Football | Five Of The Best World Cup Qualifiers On Saturday & Sunday

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Wahey, it's international break time. Okay, we'll pipe down. Let's be honest, we'd only look forward to this time of the year if England were enjoyable to watch. However, they aren't and we all prefer the domestic fixtures. Just a few games in and bam, here comes the international fixtures. Anyway, we've a host of them going on on Thursday and Friday and instead of just previewing them all, we've picked out five of the most intriguing fixtures across and just after transfer deadline day...

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WALES VS. AUSTRIA

WALES 6/5  DRAW 11/5  AUSTRIA 5/2

With just four games remaining of the qualifying stage, it’s do or die time for both of these sides, with Wales and Austria both four points off table-topping Serbia and second placed Ireland. Draws aren’t really good enough for Chris Coleman’s side at this stage of the game and with five stalemates in a row, something has to change.

For Austria, it’s been two wins, two draws and two defeats from their six games in Group D and whilst they also are in desperate need of the three points, they haven’t beaten Wales in the last two meetings; their last victory coming in World Cup qualifying all the way back in 2005.

What We Sayin’?

Wales will hope to make home advantage count and when Gareth Bale is in your starting XI then you always have a chance of claiming victory. Defeat for either side will really puncture any hopes of qualifying and we just about fancy Wales to nick this one. A 2-1 home win is 8/1.


 

SPAIN VS. ITALY

SPAIN 4/5  DRAW 12/5  ITALY 4/1

Arguably game of the night – on paper at least – sees these two heavyweights battle it out over in Group G. Spain play hosts to Italy and there will be a host of the world’s stars on show at the Santiago Bernabeu in Madrid. David Villa is back in the Spanish squad and hoping to find that old sparkle and look to add to his record 59 goals for his national team. Will we see the 35-year-old turn back time in that famous red shirt?

Opponents Italy still have an old master in their ranks in Gianluigi Buffon, who is still going strong at the ripe old age of 39. Buffon will have to be ready for what could be a Spanish onslaught, despite Italy’s famous strong defence. The likes of Andres Iniesta, Isco, Thiago, David Silva and Alvaro Morata are all in the Spanish squad and likely to keep the Italian legend on his toes.

What We Sayin’?

Spain have only lost once in their last eight meetings with Italy and with both sides level on 16 points and both with four wins and a draw from their last five games, this one will be tight. Spain will have home advantage, but with it, home pressure. We’ll go with a 1-1 draw, which will probably please both set of fans for this one. The price for that is 21/4.


 

UKRAINE VS. TURKEY

UKRAINE 6/5  DRAW 11/5  TURKEY 12/5

Both of these sides will fancy their chances of qualifying for the real thing in Russia next summer and with both two points off the leaders Croatia and second placed Iceland, whoever nabs the win on Saturday night will steal a huge advantage going into the home straight of the qualifying stages.

Russia, Ukraine, we know from trips in the Europa League that clubs hate venturing to the darkest corners of eastern Europe for these sort of games, but Turkey certainly don’t mind it. They’ve won their last three trips away to Russia and have lost only once in all seven meetings with the Ukrainians in all competitions.

What We Sayin’?

History suggests we should all be behind Turkey to pick up the points, and that’s exactly what we’re going to do – purely because we don’t really know too much about either countries’ footballing ability, especially since Andriy Shevchenko’s retirement. BTTS and Turkey to win at 13/2.


 

HUNGARY VS. PORTUGAL

HUNGARY 7/1  DRAW 7/2  PORTUGAL 2/5

Now we’ve seen plenty of times over the years Portugal struggle to progress before Cristiano Ronaldo turns up to save them at the death but things could well be different this time with the country on 18 points and sitting second in Group B, just three points behind table-topping Switzerland who have won all seven of their games so far.

You may remember this was a fixture in the Euros last year in France – a 3-3 draw that saw Ronaldo and co scrape through and avoid England who licked their lips at the favourable next round game against minnows Icelan…. Oh, you know the rest.

What We Sayin’?

It’s pretty much must-win time for Hungary now – or at least a must not lose cash. Defeat will see them 11 points behind the top two. Well look away now Hungary fans. They have never ever beaten Portugal in any game of football and we can’t imagine they’ll start now. They have conceded three to them in the last three games and we’re opting for another trio – a comfortable 0-3 Portugal win at 7/1.


 

GREECE VS BELGIUM

GREECE 17/4  DRAW 5/2  BELGIUM 8/11

The top two in Group H meet this weekend as a very mean Belgium defence look for another shutout against the Greeks away from home. We all know about the talent in the Belgium squad; Lukaku, Hazard, Mertens and De Bruyne are all top-drawer players, but that means nothing when Roberto Martinez is the one picking the team, formation and tactics.

Greece are a far cry from their 2004 Euros success which seems like a lifetime ago now, but they’ve done alright so far in the group and are already two points above a Bosnia side which includes one or two decent little players in the form of Edin Dzeko and Miralem Pjanic.

What We Sayin’?

Strangely, the last two games between these two have been draws, but with Belgium’s strong defence and decent looking attack we fancy this one will be comfortable for them – even with Martinez and Thierry Henry as assistant. What a weird combination that is, by the way. Anyway, enough of that, 0-2 in Belgium’s favour at 11/2.


 

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