Moldova v France | Friday 22nd March 2019, 19:45 | Sky Sports
Current world champions France kick-off their Euro 2020 qualifying campaign with a glamour tie away to Moldova. I suppose it’s part and parcel of these qualifiers, but to go from the 80,000 seater Luzhniki to the 10,000 capacity of the Zimbru Stadium will be a crash back to earth.
On the pitch though, Les Bleus should have no problem with swatting the minnows aside. We are all aware of the talent their squad possesses and this fixture should be meat and drink for the likes of Paul Pogba and Kylian Mbappe.
Moldovan football is not in a good moment. Many will think they rank on a level up from the seriously minuscule European outfits but whereas those nations have improved in the last decade, Moldova have gone backwards and are probably on an even keel with the likes of Andorra and Liechtenstein.
Moldova’s Nations League form was hardly positive. In a group involving San Marino, Luxembourg and Belarus they only won twice. They were both against San Marino by scorelines of 1-0 and 2-0. Their most well-known player is centre-half and captain Alexandru Epureanu who plays for Istanbul Basaksehir in Turkey.
It’s a major mismatch and I expect the visitors to get the job done with consummate ease. Didier Deschamps’ troops are as short as 1/12 but we can get a much more palatable price of 22/25 (Unibet) on France Winning Both Halves.
Luxembourg v Lithuania | Friday 22nd March 2019, 19:45 | Sky Sports
As mentioned above, some of the Euro small-timers have improved in recent times; the poster boys for this movement are Luxembourg. Domestically, the tiny landlocked nation has seen FC Dudelange get all the way to the Europa League group stages – a fantastic and quite remarkable achievement.
There’s a feel good factor at the Stade Josy Barthel these days and they’ll fancy their chances against most.
Incredibly, Les Lions Rouges held France to a 0-0 draw in Toulouse in 2017 and their results over the past few years show that not to be a fluke. They’re well-drilled by gaffer Luc Holtz and they’ve only lost four of their last 16 of late.
Lithuania are the visitors on Friday evening and looking down their results it’s a sea of red. In all competitions they’ve a W1-D2-L17 record in their last 20. it does not make for pretty reading.
If you have any degree of trust in the official FIFA Rankings system then you’ll find the Balkan visitors sandwiched between Andorra and St Kitts and Nevis. Luxembourg, on the other hand, are between Cyprus and Gabon which gives you an indication of their relative upturn.
Bookmakers seem to have cottoned on to the fact that Luxembourg are actually a highly respectable side and that’s now reflected in their odds as they come into this one as 147/100 favourites.
That looks a more than fair price though, so I’m going to be a little more conservative and use Bet365’s Bet Builder to combine the hosts in the Double Chance market with Under 4 Goals which gives us a 4/6 quote.
It’s about as low I’d ever go with a recommendation but it looks a solid one. If that isn’t your cup of tea then I couldn’t put you off the 147/100 (Marathon) quote for a home win.
Portugal v Ukraine | Friday 22nd March 2019, 19:45 | Sky Sports
Euro 2016 winners Portugal are one of the four sides that will compete in the Nations League finals in their own back yard this summer. Nevertheless, they’ll be keen to kick-start their Euro 2020 campaign with a win as they welcome Ukraine to the Estadio De Luz in Lisbon on Friday night.
Fernando Santos is a pragmatic manager. His sides rarely take teams to the cleaners and his managerial style is built on a solid defensive base and a midfield full of running. It’s a hard-working, collective ethos which has proved successful in recent years. It may not always be pretty on the eye, a surprise given the array of attacking talent, however they get the job done.
The Selecao have plenty of players having impressive seasons. Cristiano Ronaldo is the obvious one and he is back in the squad after failing to feature since the World Cup. Look elsewhere and they have Premier League-based Bernardo Silva, as well as Wolves trio Ruben Neves, Joao Moutinho and Diogo Jota enjoying fruitful campaigns.
Domestically, Dyego Sousa has been a shining light in Braga’s impressive 18/19 whereas Benfica youngsters Joao Felix and Ruben Dias have both impressed enough to get a place in the squad.
Ukraine, on the other hand, are much of a muchness. They tend to do their better work on their own patch but are certainly competitive under the stewardship of native hero Andriy Shevchenko. Having said that, they’re a comfortably a level below their counterparts here.
Ukraine will try keep it tight and probably opt for a five-man midfield and hope to stay in the game as long as possible. The hosts should have too much though and the 2/5 quotes for the outright win suggest that. However, I’m happy to boost those short odds to a more appetising price of 20/21 (Boylesports) by chucking in Under 3.5 Goals.
Under 3.5 Goals has landed in eight of Portugal’s last 10 victories as well as 15 of Ukraine’s last 16 defeats. It looks a worthwhile selection.
Moldova v France – France to win both halves (22/25 Unibet)
Luxembourg v Lithuania – Luxembourg Double Chance and Under 4 Goals (4/6 Bet365)
Portugal v Ukraine – Portugal to win and Under 3.5 Goals (20/21 Boylesports)