Wold Cup Qualifiers: Thursday's International Soccer Picks
World Cup 2018 Qualifiers Picks
22 teams have already booked their trip to the 2018 FIFA World Cup alongside hosts Russia, and with the main competition draw just weeks away (December 1st), we need to determine the remaining teams who will be en route to the world's biggest sporting event.
Every confederation will be represented over the next eight days - Africa has one remaining round of matches, Europe have eight teams competing for four places, while teams from the other four regions will contest in intercontinental playoffs. We're in for a wild ride!
Thursday, November 9th is when the action kicks off, and features the first leg of two massive European ties. 2004 European Champions Greece will take a short trip north to face nearby Croatia in Zagreb, while Northern Ireland will have a difficult task in their match against Switzerland, a team that won nine out of their ten qualification matches and have not missed a World Cup since the 2002 edition in Japan and South Korea.
Each match will be contested over two legs, although we will be focussing on the odds for the match result on Thursday night, provided by Bet365. We will also be taking a look at the friendly game between Scotland and the Netherlands. We still can't believe that the iconic orange Dutch jersey will not be a part of the 2018 World Cup - they were finalists in 2010!
Below are the three matches we will be previewing, followed by an in-depth analysis and of course more soccer betting tips to help you win big this week.
- WCQ - First Leg - Croatia vs Greece: Croatia @ -225
- WCQ - First Leg - Northern Ireland vs Switzerland: Draw @ +210
- International Friendly - Scotland vs Netherlands: Draw @ +240
The Fine Print - Match Analysis
Croatia vs Greece (2:45pm EST)
Croatia versus Greece is a phrase more commonly heard in a travel agency when discussing Balkan and Mediterranean sailing adventures, although at this time of year it's all about one of the biggest rivalries in European soccer. The rivalry is so big and the stakes so high, that both nations have agreed to ban away fans from attending the the matches between the two sides...
There are plenty of similarities when looking into the history of these teams - both punch well above their weight in Europe and have had plenty of success on the world stage. Greece of course famously won the European Championships from nowhere in 2004, while Croatia managed a semi-final appearance at the World Cup despite boasting a population of just over four million people.
The sides have not met in a competitive match since they were grouped together in the 2012 European Qualification round - on that occasion Greece had the upper hand, managing an away draw and home victory against their neighbours. In total, the sides have met just six times with just one win to Croatia and two to Greece.
Both sides performed well in qualification, with Greece perhaps the better side. They were the only team to take points from a dominant Belgium in Group H, and only lost once in their ten matches. Croatia should have progressed from a group without one of the European giants, however allowed Iceland to qualify for their first World Cup at their expense. A positive was their home form - they went through the qualification stage undefeated.
This will be an interesting match. Croatia are very tough to beat in Zagreb, and with only home fans in the stadium in both matches there is a good chance of the home side winning in both ties. We are sticking with a narrow Croatian victory here, while we believe Greece's fortune in having the second match in the tie may be enough to see them progress to the World Cup.
Croatia at -225 is the pick for this match.
Northern Ireland vs Switzerland (2:45pm EST)
Northern Ireland have not qualified for the World Cup since 1986, although a fantastic 2016 and 2017 has seen them come to within two matches of making it to the group stage in Russia. Finishing second in their group behind a rampant Germany, who won all ten of their matches, fans from Belfast to Londonderry would have been sweating on a reasonable opponent in the playoff.
Unfortunately, Switzerland's name came out of the draw, and although Italy would be arguably a more difficult proposition, the matchup is against a team that won nine out of ten qualifiers and only lost to a European Championship winning side featuring Cristiano Ronaldo, it doesn't look good for the Northern Irish.
It will be very intriguing to see how Switzerland go about their playoff appearance. In normal circumstances, nine wins would be enough to secure qualification, and indeed it would have in pretty much any other group, yet after all that hard work they face the prospect of elimination unless they can navigate their way against a tricky side, albeit has clear favourites.
Northern Ireland have only lost to World Champions Germany at Windsor Park since September 2013, and we believe they are good enough to secure a point at home in this one. We believe Switzerland will be far too good when the tie moves to Basel next week...
Meanwhile, take the Draw at +210 for this match.
Scotland vs Netherlands (2:45pm EST)
Our last featured match for today's action is the friendly between two sides that will not be travelling to Russia next year - Scotland, who missed out on qualification at the last hurdle with a 2-2 draw in Slovenia, and the Netherlands, who failed to qualify from a tough group containing France and Sweden.
Scotland have only played against the Netherlands five times since the turn of the century, winning just once (back in 2003). The sides have not met since 2009. There is no doubt that the Netherlands will field the stronger lineup, full of international stars, however Scotland will be playing in front of a new coach as opposed to the Dutch who will be playing under Dick Advocaat for the final time.
This last point is key to a predicted strong performance by Scotland, who will likely field players who will be looking to impress the new manager. With less to play for, we may see a different-looking Dutch side, although their depth should prove strong enough to manage a point.
Our bet is the Draw at +240.
The World Cup Qualifiers will be contested over two matches, so there are several different betting options available. You will be able to place a bet on each individual match as you normally would, with all three full-time results (win, loss and draw) available.
The odds listed above are based on this line. Most sportsbooks will also allow you to place a wager on which team will progress to the next round - this will be a simple head-to-head bet with only two outcomes, and is of more use to you if you find it more difficult to determine the individual results of each fixture but are confident of the overall winner.
Make sure you take a look at all of our betting partners and explore the lines on offer. As always, we will keep you up to date with all the latest and provide ongoing support.
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