Another Pause For Internationals…
That time is upon us again when international football means a dearth of action in domestic leagues. Let’s hope we win some money again like last time to make up for the lack of action and last week’s negative results.
West Brom v QPR – Win 1.8 points.
Newcastle v Man Utd – Lose two points.
Real Valladolid v Espanyol – Win one point.
Genoa v Palermo – Lose one point.
Greuther Furth v Hamburg – Win 3.24 points.
Monchengladbach v Frankfurt – Lose threepoints.
Sivasspor v Bursaspor – Lose 2.5 points.
Total – Lose 1.06 points.
Running Total – Win 11.9 points.
Music this week from Lars Fredriksen and The Bastards with Skunx, proper rock ‘n roll is this!
Russia v Portugal, Friday 1600
Russia is never an easy place for any side to travel, be that in UEFA club competitions or international matches. Russia have so far won both of their qualifying matches with ease and neither have been matches that are traditionally very easy. They beat Northern Ireland 2-0 at home in their first match and could have had more if they’d been more clinical in front of goal. The second match was an away trip to Israel where many good sides have failed to win in recent years. The Russians won the game 4-0 to show they again look a side that can make an impact globally when the mood takes them. With Anzhi now looking a much improved team under Guus Hiddink, it is a good period for Russian football and I’d have them tighter prices than current quotes.
Portugal have been cut due to the declaration of Cristiano Ronaldo’s fitness. Their captain and talisman is obviously hugely important to how they play as he is expected to not only lead by example, but score too. The absence of a proper goalscorer has been a feature of Portugal’s side for many years now and they are often set up quite defensively with Ronaldo, Nani and Hugo Almeida expected to start in attack. The excellent Joao Moutinho is expected to be the man that switches the ball from defence to attack, but I would assume Russia will be looking to put pressure on him constantly. There’s always a chance of magic from Ronaldo deciding any game, but I fail to see why the Portuguese are heading towards being favourites for this one.
Back Russia at 2.87 with BetVictor. Two points.
Serbia v Belgium, Friday 1930
Serbia finally looked like they were getting their act together in their last match by thrashing a poor Wales side 6-1 at home. They have been blooding younger players for the last couple of years in the hope that they would be more motivated than the seniors that have been around the side for a while now and will be hoping that last result is a sign that they are ready to finally kick on. The likes of Zoran Tosic and Alexsandr Kolarov are playing in major European leagues and should now be capable of reproducing their club form for their country. As many Eastern European sides do, Serbia possess a pretty mean defence with little time for fancy play. The attackers like Tosic and Miralem Sulejmani of Ajax are technically gifted players and should cause most sides problems. Given a proven goalscorer, Serbia could well start qualifying for major tournaments.
Belgium are the current ‘in’ side on the international scene. Most people will now be able to name you a number of Belgian national players due to their attendance in most major European leagues. This has led to many people tipping them for a run at the World Cup in Brazil, but I would be cautious of grand predictions like that. There is a long way to go before the World Cup gets going and one thing Belgium have shown in recent years is that they are very flaky. Read up on it and you hear of the dressing room cliques that mean this is not a united side and I’m yet to be convinced. They drew their last match 1-1 at home to a Croatia side on the decline and only beat 10 man Wales 2-0 in their first match. I can’t see them justifying current prices.
Lay Belgium at 2.9 on Betfair. Three points.
Switzerland v Norway, Friday 1930
Switzerland are the side that I would be watching rather than Belgium. Their youth sides have been producing results for a decade and this is beginning to show in the senior side. They have been regular qualifiers for tournaments anyway due to a very good defensive game and having strikers in the mould of Stephane Chapuisat and Alexander Frei who could always grab the odd goal given the chances. With the emergence of Young Boys Bern in UEFA club competitions now, it is always good for the national team to have more Swiss players exposed to top level football. Of course, the likes of Phillipe Senderos, Johan Djourou and Gokhlan Inler have been playing at the top level in England and Italy for a number of years now. The emergence of exciting talents Xherdan Shaquiri and Granit Xhaka has seen Switzerland suddenly emerge as an attacking force too. Shaquiri in particular has been in great form for Bayern Munich this season and will be a problem for Norway’s defenders. They go two wins from two matches so far and should also win this with comfort.
Norway used to always have a good chance to qualify for major tournaments due to the large amount of players they exported to leagues like the Premier League and the experience this gave them. However, this run seems to now be at an end with less players coming through with the ability to play at the very highest level. Apart from the Fulham pair of Brede Hangeland and John Arne Riise, there is no-one in their current squad playing regularly in a major league. More and more players are being picked from the domestic league and the national team look set for a period in the shadows until something changes to produce more talented young players.
Back Switzerland at 1.72 with Ladbrokes. Three points.
I think I’ll also have a handicap treble for fun, it’ll be at the end.
Colombia v Paraguay, Friday 2130
This has many parallels with the Switzerland match above. Colombia are a side on the up with Radamel Falcao an absolutely lethal player at the top of his game leading their line. They are incredibly fortunate to have a player who is capable of leading the line on his own and it is noticeable that they don’t panic in the knowledge they can get the ball to him and he will produce. Many of their players now play for leading Serie A clubs and this is very helpful, in particular for the defenders as there is still no better place to hone your craft in my opinion. They also have the talented Jose Pekerman as manager who was cast aside by Argentina after Diego Maradona led a campaign to oust him after some poor results. He is still a respected coach though and is a coup for Colombia. The wide player James Rodriguez has also started the season in lethal form for Porto and is to be watched.
Paraguay used to be regular qualifiers for major tournaments, but this could be at an end with the current side nowhere near their old level. Where Colombia’s players all play for big teams in major leagues, Paraguay’s current best performer is Nelson Valdez of Valencia. Whilst Valencia are no slouches, he alone stands out compared to the sides his team-mates play for. Lucas Barrios has taken the money and moved to China where the standard is not good at all and the rest of the side have either seen better days or are just not that good.
Back Colombia at 1.57 with Boylesports. Three points.
Ecuador v Chile, Friday 2200
One thing you always need to take into account when considering Ecuador and it’s club sides when gambling is the advantage they hold due to high altitude. LDU Quito managed to win the Copa Libertadores a few years ago with a side containing names who have not set the world alight. The big factor in their win was the winning run they had in home legs in Quito. This is also where the national team play and is at 2850 metres above sea level. They have so far won four out of four so far at home in these qualifiers and have scored six without reply. They have rarely been beaten at home in their recent history and are a good bet for me.
Chile peaked when they went to the last World Cup with Marcelo Bielsa managing the side in his 3-3-1-3 formation. The Argentinean coach is an innovator and the side is still set up in roughly the same way, but is now managed by another Argentinean in Claudio Borghi. They have players like Alexis Sanchez and Gary Medel playing in La Liga in Spain as well as a number in Italy’s Serie A, but they are a hit and miss side. They have yet to draw a match in this qualifying period and have won four and lost three so far. They were hit for four goals by both Uruguay and Argentina in their away matches and I’m not at all confident they’re the team to get anything in Quito.
Back Ecuador at 1.95 on Betfair. Two points.
I only do this on things I would term nigh on certainties and at short odds. If you wanted to split these off as singles I would advise 4 point stakes on each. Back England -4 at 1.4, Holland -4 at 1.55 and Sweden -1 at 1.36. This gives you a Treble at 2.95.