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Wednesday, 7 October 2015

Euro 2016 Qualifier Picks 2015 (October 8-10)

The European Championships have been expanded to include twenty-four teams in the Finals in France next summer and that was always going to mean some new nations would get an opportunity to play in this major international tournament.

Iceland took full advantage of that by booking their place as one of the top two teams in Group A of the Qualifiers and they will be playing in a major international tournament Finals for the first time. They have been an improving team in recent years and Iceland are one of five teams that have confirmed their place at the European Championship.

France, England, Austria and the Czech Republic are the other four teams that will be playing in the Finals, but there should be some more nations added to that list after this penultimate round of fixtures to be played on Thursday through Saturday.

Wales, Belgium, Spain, Germany, Northern Ireland, Italy and Portugal are just a win away from qualification and they could all be in the Finals by Saturday evening before the final round of games decides Play Off positions and confirms the first sixteen teams that will be in the tournament in France.

I will split the picks from the two rounds of games to be played with the first round of picks covering the games to be played on Thursday through Saturday, and the second round of picks in a separate post covering those games scheduled for Sunday through Tuesday.

I had a few thoughts from the big Premier League stories from last weekend which can be read here.

Northern Ireland v Greece Pick: Northern Ireland are so close to confirming their place at the European Championship, but they still have to find a win or earn two draws from their remaining games to ensure their place is booked.

Most will look at the first game with Greece, who are very much out of contention and who have changed managers during this Qualification campaign, as the one that Northern Ireland can win and start the celebration.

I am not sure it is as straight forward as that as Northern Ireland have won 3 of their 5 victories in the Group away from Windsor Park and had to settle for draws with both Romania and Hungary. Greece also have to be respected as only 1 of their 5 losses in the section have actually come away from home and so the layers haven't made a mistake in placing Northern Ireland at such a big price to win this game.

Goals might be in short supply as expected too, but I think there is something in backing 'no goalscorer' which at least covers any goals being scored through an own goal.

Northern Ireland have had a goalless draw against Romania in the Group and Greece have had two of those at Hungary and Romania. I don't think the home team will risk losing the game to try and win it, especially if they hear positive news from the other games in the Group that will be played at the same time, and Northern Ireland will be confident of earning the second point needed next week in Helsinki.

A lack of goals in the Greece side suggests they might not trouble the scoreboard too much and it might be worth backing 'no goalscorer' for the smallest of interests.

Republic of Ireland v Germany PickThe European Championship places have already begun to filled and there will be a few more nations that will have their stamps booked by the end of this penultimate round of Qualifiers. The World Champions Germany will be hoping they can confirm their place after the Thursday night visit to Dublin to take on a desperate Republic of Ireland team who are still in with a chance to finish in the top two in the Group.

A strong run of results in the Group have put Germany in pole position to take one of the top two automatic Qualifier spots for France 2016 and they look in a very strong place to do that by winning in Dublin. They destroyed the Republic of Ireland in the World Cup Qualifiers having secured a 1-6 win here in that Qualifying campaign and Germany showed their quality last month by beating Poland and winning in Scotland.

Germany scored three goals in both of those wins and there is every chance they will have too much in the final third for the Republic of Ireland. Only a late goal prevented Poland winning here earlier in the Group and there is definitely a lack of goals in the Ireland team who have failed to score more than a single goal in three of their Qualifiers at home.

If the Germans reach the three goal mark here, I think they will be too strong for the Republic of Ireland and I believe they cover the Asian Handicap on their way to Qualifying for France.

Romania v Finland PickIt has been a tough end to the Qualifying Group for Romania and you have to think that some nerves have been getting the better of them as they have tried to back their way into the European Championship Finals. It is getting a little desperate for them as failing to win their final two Group games might give Hungary the chance to overtake them into the automatic Qualifying spots assuming Northern Ireland are not beaten twice.

There are some different permutations to work out, but Romania know the most simple one is win this game and then earn a point against the Faroe Islands will be enough for them to book their plane tickets for France next summer. The defence has continued to do a solid job by keeping plenty of clean sheets in the Group and it is about finding a bit of magic in the final third to make sure the three points are earned.

Finland are not out of contention when it comes to finishing in the top three, but they look in a desperate spot and anything other than a win here will likely be curtains for them. Wins over Greece and the Faroe Islands have given Finland half a chance, but Finland's 10 points have all been earned against those two nations.

They have lost the other 4 games they have played in the Group against Romania, Hungary and Northern Ireland and I think the home team will be able to contain them for much of this game. Romania know they will have another chance to earn their win and move into the European Championship, but Finland will be more desperate as this game goes on and I think the home team can pick them off.

It will likely be tight, but Romania look like they can put one foot into France 2016 by winning this game and then hoping Hungary surprisingly fail to beat Faroe Islands or Romania earn a result against that same team next week to secure their place for next summer.

Scotland v Poland PickThis is a big game for both Scotland and Poland who are desperate for the three points in their separate bids to reach Euro 2016 next summer. Both will have a keen eye on events in Dublin which are going to have a huge impact on both of these teams, but the initial focus will be on this game and making sure the three points are put on the board.

Scotland's 1-0 defeat to Georgia looks like it is going to be impossible to overcome unless the Republic of Ireland were to earn just two points from their remaining games and Scotland can win both of theirs. The game in Gibraltar shouldn't pose a problem, but Scotland have to win this one you'd feel if they are going to get to the Play Offs at least.

Both teams should give this a go as they look to earn the result they need and both teams have shown a vulnerability at the back that could make this an exciting game.

