World Cup Qualification Previews; Croatia Vs Greece & Northern Ireland Vs Switzerland
Croatia Vs Greece
The final places are still up for grabs and millions of fans will be waiting anxiously to see if they can finally book their flights and hotels for next year’s World Cup in Russia. First up Croatia take on Greece while Northern Ireland host Switzerland. Paddy Murphy takes a look at the stats and tries to find some bets that stand out.
Zlatko Dalić’s Croatia just about got into the qualification playoff, indeed Dalić only came in for their final game against Ukraine after Ante Čačić had been fired for bad results against Turkey and Iceland.
Croatia’s major problem in this qualification was getting goals. In their home games they only scored 6 goals in 5 home games with striker Mario Mandžukić only netting once at home.
Pressure continued to mount on the Croatians and when they lost successive away matches to Iceland and then Turkey Čačić was shown the door and former Under 21 coach Dalić was given the task of ensuring the Croats at least got to the playoffs.
The Galanolefki have a pretty good scoring record away from home
However, it’s not all doom and gloom, the Vatreni only conceded 2 goals at home in the qualifiers. They’re a formidable side at home, they haven’t lost there since Belgium beat them in 2013 in the previous World Cup qualifying campaign.
Michael Shibba’s Greece only lost once during their campaign; at home to Belgium so we can’t really be too critical of that. 5 wins and 4 draws saw them finish second behind the Belgians.
The Galanolefki have a pretty good scoring record away from home, they averaged 1.8 goals per game and you’d expect them to at least try and get one away goal to bring back home. They’ve made the Karaiskakis Stadium a bit of a fortress as well; they’ve not lost at home in a competitive match for the last two years and you can see them trying to shut out Croatia here, try to nick an away goal and use home advantage then to try and secure their trip to Russia.
Having read that you’d might be tempted to think that Both Teams to Score at 2.72 would be a good shout but the thing to keep in mind is that the Croatians also have a mean defence, as mentioned above. They’ve only conceded 2 at home in this qualifying campaign and backing BTTS No at 1.42 represents no value whatsoever.
Here at ProTipster.com we’re predicting a cagey first match with the Croatians seeking to use home advantage to their…err…advantage, sorry… but with the Greeks setting out to frustrate them. Under 2.5 goals also represents little value at 1.59, so we’ve decided to go with the Asian Handicap of Greece +1.25 at 1.84. It’s difficult to see this Greek side losing by two goals to Croatia so we’re going with that.
Northern Ireland Vs Switzerland
Next up Michael O’Neill’s Northern Ireland host Switzerland at Windsor Park.
Northern Ireland were really impressive at home during qualification. They only lost to current World Champions Germany and took the scalps of Norway and the Czech Republic in Belfast. Their away from though wasn’t nearly as good, they lost to Germany and Norway and drew with the Czechs. However, this is at home and the Ulstermen will be confident they can get a good result to take into the second leg.
Their scoring record was very impressive at home, they averaged 2.6 goals per game, but we should put a wee asterisk here, two of those games were against San Marino and Azerbaijan where they scored 4 times on both occasions. So that brings the average down to 1.6 goals per game, but in fairness that’s still nothing to be ashamed of on the international stage.
On paper Switzerland look like the form team here.
O’Neill has made them incredibly solid, they’ve only conceded a total of 3 goals at home during the qualifiers and all of those came in the match where they lost to Germany and you have to imagine that the Swiss will find it incredibly frustrating to break down the Ulstermen.
Switzerland were pretty good away from home in the qualifiers, losing only to Portugal on the final day which would have meant automatic qualification for Vladimir Petković’s team. On paper Switzerland look like the form team here. They scored 10 in 5 games but we need to keep in mind that Switzerland’s group included such luminaries of international football as Albania, Andorra and the Faroe Islands. They also conceded 5 away from home so Northern Ireland will certainly fancy their chances.
Both Teams to Score is 2.35 and while it’s certainly tempting with the Swiss seeming to score a good bit on their travels, Northern Ireland kept 4/5 clean sheets at Windsor Park. I think Northern Ireland To Win at 3.66 is a great price for a team that only lost to Germany at home and who won all their other games. If you fancy the Asian Handicap, the line is Northern Ireland +0.25 at 1.95 , so if it does end in a draw you’ll get back half your stake. Northern Ireland To Win or Draw is currently at 1.63 if you’d prefer to back something will a little less risk.
We’ll be back tomorrow with more World Cup Qualifiers