Tough tasks for Ireland and Wales in Euro 2016 Qualifying
No one enjoys the international break do they? There are very few that pipe up to defend it, or argue in favour of it. For some it inspires complete apathy, while for others it is utterly intolerable.
A fortnight of England-centric media coverage, of footballers pretending to care and Roy Hodgson bathing in the limelight. The World Cup was great, EURO 2016 will undoubtedly be a lot of fun, but the whole truncated and tiring qualifying process can do one.
Unfortunately the world doesn’t work like that and we’re stuck with the qualifiers and the regular fortnights of doom forever.
So early are we in the qualifying process for EURO 2016 that very little importance rides on the next week’s set of fixtures, but for some of the Home Nations this has traditionally proved to be the hurdle where qualification has been lost.
Bosnia and Herzegovina 5/1
(All odds provided by AllYouBet.ag are accurate as of today and subject to change)
Wales lost three of their opening four qualifiers for World Cup 2014, while Scotland, in the same group, drew twice and lost twice. By October 2012 and with the tournament still 20 months away, it had become a foregone conclusion and the process reduced to a demoralising, damage-limitation exercise.
For Chris Coleman’s side, their scrappy 2-1 victory over Andorra on one of the most disgraceful 3G pitches ever provided for an international match, looks ever more important now. Back-to-back home fixtures against Bosnia and Herzegovina and Cyprus provide a real catalysing opportunity.
By virtue of Michel Platini’s utopian dreaming, qualification for EURO 2016 is decidedly easier than it has ever been for a European Championships, but Wales have been dealt with a blow with the injuries to Joe Allen and Aaron Ramsey – the only two Welsh footballers who can hope to hold a candle to the blistering talent of Gareth Bale.
Bale will need to be in full Superman mode and evoke his latter-day Spurs form if he is to single-handedly fire his country through this great opportunity.
Gordon Strachan, taking a break from ITV punditry to fulfil his other duty as Scotland manager, will be approaching their games against Georgia and Poland in characteristically forthright manner after their narrow loss to world champions Germany last month.
If the Scots can recreate the no fear attitude that Strachan cited in their 2-1 defeat in Dortmund, they will be confident of coming away from Warsaw with a positive result to set their qualification hopes alight.
Betting Instinct tip – Scotland to beat Georgia is 7/10 with Intertops.eu
Elsewhere in Group D the Martin O’Neill and Roy Keane experiment continues apace for the Republic of Ireland, with an effective bye against Gibraltar coming before a mid-week trip to Germany. It may be 2014, iPhones may bend and even watches are becoming must-have gadgets, but somehow there is still space in the Ireland squad for Robbie Keane and Shay Given.
Northern Ireland’s first away win in four years, coming in Hungary last month, has similarly ignited their qualifying campaign. They host minnows Faroe Islands on Saturday, the rare sight of Northern Ireland with six points from six a very real possibility. A trip to harbingers of doom Greece next Tuesday will likely prove their toughest assignment during qualifying; don’t expect goals.
Betting Instinct tip – A £10 bet on Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland to both qualify for Euro 2016 returns £166.70 with Coral
As for England, frankly, who cares? The empty Wembley bowl will play host to the neutral’s darling San Marino, Clive Tyldesley and Andy Townsend will insult the part-time plumbers and brick-layers causing some overdue twitter beef between the Sammarinese FA and ITV.
Hodgson’s men beat San Marino by five and eight during World Cup qualifying; can we expect another Danny Welbeck hat-trick to go with his double salvo in Switzerland last month?
Or how about another Captain Wayne Rooney sending-off? He could do with a bit of a break in November.
Betting Instinct tip – Danny Welbeck to score a hat-trick is 4/1 with Coral
JAMES DUTTON is a freelance journalist who has written for The Mirror, The Guardian and The Times. James helps to run The False Nine football website, contributes to The Anfield Wrap and is a columnist for uMAXit Football