QUALIFYING for Euro 2020 continues on Friday night and international football fanatic Mark O'Haire (@MarkOHaire) unearths his favourite fancies.
Montenegro v Bulgaria | Friday 11th October 2019, 19:45 | Sky Sports
Bar a miracle of epic proportions, Montenegro and Bulgaria will be staying home next summer. The pair have desperately disappointed in Euro 2020 qualification Group A, collecting a pair of draws each in their opening five fixtures, meaning there’s little more than wounded pride riding on Friday night’s match-up in Podgorica.
Montenegro have promised plenty since joining the international game in 2007, although the Brave Falcons have fallen short when matches mattered most. The Balkan boys fancied their prospects of challenging for second spot behind England in an open qualification pool but poor form from a dismal Nations League campaign has extended into 2019.
Friday’s hosts have now claimed only three victories from their past 18 outings – two of which came against Lithuania – and Faruk Hadzibegic’s men have pocketed just W1-D2-L5 since November, their sole success coming in a friendly when welcoming Hungary. The Brave Falcons will also be without star forward and captain Stevan Jovetic here.
Montenegro are fairly accustomed to Jovetic’s absence, mind. The Monaco man has only featured in one of the team’s last 15 encounters and the Balkan outfit have at least managed to trouble the scoresheet in three of their last four in Podgorica without Jovetic, including a goal against runaway group leaders England.
Defensively is where the Brave Falcons suffer. The home side are without a shutout over the past 12 months – a 10-game sample – and have silenced only Lithuania here in their most recent 10 tussles as hosts. That should encourage Bulgaria, although the visitors are in a similar lowly situation with their own backline woes to worry about.
The Lions make the short journey looking to improve upon a wretched road record. Bulgaria have bagged only W1-D3-L10 when playing away since June 2016, conceding at least three times on seven occasions. Nevertheless, the guests grabbed at least one goal in 10 of those 14 contests, only failing to do so against with Denmark, Sweden, Norway and England.
Now under the leadership of Krasimir Balakov, the Lions are looking to put a stop to a four-match losing streak, and nine-game winless run. However, I’m uninterested in the outcome of Friday’s match-up and prefer to focus on goals with Both Teams To Score trading at a generous 20/21 (Sportingbet).
It’s proven a profitable formula in in all but one of Bulgaria’s last eight matches, with the exception arriving against England at Wembley. Balakov’s boys have shown intent to get forward and play, and with little pressure on either nation to pick up positive results, I’m expecting their dreadful defences to help us towards an enjoyable, open affair.
Iceland v France | Friday 11th October 2019, 19:45 | Sky Sports
France face a tricky trip to Reykjavik on Friday night with just three points separating Iceland from the World Cup winners as we enter the final furlong of Euro 2020 qualification. Les Blues welcome current table-toppers Turkey to Paris on Monday and so it promises to be a decisive couple of days for Didier Deschamps’ troops in their quest to qualify.
Lazy ‘unpredictable’ stereotypes are often branded about when viewing French sport but the football version of the national team have been the epitome of consistent in recent years. Sure, they’re capable of chucking in a wobbly – as they did in a 2-0 defeat away at Turkey towards the start of the campaign – although, for the most part, they’re hard to oppose.
That’s the case here despite injures robbing Deschamps of Kylian Mbappe and Paul Pogba. Such is the strength in depth of the Euro 2020 favourites, I believe Les Blues pack enough firepower in the squad to overcome such absences. Since the ignominy of defeat in Albania in June 2015, France have returned W43-D10-L6 including a World Cup win.
France have taken top honours in five of their six qualifiers and ran out victories in seven of their last eight matches, six of which cleared the -1 handicap and five even beat the -2 handicap. A further two games were claimed by 4-0 correct scores and Les Blues could produce something similar in Iceland here.
Backing France to win and Over 1.5 Goals (4/5 Coral) appeals. Iceland have enjoyed unprecedented international success over the past four years and Our Boys have pedigree for upsetting the odds in Reykjavik. However, the Nordic nation have also tended to toil in recent months when matched with high-quality opposition.
France took Iceland to town at Euro 2016, and smashed Friday’s hosts 4-0 during their first Euro 2020 qualifier encounter in Paris. Elsewhere, Switzerland slaughtered the northerners 6-0 during Nations League duty and Belgium twice covered the -1 handicap in the same competition last year.
Erik Hamren’s men have found a semblance of structure since, although a 4-2 reverse in Albania last time out displayed Iceland’s vulnerabilities once more. The hosts will fancy their chances of remaining competitive against France but I’d back the visitors’ extra punch to prove decisive in an intriguing Friday night contest.
Montenegro v Bulgaria – Both Teams To Score (21/20 Sportingbet)
Iceland v France – France to win and Over 1.5 Goals (4/5 Coral)