Mark O’Haire’s Euro 2016 Qualifers Football Tips – Thursday
I don’t think it’s wrong to suggest Ireland’s showdown with Germany at the Aviva on Thursday night isn’t a major deal.
Republic of Ireland v Germany, Thursday 8 October 2015 (19.45), Sky Sports 1
On the one hand, of course, it’s absolutely huge, pivotal and vital to the Boys In Green’s chances of making it to France next summer. But on the other, little is expected and the major focus will be on the outcome of Scotland’s clash with Poland kicking-off at the same time over in Glasgow.
Essentially, Ireland must match Scotland’s result when they visit the Poles on Sunday. But of course, avoiding defeat against the Germans in Dublin would be huge and set Martin O’Neill’s men up nicely for that weekend trip to Warsaw. The fear is, should the Scots come out on top, the Green Army will need to beat either Germany or Poland this week. Ouch.
Cast your mind back a year and the Republic shared a 1-1 draw with the Germans in Gelsenkirchen thanks to John O’Shea’s 94th minute equaliser. That should give Ireland confidence, right? Well Die Mannschaft were hungover from their World Cup exploits and did dominate proceedings too – they out-shot the Boys In Green 22-4 with that late Irish leveller the only effort on target from the visitors.
Throw in a severe selection headache for O’Neill and you start to panic. Seamus Coleman and Wes Hoolahan are major doubts, Ciaran Clark and Marc Wilson are definitely out, Aiden McGeady is undercooked whilst Glenn Whelan and James McClean are suspended. At least four of the above names are regular starters.
Memories of the 6-1 mauling at the Aviva against Germany remain fresh in the memory for Irish supporters but the Republic can call upon a rock solid qualification record in the capital. Since 1996 Ireland have lost just six of 53 meaningful matches. However, they’ve failed to beat the top seeded team in any qualification campaign since 2001 and have only W4-D3-L2 in home qualifiers since Euro 2012.
After a slow start Die Mannschaft have certainly found their feet. Five successive wins have propelled the visitors to the top of Group D and their recent road record is rather frightening. Germany have W17-D1-L1 in their 19 away qualifiers since the 2010 World Cup and run out winners by more than a one-goal margin in six of their last eight away qualifiers.
Joachim Low’s charges have been beaten just once in 34 of their qualifiers on foreign soil this century, they’ve plundered 48 goals in their last 14 road trips during qualification, netted two or more in 12 of their previous 13 and scored twice or more in 25 of their last 27 qualifiers home or away. It would take a brave soul to oppose those overwhelming stats and trends.
But hey, it might not be all doom and gloom. Although the Republic have looked alarmingly toothless against Scotland and Georgia in recent outings, a goal might not be as hard to come by as we may have expected. Ireland have netted in 23 of their last 25 Dublin dates with 15/25 (60%) featuring a winning Both Teams To Score bet.
Germany may well be the best team on the planet but they do have a tendency to concede. Die Mannschaft have leaked in eight of their previous 12 away qualifiers, with seven also going the way of BTTS.
With that in mind, a wee nibble on the 11/5 that Germany win and Both Teams To Score looks a decent selection.
Republic of Ireland v Germany – Germany to win and Both Teams To Score (11/5)
Scotland v Poland, Thursday 8 October 2015 (19.45), Sky Sports 2
Scotland’s equation is simple. Beat Poland at Hampden Park and Gordon Strachan’s charges will stand a fantastic chance of achieving a place in the play-offs. Take a point and again, they’ll be in pole position to pinch third. Lose and they can kiss goodbye to Euro 2016.
Whilst this preview will heavily focus on the Tartan Army’s prospects, it’s worth noting that Poland are still to ensure their place in next summer’s competition. The White Eagles boast a two-point advantage over Ireland before these final two fixtures and head coach Adam Nawalka will be desperately hoping his troops can survive unscathed in Scotland.
