Armenia v Finland | Tuesday 26th March 2019, 17:00 | Sky Sports
Both of these sides began their Group J campaigns with defeats, although that was to be expected. Armenia lost 2-1 away in Bosnia, which was more convincing that the score suggests having only scored a consolation penalty deep into added time. As for Finland, they came out second best to the Italians. It therefore places bigger importance on this game to record three points, although both coaches would have known that some time ago anyway.
Something of a positive for Armenia is that they haven’t suffered too many home defeats in recent times. In their UEFA Nations League campaign, they won two of three on home soil, although they did lose 1-0 to Gibraltar, and they only defeated Macedonia and Liechtenstein. That perhaps puts some reality on the situation and the battle ahead of them. Nevertheless, they’ll view Finland as an opponent that they can realistically cause a few problems for.
Finland are actually the favourites for this game, which is a rarity for them, especially away from home. They’ve had victories away to the likes of Kosovo and Estonia to their name over the last few years, and they’ve essentially lost against the sides they should be. They certainly have a stronger group of players on paper in comparison to Armenia, which is probably why they’re deemed as favourites.
Having said that, this is a game that I’d be surprised too many would be getting involved in the 1×2 market. There is no appeal at all looking at Finland at those prices, whilst Armenia don’t win enough to be mega confident about their chances either. Therefore, we’ll look elsewhere for some value.
The goals line, or lack of, is one which I’ve decided to sway towards on this occasion. Tactically, I can see this being a bit of a cagey game in some respects, even more so as both enter this on the back of a defeat and no another loss here would end their already extremely thin hopes of even remotely threatening the top spots in the group.
Something I touched upon prior to the Italy v Finland game is the lack of goals in Finland’s matches. That is something ironic given they have Championship top scorer Teemu Pukki up front. It is now nine official games in succession which has ended below the 2.5 goal line.
Armenia’s contests have tended to be present to more goals. However, they’ve shipped two in each of their recent away games in Gibraltar and Liechtenstein, and whilst they’ve scored in reply, it is nothing to necessarily shout home about. Armenia will have a go here, but Finland play quite a tactical game and are quite tough to break down, as Italy found out the other night.
I think Under 2.5 has to be the play here. 4/6 is available at 888 if you’re quick.
Norway v Sweden | Tuesday 26th March 2019, 19:45 | Sky Sports
This is a game which will get people talking in Scandinavia. Each of these were involved in 2-1 matches on Saturday, with Sweden edging past Romania and Norway just falling short in Spain. Norway therefore may feel slightly more pressure heading into this one, plus they are the home team and more onus is on them in a way. These two will believe that they can really challenge for second position in this group, so even on matchday two in Group F, this looks a significant contest.
I’ve been playing quite close attention to Norway for a little while now and they are a bit of a dark-horse in my eyes. They haven’t appeared at a major tournament since Euro 2000, but they are starting to knock on the door some ten years later. They have a handy little squad, certainly on the levels of Sweden, who are seemingly regulars at all the major summer tournaments every two years. Norway were second best in Spain the other night, but they’ll take heart from a narrow 2-1 loss, having scored a late equaliser to force the Spaniards into a bit of a panic. Lars Lagerbäck is in charge, a name most of us will have heard of in the international football realm, and he is very much getting a tune out of this crop of players.
Sweden made their mark in the last World Cup and it took a resurgent England to end their good run in Russia. They have since won their UEFA Nations League group, albeit on goal difference, and they have one win from one as they look to seal their spot in next summer’s multi-country event. They don’t necessarily possess many star names. Some will argue Emil Forsberg falls into that category, but certainly not at the level of a certain Zlatan. Some feel the retirement of Ibrahimović has helped the national team, and there is an argument for that.
Norway are narrow favourites to claim the three points on Tuesday. Home advantage being the obvious reason. In fact, Germany were the last side to defeat them on Norwegian soil, and that came back in September 2016. They’ve not necessarily beaten any top sides since then, but seven wins in a row is not to be sniffed at.
It is fair to say that Sweden look to make the most of home advantage themselves, as their away form is nothing too spectacular. In their World Cup qualifying group, they only beat Luxembourg and Belarus away from home. Norway and Sweden did meet in a friendly as recently as 2017, with an uneventful contest ending 1-1.
I can picture another tight contest playing out on this occasion as well. Norway have been involved in several tight games in recent times, and Sweden are one of those organised sides that can often prove tough to break down.
I think Sweden wouldn’t be too unhappy to draw this game. Whilst, in a way, Norway wouldn’t really be massively unhappy with that score either. Norway will feel more onus to push for the win, but this is likely to be close, at least to begin with.
Even-money (Bet365) on the Half-Time Draw has to be worthy of some interest, in what should be another tactical battle.
Romania v Faroe Islands | Tuesday 26th March 2019, 19:45 | Sky Sports
Games against the likes of Sweden and Norway will be key for Romania as it looks like that trio will be fighting it out for second spot behind Spain in this group. Therefore, Romania will be disappointed to come off a 2-1 loss in Sweden on Saturday, but it places extra importance on winning games of this nature.
Even if they’d won in Sweden, there will be an expectancy on Romania beating a side like the Faroe Islands. Realistically, they should do.
Romania have actually been in great form for a little while now. The defeat to Sweden was a rarity in recent times. They went the entire of the 2018 campaign without defeat, but it still wasn’t enough for them to win their Nations League group. It is only two defeats in 15 for the Romanians, and they’ve only lost once on home soil since 2016, that coming versus the Netherlands.
The Faroe Islands continue to punch well above their weight on the international scene. Even a weak UEFA Nations League group saw them only win one of six games in a group involving Malta, Azerbaijan and Kosovo. They put themselves on the map to a degree when winning 1-0 away in Greece back in 2014, but that was a long time ago now and they’ve not really kicked on from that.
They find themselves bottom of the group after one game and the reality is that second from bottom is the best they can realistically hope for. A trip to Romania is one where they’ll look to be hard to beat, but the key is how long they can hold out for. To their credit, they haven’t suffered that many heavy away losses in the last few years. Portugal did them 5-1, but 2-0 to Switzerland and 1-0 in Hungary means they were far from disgraced.
The issue is that they’re likely to just be sitting back. Romania can often have issues in games of this nature, but they will be patient, even if the fans won’t necessarily be so. Scoring early would be the perfect scenario for Romania, but I just don’t see that happening.
The Faroes did concede five away in Portugal back in 2017 as mentioned, but you then have to go all the way back to 2013 for the last time they’ve conceded 3+ away from home. Also, only on four occasions since 2016 have Romania scored 3+ in a home match, and two of those came in friendlies.
Romania will get the job done, but I don’t expect a lorry load of goals. Romania to win and Under 3.5 Goals is a handy 8/11 shot (Betway).