friday 19.45 | Sky Sports Interactive
Spain v Ukraine was picked by Sky Sports as the lead game from Friday night’s offering but Montenegro’s clash with Russia is already looking like a vital showdown on the road to Euro 2016 and shouldn’t disappoint.
The two teams are locked on five points in Group G and a clear five points adrift of pace-setters Austria. Sure, the top two teams qualify automatically and Sweden sit just a point above both nations but a win or loss here could have fatal consequences come October time when the group concludes.
Russia arrive in Podgorica as 11/10 favourites and there’s just no way we could get involved with Fabio Capello’s troops at that price. The 2018 World Cup hosts arrive on the back of three consecutive 1-1 draws (including an embarrassing result at home to Moldova) and the Italian boss is under fire as he bids to turn the ailing national team’s form around.
The visitors opened their account with a breezy 4-0 success over Lichtenstein but that success is he only fixture in seven competitive outings in 2014 that Russia scored more than one goal in a game. And although Montenegro are yet to record three points since despatching Moldova 2-0 in Podgorica back in the opening round of games, the hosts are capable of getting a result.
The Brave Falcons have dropped down the FIFA rankings after a series of disappointing results but have only been beaten in four of their 17 competitive matches at the Podgorica City Stadium since earning full UEFA membership. Coral have made Montenegro available to back at 17/20 in the Double Chance market, meaning I’ll be paid out should the hosts avoid defeat and that appeals.
Macedonia v Belarus | Friday 19.45 | Sky Sports Interactive
It’s probably the unsexiest fixture on Friday night’s card but that doesn’t mean we should desert Belarus’ trip to Macedonia from a punting perspective. Oh no. There’s a bet to be had with Paddy Power offering 11/10 on FYROM in the Draw No Bet.
As a QPR fan, I’m well accustomed to brave home displays and often shoddy, pathetic away performances. It’s a little soul-destroying but at least it’s fairly predictable. Well you can stick Macedonia in the same bracket as the Super Hoops.
It’s quite easy to point, look and laugh at the Red Lions’ recent record. Failure to score in six of their previous eight outings and defeats in 12 of their last 16 will probably send most of you running for the hills but hear me out… FYROM have returned W9-D2-L5 in their past 16 at the Philip II Arena.
And when hosting teams of similar stature as Belarus in competitive internationals at their Skopje base, Macedonia are rarely turned over. Since 2007, the only nations to beat the Red Lions in their own back yard in non-friendly fixtures are the Netherlands, Spain, Russia, Ireland, Croatia, Belgium, Scotland and Slovakia.
Boško Gjurovski’s team have faced a difficult opening to their qualifiers with games against the top-three seeds but FYROM netted in a 5-1 loss in Spain and put in determined displays against Slovakia and Ukraine, only to be suffer from a few awful defensive mishaps. Gjurovski will have certainly outlined this match under the ‘winnable’ category, as he did when they overcame Luxembourg 3-2 on home soil.
Belarus have taken a point from same four fixtures at Macedonia and the visitors have won just three competitive away games since 2007. At worst, I expect a push from the Draw No Bet selection and I’m slightly surprised to see the hosts as underdogs for this encounter.
Moldova v Sweden | Friday 19.45 | Sky Sports Interactive
Another game that’s unlikely to get your juices flowing on Friday night but I’m keen to have a dabble on the 6/4 from Betfair that Both Teams Score in this Group G showdown from Chisinau.
I’ve already alluded to the tight nature of the pool during the above Montenegro-Russia preview and with Moldova deemed the whipping boys of the group, many punters will expect Sweden to wipe the floor with their Eastern European opposition but I can assure you, it won’t be that straightforward.
Since 1997 only three nations have left Moldova with wins by a margin of three goals or more – Turkey in 2001, funnily enough Sweden in 2011 and England in 2012. Sure, San Marino (twice) are the only side they’ve beaten in competitive football on home soil in the past four years but Alexandru Curtianu’s men won’t be easy meat.
Despite Moldova’s nightmarish results, the Eastern Europeans have netted in 10 of their last 12 Chisinau fixtures, including their defeat to group leaders Austria back in October. With Sweden keeping just three clean sheets in 13 road trips, I’d like to think backing Both Teams To Score is more than just a speculative stab in the dark.
Montenegro v Russia – Montenegro double chance (17/20 Coral)
Macedonia v Belarus – Macedonia draw no bet (11/10 Paddy Power)
Moldova v Sweden – Both Teams To Score (6/4 Betfair)