Poland suffered a 3-1 reverse at the hands of Germany in Frankfurt last month, but that was a first away defeat in six matches. The visitors kept their sheets clean in four of those six but are likely to come under fierce pressure from an all-or-nothing approach from the hosts.
The two sides played out an entertaining 2-2 draw in Warsaw last year and a repeat could well be on the cards. Forgetting the Tartan Army’s woeful display at Georgia, Strachan’s team put in a determined, rousing and spirited performance when losing 3-2 to Germany last time out.
The atmosphere at Hampden should inspire Strachan’s men who’ve won three of their four home qualifiers and scored in all bar one of their last nine in front of their passionate support in Glasgow. The hosts are surprisingly outsiders for this fixture but in such a tight encounter, it may pay to back the draw at 21/10.
Poland failed to beat either the Republic of Ireland or Germany in their most recent away games and have only W4-D3-L7 on the road in their past 14 away qualifiers. Those victories came at Georgia, Gibraltar, and San Marino twice – hardly earth-shattering form for Scotland to fear.
However, Nawalka’s side are at full strength and are the top scorers in Group D, having notched no fewer than 29 goals from their opening eight qualification fixtures, while Robert Lewandowski is in scintillating form at present, having scored 16 goals in his last eight matches for club and country.
With that in mind, the even-money available on Both Teams To Score stands out as an excellent option and should certainly be considered.
Meanwhile, red-hot Lewandowski, who’s netted 12 goals in his last four games for Bayern – at a rate of a goal every 26 minutes, is the top goalscorer in Euro 2016 qualifying and looks well worth considering at 29/20 to notch at anytime on Thursday night.
Scotland v Poland – Both Teams To Score (Evens)
Northern Ireland v Greece, Thursday 8 October 2015 (19.45), Sky Sports 5
Northern Ireland are in unchartered territory. With just 180 minutes of football to play in Euro 2016, Michael O’Neill’s men are sitting pretty at the top of Group F and on the cusp of qualification to a European Championships for the very first time in their history.
The Ulstermrn haven’t appeared at a major tournament since 1986 and know a win at home to rock-bottom Greece will book their place on the plane to France next summer. The Green and White Army have W5-D2-L1 of their eight qualifiers and lead third-placed Hungary by three points with just two games to play.
O’Neill’s hosts were 2-0 victors when the sides met in Greece earlier in the campaign and Northern Ireland will fancy their chances at Windsor Park with the visitors still winless (W0-D3-L5) following a staggeringly dreadful fall from grace.
The Pirate Ship were crowned kings of Europe just 11 years ago and Greece competed reasonably at the 2014 World Cup. However, Claudio Ranieri and Sergio Markarian lost their jobs in charge of the side following defeats to the Faroe Islands with Kostas Tsanas now the man looking to restore pride as head coach.
On paper, the visitors look a mess but a goalless draw earned in Romania in their last outing has at least raised spirits in the camp. And news that Northern Ireland’s main marksman Kyle Lafferty is suspended should certainly aid the Pirate Ship’s chances.
Lafferty has notched seven goals from eight qualification games, making him the third highest goalscorer in qualification. His absence along with Jonny Evans, Chris Baird and Conor McLaughlin has certainly weakened the Ulstermen and their Windsor Park record isn’t as intimidating as we might expect. The Green and White Army have managed four wins in their last 22 appearances in front of their home supporters, making a punt on the hosts at 7/5 unappealing.
The best option to profit though is to take a 0-0 half-time correct score at 21/20.
It’s proven a winning selection in nine of Northern Ireland’s last 13 with O’Neill’s troops leaking a goal before the interval in only one of those matches. Greece have recorded Under 2.5 Goals in 10 of their last 11 and have failed to even score in eight of their 10 fixtures since their World Cup exit – six of which were goalless at half-time.
Northern Ireland v Greece – 0-0 half-time correct score (21/20)
*Prices correct at time of publication.