England’s latest attempt to end two generations of hurt took a step a further on Thursday, with Gareth Southgate’s side laboured and late success over Slovenia ensuring the Three Lions presence in Russia next year. Their qualification to the finals, however, was met with more of a ‘meh’ than a roar. Fans have been here too often to get too excited, and the same can be said of bookmakers, who were unmoved in their assessment of England, listing them as 20/1 for World Cup glory in Moscow – the same price they were prior to their 1-0 win over Srečko Katanec’s men at Wembley.
For Scotland and Northern Ireland, though, the future isn’t quite as clear. Differing midweek results may have shifted momentum but their trajectory is still the same, and both can book a play-off place on Sunday.
Dan Roebuck, our international football betting expert, digs a little deeper…
Northern Ireland To Make Their Point
Northern Ireland guaranteed a top two berth in Group C before they were beaten by Germany on Thursday night, but Michael O’Neill’s side still aren’t certain of a play-off place. The permutations can get very muddy if the Ulstermen fail to get a point away at Norway on Sunday, and that’s one of the reasons the visitors should be backed to avoid defeat in Oslo. No-one associated with Northern Ireland will want to pore over other group standings trying to figure out what a loss means should ‘Country A’ do this or ‘Country B’ do that. It should be motivation enough for O’Neill’s men. As should the fact they could be seeded if they make the play-offs. They are currently ranked 20th in the FIFA world rankings, which could potentially mean avoiding the likes of Italy or Portugal in the two-legged matches next month.
Tartan Army’s March To Halt
Gordon Strachan must be given some credit for masterminding Scotland’s renaissance in Group F, but boy did they ride their luck against Slovakia on Thursday. Still, the Scots price to qualify for the World Cup has contracted considerably and they now know a win in Slovenia on Sunday will almost certainly be good enough to grab a play-off place. Can they claim three points in Ljubljana? Well, they have won four of their last six World Cup qualifiers, but their opponents, who need to win to have any chance of finishing in the top two, have lost only one of their last dozen competitive games in front of their own fans and the value, at 13/10, lies in the home win.
Kane Again Can Ease Punters Pain
England booked their place in the World cup finals on Thursday courtesy of Harry Kane’s late strike against Slovenia and the Tottenham striker, who must have saved numerous bettors in midweek (including followers of this blog), should be the man to rely on once more. Hopefully, he’ll play against Lithuania on Sunday. It was against the Baltic state he took just 79 seconds to score his first goal for the national side and, as England have won all three meetings to nil against Lithuania, this should be a straightforward assignment in Vilnius. The hosts are destined to finish fifth in Group F and had lost six games on the spin before holding Malta in midweek to a 1-1 draw.