ALEX JONES (@AlexJ0nes9) analyses the odds as Northern Ireland travel to Norway for a Nations League showdown.
Norway vs Northern Ireland | Thursday 14th October 2020, 19:45 | Sky Sports
Northern Ireland go into this Nations League encounter fresh from victory having qualifying for the play-off finals for next summer’s rearranged Euros after beating Bosnia on penalties in Sarajevo.
The Irish came from a goal down and showed great spirit and grit to hold off pressure from the home side, take them to penalties and then win. Ian Barraclough’s men will now take on Slovakia next month for a place at Euro 2021 and will fancy their chances after Scotland defeated them in the Nations League on Sunday.
Wednesday comes another challenge for Barraclough’s troops, though. Norn Iron face off with Norway just a month after they were demolished 5-1 at Windsor Park.
The first performance against Norway in Belfast is not what Barraclough was expecting, in which they conceded as many shots on-target (8) as they had shots, of any kind, themselves.
The new wonderkid on the block, Erling Haaland, scored twice and assisted once on that night in Belfast in September, inspiring the Norwegians to their biggest away win since October 2017, when they defeated San Marino 8-0. It was also only the third time they had scored five or more away from home since 1993.
Norway won’t be travelling to Euro 2021, though, as they were beaten by Serbia 2-1 on Thursday. A double from Lazio man Sergej Milinkovic-Savic piled misery on the Norwegians who will now focus on the Nations League. Norway have won two, lost one so far in Group B1 after losing to Austria in the opening fixture, and beating Romania on Sunday.
Northern Ireland also lost to Austria, when they faced them on Sunday. Austria missed a couple of guilt-edged chances the other night but finally found the net after Michael Gregoritsch’s header found the bottom corner. The Irish only managed three shots, with their only major chance coming in the dying minutes when Liam Boyce flashed a shot across goal.
Northern Ireland looked very blunt in attack and they have arguably an even tougher test coming up with Haaland notching a hat-trick against Romania in a game that Norway scored four. Keeping him quiet definitely looks like an uphill task, and the bookies have the Dortmund ace 5/6 to score anytime. Despite his ludicrous goalscoring record, scoring as many goals as appearances (6), it’s too short to back.
Interestingly, Northern Ireland are still yet to win in the Nations League since its introduction after the 2018 World Cup. They have played seven and lost six, scoring in only four games just the once. Norway, in stark contrast, have won four of their five home Nations League games, all without conceding, and six of their nine in total.
The betting angles
Considering this, I am happy to back Norway to win to nil at 5/4 (Sky Bet). I don’t usually back this market as one goal can ruin the whole bet but given the differences in attacking potency on each side and the relative statistics on side, I’m happy to play it.
My second and final bet is Norway to score in both halves at 9/5 with William Hill. The same bet is 5/4 in most places so a clear standout value bet with Hills. It landed in the reverse, with Norway scoring two minutes in to the first and second half with goals from Mohamed Elyounoussi and Alexander Sorloth. They scored two goals in both halves on Sunday evening when they battered Romania, so it’s another I’m keen on.
Haaland and Sorloth have created a great partnership up front for the Scandinavians, and with both of them being over 6ft3”, they are a real handful. Jonny Evans and Craig Cathcart will have to deal with them here and, although Evans is a welcome addition given his absence in the first match, Haaland is merely unstoppable on his day.
I’m expecting the Norwegians to score a few here. Despite not qualifying for Euro 2021, they look in fine form and should win, but the 4/9 is not a value price so the two bets outlined are the way to go.
Norway vs Northern Ireland – Norway to win to nil (5/4 SkyBet)
Norway vs Northern Ireland – Norway to score in both halves (9/5 William Hill)