Euro 2020 Qualifying: Azzurri can expect an early onslaught from Bosnia

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QUALIFYING for Euro 2020 continues on Friday and James O'Rourke (@JamesOR1) is on-hand to unearths his favourite fancies.

Finland v Liechtenstein | Friday 15th November 2019, 17:00 | Sky Sports

The formula is simple for Finland in Group J and that is a victory would confirm second spot in Group J and a spot at Euro 2020. This would resemble their first-ever appearance at a major tournament, and although on paper this should be a routine victory, you can be sure that some nerves will be present if they don’t bag an early goal.

Liechtenstein are unsurprisingly propping up the group, sitting on just two points. Whilst that does mean they’re undefeated in two of their last three pool games, they haven’t won since September 2018 when defeating Gibraltar 2-0 at home.

We mention about the desire for an early goal from Finland, but the earlier group head-to-head meeting, which the Fins eventually won 2-0, did see the game remain 0-0 until just before half time.

Finland themselves have won just one of their last three in the group, although that did include a slender home setback to Italy and a heavy loss to Bosnia. Only Italy has defeated them at home in FIFA or UEFA sanctioned games since July 2017, so they’re tough to beat on their own patch.

We don’t foresee too many issues with Finland getting the job done on the night, but there has to be some value somewhere despite them being priced around 1/16. There is however a certain goalscorer in the Finland ranks who we fancy to get involved on the action.

Step up Teemu Pukki, the top dog in the Finnish ranks and the ‘go to’ guy whom they look towards for inspiration. It has of course been well-documented that he has gone seven games without a club for Norwich in the Premier League, but he has no such problems in the national team. Across his last six caps, he has seven goals, including their last four home games in succession.

We fancy the Canaries man to bag the opening goal on this occasion, and odds of 5/2 (Betway) to me makes this a worthy play. In the last 11 games in which he has netted for Finland, it was the first goal in the match on nine of those occasions.

Forget his club form, he may well be glad just to get away from Carrow Road for a few weeks and focus on all things Finland, with who he is in terrific form and knows the nation is on the cusp of making history.

Bosnia v Italy | Friday 15th November 2019, 19:45 | Sky Sports

Bosnia go into this game knowing that they must win to stand any chance of forcing their way into second position. However, this is the same group as Finland, and we know that they really should be defeated Liechtenstein on Friday night. Realistically, Bosnia won’t be getting out of this group, and they only really have themselves to blame.

One thing the Bosnians can generally be relied upon is a strong home record. In fact, they’ve only lost three home matches since the start of 2014, the most recent being to Belgium in October 2017. Their main problem, without a shadow of a doubt, is their away form. They’re winless in their last seven on their travels.

Of course, this encounter with Italy is at home, so they’ll fancy their chances of putting up a competitive display, something they actually did do in the away meeting in Turin earlier in the group. Bosnia led them game but Marco Verratti, who misses this game through injury, netted an 86th-minute winner to complete the turnaround.

Roberto Mancini has enjoyed a fine qualification campaign with the Italians and proudly have a played eight, won eight record. Of course, qualification is already assured, so it now remains to be seen what the game plan is for Italy.

Well, the former Manchester City boss could be looking towards a degree of experimentation given the likes of Nicolo Casale, Sandro Tonali, Riccardo Orsolini, Gaetano Castrovilli and Andrea Cistana have all been called up. Of course we still have experienced names in the form of Leonardo Bonucci, Jorginho, Ciro Immobile and Lorenzo Insigne involved on the act, but could the Italians potentially be a bit vulnerable in this one?

I think they might be and we already saw in the earlier group contest that Bosnia can cause a scare. Bosnia will be up for this, regardless of the fact qualification isn’t likely. They’re a small nation and love pitting their wits against the big boys. Team selection could be key for this bet and maybe keep half an eye on what Mancini does from the off.

One play I do like the look of is Bosnia to Score First at 13/10 (Marathon). I think this is an amazing price and will probably drop if Italy do start a few youngsters in this one.

Rather than backing Bosnia outright, I do prefer this bet. Only three times since the start of 2015 have they not scored the first goal in a home game (not including two 0-0s). I just think Italy are one to avoid and this is a nice little selection to get Bosnia on side in the early stages at least.

Best Bets

Finland v Liechtenstein – Teemu Pukki to score first (5/2 Betway)

Bosnia v Italy – Bosnia to score first (13/10 Marathon)

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