Mark O’Haire’s Euro 2016 Tips – Sunday’s Matches
Ireland, have you recovered yet? Thursday night’s events will live long in the memory and so they should.
Poland & Republic of Ireland, Sunday 11th October 2015, 19.45, Sky Sports 1
Beating the world champions in Dublin was simply stunning, exhilarating and brought many Boys In Green followers to tears – not since 2001 had the Republic beaten the top seeds in a qualifying group – but the show must go on.
I’m sure you are all well aware of the permutations that would lead towards a second or third-placed finish in Group D and although Martin O’Neill’s men head to Warsaw unbeaten in seven (W4-D3-L0), can the Greens really repeat the trick against a very capable Polish outfit in their own back yard?
Of course it’s a possibility but the energy expended and emotionally draining experience of Thursday night is bound to have a knock-on effect. Since qualifying began for the 2014 World Cup, Ireland have W4-D2-L3 in away qualifiers and the four victories came in Gibraltar, Georgia, the Faroe Islands, and Kazakhstan.
However, ROI do boast a cracking record at avoiding defeat when taking on bigger fish on the road in qualifying encounters this millennium, losing only 8/41 with Germany, Sweden, Russia, France (twice), Italy, Portugal and Holland all failing to get the better of the Boys In Green.
Seamus Coleman and Glen Whelan are available to slot straight into the Irish XI but whilst we can reasonably expect O’Neill’s troops to be competitive, it’s also difficult to imagine lightning striking twice in a matter of days.
Poland’s last-gasp leveller in Glasgow has ensured the White Eagles are similarly buoyant heading into this winner-takes-all contest and although the hosts have failed to beat Ireland in three, do look the better value bet at 20/23.
The teams shared a 1-1 draw when they met in Dublin in March’s reverse fixture but Adam Nawalka’s team have done their best work at the Stadion Narodowy.
Like Ireland, the Poles have downed Germany on home soil and taken 10 points from a possible 12 when entertaining Group D guests.
Surprisingly only Scotland have managed to take points off Poland in Warsaw this campaign with that magic 2-2 scoreline the outcome in that encounter last year.
Since hosting Euro 2012, Poland have W5-D3-L1 in home fixtures with Ukraine the only successful away visitor. Throw in friendlies and the White Eagles have won six of their past 11 in Warsaw and are unbeaten in five. At the current quotes, a Polish win looks the obvious bet at 20/23 but it may pay to back Robert Lewandowski to score in a home win at 7/5.
Lewandowski bagged a brace against the Scots on Thursday to take his tally to 14 goals in five matches for club and country. The Bayern Munich hitman has now notched 12 goals in nine qualifying outings and is quite comfortably Europe’s most feared forward right now.
Gibraltar v Scotland, Sunday 11th October, 19.45, Sky Sports 2
Your heart goes out to Scottish supporters. Their long wait for a major tournament goes on and it’s even more galling when you realise, had they held on to victory against Poland in Glasgow, Ireland’s task on Sunday would have been a whole lot easier.
Wounds will be raw after hopes were extinguished so cruelly. The Tartan Army were unbeaten in matches with the Poles and Irish but tripped up against Georgia and that sorry result has proven their undoing. Now they must raise themselves for a virtually meaningless match with no-hopers Gibraltar.
Gordon Strachan’s men might find motivation tough in Faro but winning should still not be an issue.
Jeff Wood’s side have conceded 50 goals in their nine qualifiers with Georgia running out comfortable 4-0 victors in Tbilisi on Thursday night.
The Group D whipping boys did net against the Scots in their 6-1 hammering earlier in the pool and also managed a goal against big-hitters Poland. So it’s not completely inconceivable they grab a goal against the downbeat travellers.
Scotland to win and Over 4.5 Goals at 11/10 looks the best of a bad bunch of prices. Gibraltar’s last seven games have seen at least four goals scored whilst five of their nine qualifiers have produced at least five goals. Even a depressed Tartan Army should be able to muster up a comfortable three points on Sunday.
Finland v Northern Ireland, Sunday 11th October, 17.00, Sky Sports 1
Thirty years after their last appearance at a major tournament, Northern Ireland will take their place at Euro 2016. Michael O’Neill’s men comfortably overcame Greece to clinch qualification, sparking jubilant scenes of celebration in Belfast.
It’s a marvellous achievement and one made all the more impressive when you remind yourself, this group had won just once in 18 outings with O’Neill on the brink of the sack previously.
The visitors overcame a host of injuries and suspensions on Thursday to seal the deal but will they be at the top of their game in Helsinki? It’s hard to believe so.
Riding the crest of the wave will have brought about a real party at Windsor Park and this fixture with the Finnish may come as an afterthought.
The Fins are unbeaten in three but have only scored twice at home during qualification and another low-scoring encounter looks the best bet to cheer on. Ticking ‘No’ in the Both Teams To Score is a 4/6 play and has proven a profitable selection in eight of the last 10 when Finland have hosted internationals.
Poland v Republic of Ireland – Poland to win and Robert Lewandowski to score (7/5)
Gibraltar v Scotland – Scotland to win and Over 4.5 Goals (11/10)
Finland v Northern Ireland – Both Teams To Score ‘No’ (4/6)