An early goal would really liven up the atmosphere as it will open up spaces with the team conceding needing to take more chances to get back into the game. It does make the quotes for over 2.5 goals look a bit too big, especially if the 2-2 in Warsaw is anything to go by as both Poland and Scotland look to score the goals to give themselves a chance to move into a major international tournament.

Picking a winner is very difficult and I am slightly concerned with the 1-1 scoreline which looks a big player. However, I favour the fact that both Poland and Scotland need the three points and settling for a point might not be good enough unless news filters through that Germany have a big lead against the Republic of Ireland.

Even in that scenario, Scotland will be pushing forward to win the game as they can't rely on Poland to beat Ireland next week and I like the chances of there being at least three goals shared.

Azerbaijan v Italy Pick: Italy are on the brink of making another European Championship Finals as they are one win away from ensuring they are playing in France next summer. They haven't had a straight-forward time in this Group, but are four points clear of Croatia in third place with two games left to play and they will look to confirm their place without the nervousness of a last game against Norway at home next week.

Goals have been a problem for Italy in recent games and they have only scored more than a single goal in 1 of their last 9 games which includes matches against the likes of Malta (twice) and Albania.

They have done just enough to pick up three points in the Group and Azerbaijan is going to be a difficult away game for them to face, even if they are not one of the top nations in European football. Just ask Croatia who had to settle for a goalless draw in Baku last month which might cost them a top two place in the Group and Azerbaijan have also earned a goalless draw at Norway in this Group.

Both of their home defeats in the Group have come by a single goal margin and Azerbaijan are unlikely to be blown away by Italy who don't go beyond what they need to in order to win games. Both wins over Malta came by a one goal margin and Italy will look to protect the lead if they do get in front in this one.

With the home team also making life difficult, picking Italy to win by a one goal margin looks a big price to me.

Bosnia-Herzegovina v Wales PickNot many teams will be underestimating Wales these days as the team have a world class performer in Gareth Bale and have improved significantly in the World Rankings. There is almost no doubt that Wales will be playing in the European Championships next summer as they need a point from games against Bosnia-Herzegovina and Andorra assuming Israel and Belgium win this week and Israel then win in Belgium.

It would be a huge surprise if Wales are not able to earn that point with Andorra next up, but they might have a difficult time getting it from a desperate Bosnia-Herzegovina who still have Play Off ambitions.

Bosnia-Herzegovina have been a very difficult team to play on their home soil and they will be taking Wales very seriously after the improvements the latter have made under Chris Coleman. While Wales have been effective away from home in this set of Qualifiers, they have needed late goals for victories in Andorra and Cyprus.

They have also shown defensive skills in earning a goalless draw in Belgium, but I have a feeling Wales might not have the same desire as Bosnia-Herzegovina in this game. It would only be human to think ahead to the Andorra game as one where Wales can book their place in France in front of their own fans, whereas the Bosnian team will know they are in the last chance saloon when it comes to a potential Play Off spot.

Edin Dzeko missing the game would be a big blow to the home team, but I still believe they can find a way to earn the narrow win and just force Wales to wait a little while longer to end their barren major international tournament appearance run. If Israel fail to beat Cyprus, it might not even take as long as Tuesday for Wales to be booking tickets to France, but either way I think Bosnia-Herzegovina can win this one.

Czech Republic v Turkey PickThere will be some keen Dutch eyes on this fixture being played in the Czech Republic as they look for a favour from the home team in their game with Turkey. While it is going to take some collapse from Turkey to allow the Netherlands back into the picture in this Group, the Czech Republic still have some motivation despite already Qualifying for France 2016.

Winning games could improve the Seeding of teams and the Czech Republic would love to win the Group and ensure they are in as good a position as possible to have a major impact at the next European Championship. The extended format of the tournament means the Seeding could be very important for nations especially with some big nations potentially being knocked out prior to the Finals.

The Czech Republic have been very good at home through the Qualifiers with all three wins coming by the same 2-1 scoreline and I can imagine they will have their backers in this one. However, Turkey have shown they can cause problems at big grounds with a win in Romania in the World Cup Qualifiers and only a 90th minute equaliser prevented them winning in Holland during these Qualifiers.

I can see both teams having their chances in this one and goals aren't usually a problem when the Czech Republic and Turkey meet one another. The first game in the Group ended with three goals and the last two games between these nations in the Czech Republic have both seen at least three goals scored.

5 of the last 7 Qualifiers the Czech Republic have played at home have ended with at least three goals and Turkey's ambition could make this an entertaining game. The layers don't seem to fancy there being goals in this one, but I think that is a distinct possibility and the prices are very tempting here.

MY PICKS: Northern Ireland-Greece No Goalscorer @ 6.00 Bet Fred (0.5 Units)
Germany - 1 Asian Handicap @ 1.85 Bet365 (2 Units)
Romania @ 1.73 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Scotland-Poland Over 2.5 Goals @ 2.40 Coral (2 Units)
Italy to Win by One Goal @ 3.40 Coral (1 Unit)
BosniaHerzegovina @ 1.95 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Czech Republic-Turkey Over 2.5 Goals @ 2.20 Bet Victor (2 Units)

October Update: 3-4, - 3.20 Units (14 Units Staked, - 22.86% Yield)
September Final29-30-3, + 4.18 Units (117.5 Units Staked, + 3.58% Yield)
August Final16-31-1, - 24.34 Units (94 Units Staked, - 25.89% Yield)

Season 2015/1616-31-1, - 24.34 Units (94 Units Staked, - 25.89% Yield)
Season 2014/15159-208-5, - 20.22 Units (647 Units Staked, - 3.13% Yield)
Season 2013/14164-185-3, + 15.84 Units (577 Units Staked, + 2.75% Yield)
Season 2012/13+ 4.42 Units (415 Units Staked, + 1.07% Yield)

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