Fasten your seat belts and grab your flags international tournament fans: Euro 2020 qualifying starts this week. With a Wembley final to look forward to in just over 450 days, there’s plenty to play for ahead of the continent’s next major tournament.
Whether you’re backing defending champions Portugal to make a splash in Cristiano Ronaldo’s final stand, France to follow up their World Cup crown or England to finally end their wait for silverware, there promises to be plenty of thrills and spills along the way. And it starts with the qualifying competition so lets try and spot a slice of value.
Icemen to make their mark
Iceland are winless in competitive football since October 2017 but Our Boys should be well capable of ending that sorry streak when travelling to no-hopers Andorra on Friday evening. The Nordic nation held Argentina at the World Cup last summer before sliding to frustrating defeats to Nigeria and Croatia, and are now under the tutorship of Erik Hamren.
The former Swedish boss came in for plenty of criticism following a disastrous Nations League campaign that saw Iceland lose all four fixtures against Belgium and Switzerland by an aggregate 13-1.
However, the bulk of the successful squad from the past four years remains in situ and the perennial underdogs should relish the easier prospect in store here.
Andorra made steady progress in the Nations League, avoiding defeat in four of their six outings (W0-D4-L2), including home and away games against Latvia, whilst also holding Georgia to a draw in the principality. The Tricolours produced a famous 1-0 win over Hungary here during the World Cup preliminaries but their long-term qualifying form remains rotten.
The hosts have been beaten in 63 of their past 65 qualifiers, and with five of their most recent seven losses on home soil arriving by a two-goal margin, backing Iceland to overcome a -1.75 Asian Handicap hurdle appeals at 1.92.
KEEP PROGRESSIVE LUXEMBOURG ONSIDE
Luxembourg have emerged as one of European football’s most progressive minnows. FC Dudelange made plenty of headlines this season when reaching the Europa League group-stage, hot on the heels of the landlocked country making a positive impression during the World Cup qualification campaign.
Les Lions Rouges held France to a 0-0 draw away, beat Belarus and picked up a point against Bulgaria to highlight their upward trend. Luc Holtz’s group have now suffered only four defeats in 15 fixtures and head into Friday’s meeting with Lithuania hopeful of a strong start at the Stade Josy Barthel.
Luxembourg should be relatively confident of avoiding defeat and quotes of 1.70 appeal for the hosts off a scratch start on the Asian Handicap line. Including friendlies, Les Lions Rouges have W6-D2-L2 in their past 10 tussles here and lock horns with a Lithuania side that’s struggled for results for quite some time now.
Lithuania have a record of W1-D1-L15 over their past 17 outings and since September 2010 they’ve picked up only two triumphs on their travels, at San Marino and Lichtenstein in competitive action. Sixteen of those 23 away days (W2-D5-L16) ended in defeat and if we include friendlies, the Balkan boys have scored just five times in their last 22 games as guests.
BOSNIA BACKED TO START IN STYLE
Bosnia begin their quest for a first appearance at the European Championships with what’s expected to be a straightforward contest against Armenia. Head coach Robert Prosinecki has overseen a couple of hiccups in his stint in charge but the hosts should be supported on Saturday to overcome a -1.5 Asian Handicap at odds of 2.20.
The home side have plenty of quality individuals within their ranks, most notably Eden Dzeko and Miralem Pjanic. They also boast a strong record when entertaining teams in Bosnia, suffering a sole defeat here against Belgium since September 2014 (W8-D4-L1) – that sample includes nine clean sheets and six shutouts in their most recent seven.
In contrast, Armenia have toiled since a memorable attempt to try and qualify for Euro 2012.The visitors have tabled a solitary success on the road since 2013 in competitive football, and that came against Gibraltar. In fact, Armenia were even beaten by Gibraltar in the Nations League and only picked up a point when travelling to Lichtenstein.
Concerningly too, Armenia have failed to impress defensively as they shipped at least two goals in all three of their away days in the Nations League and there’s a huge overreliance on Arsenal playmaker and national skipper Henrikh Mkhitaryan; the squad is severely limited and may struggle to match their opponents on Saturday night.
- Iceland -1.75 Asian Handicap 3 units @ 1.92
- Luxembourg +0 Asian Handicap 2 units @ 1.70
- Bosnia -1.5 Asian Handicap 2 units @ 2.20