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Thursday, 10 November 2016

World Cup Qualifier Picks (November 10-13)

The World Cup Qualifiers are being played over the next few days which represents the final international break in the domestic football calendar until the end of March. The UEFA section only has one more round of games, but the CONMEBOL Qualifiers will have two rounds of games which I will place in separate threads in the coming days.

This is the fourth round of games in Europe which will start shaping the Groups in those sections where only one team will make it through to the World Cup Finals in Russia while the second place teams head into the Play Offs and have more work to do.

Things will also be much clearer in South America as there looks to be some gaps developing between the top four and the chasing pack. Big results over the next few days may have a couple of the 'big name' nations perhaps feeling the pressure in that section too as we move to within eighteen months of the next World Cup kicking off in Russia.

The last set of picks were disappointing from the last weekend in the Premier League as late goals once again hit me and turned what could have been a slightly positive week into one that turned into another loss. It has hit the season totals now too so the next few days are important to start building the momentum back my way after five weeks with poor performances from myself when trying to pick the winning picks.

I would like to have a little more luck land on my side in the coming weeks to get this month turned back around but making better picks can make my own luck and get this season back on track.

Colombia v Chile PickGames in the South American World Cup Qualifiers tend to be fairly entertaining for the most part and I imagine this one between Colombia and Chile will be one that follows that trend. That has plenty to do with Chile whose away World Cup Qualifiers have featured plenty of goals as they have shown an attacking threat but poor defensive foundations in those games.

Colombia can play their part having scored at least twice in 5 of their last 6 home World Cup Qualifiers, while the two clean sheets in that time have come against poor travelling teams like Peru and Venezuela.

Chile might be considered a poor traveller with their record, and their defensive issues could be exposed here having conceded at least three times in 4 of their last 6 World Cup Qualifiers away from home. However, Chile might feel they can give Colombia something to think about with their own attacking threats like Arturo Vidal and Alexis Sanchez and it looks like a game that will see goals.

If Colombia had a better record against Chile I might be tempted to back them, but they look like they will need to score at least twice to win this game and backing three goals to be shared out looks the call.

Uruguay v Ecuador PickUruguay and Ecuador have played some tight games in recent fixtures against one another, but this time home advantage might be a difference maker for Uruguay. They have not won their last 2 home World Cup Qualifiers against Ecuador who have come here and made things very difficult for the home team, but this is a Uruguay team who have found goals easier to come by.

They have been scoring plenty in their recent home World Cup Qualifiers and have to feel good about facing an Ecuador team who have conceded at least twice in each of their last 3 away games.

Uruguay are averaging almost three goals per game at home and have reached that mark in 4 of their 5 home World Cup Qualifiers while they have yet to concede a goal here.

It all makes it very hard to see anything other than a Uruguay win and I think Ecuador might just look to defend deep and look to counter with the hope they can nick a point. That looks a tough task when you think of the goals they have conceded in recent away games and I am backing Uruguay to win this one while covering the Asian Handicap.

Paraguay v Peru PickI was tempted in backing Paraguay to beat Peru in this set of World Cup Qualifiers at a price that was bigger than I anticipated when you think of how poor Peru have been away from home in World Cup Qualifiers. However Peru were close to a draw in Chile last time out and had ended a long run for an away win in these Qualifiers when beating Bolivia 0-3 in September.

That has to be respected and makes odds on quotes for Paraguay perhaps not as tempting as it may seem.

Paraguay have played well at home but they have only won 2 of their last 7 home World Cup Qualifiers, although they had scored twice in 3 consecutive games here before the 0-1 loss to Colombia last month.

This looks like it will be a tight match with Peru finding a way to score in their last couple of away games in the Qualifiers and being the sole team to head to Uruguay and lose by less than two goals. Paraguay might have won 3 in a row against Peru at home, but all have come by a single goal margin and they have not recorded a win by more than a single goal margin against Peru in sixteen years.

I do think being at home gives Paraguay enough of an edge to win this one, but I am going to have a small interest on them to do that by exactly one goal at a big price.

Brazil v Argentina PickThere really isn't a lot between Brazil and Argentina and the tension in these games might be ramped up with the position Argentina find themselves in the Group.

Argentina simply cannot afford to lose here, but Brazil will be inspired by their home support to try and kick their rivals while they are down. The momentum is with Brazil who have won 4 straight World Cup Qualifiers although they haven't faced too many teams of the quality of Argentina in that run.

However, something isn't right with Argentina at the moment as only three nations have scored fewer goals than this team. With the quality in attacking areas Argentina have, that is hard to believe, and I think it might be a difference maker in a tight game.

Brazil have been scoring goals and have scored at least twice in every game they have played at home in the World Cup Qualifiers. That includes when they hosted the likes of Uruguay and Colombia and Brazil will be a big favourite to win this game if they can reach two goals in this one.

It is a tempting price to back Brazil when you see the momentum they have and being at home and backing them to inflict Argentina's first away defeat in this World Cup Qualifying Group at odds against looks a big price. Argentina have conceded twice in Venezuela and Peru recently and it will be much tougher to recover that kind of position against Brazil so I will back the home team to come away with a big three points to leave Argentina in a precarious position in the Group.

England v Scotland PickThis might be played on an international level, but England versus Scotland could easily develop into a 'Premier League' style fixture between teams who spend time and the top and bottom of that section. That means Scotland have a chance for the upset, but it would be a fairly big upset if they were to leave Wembley Stadium with a win.

England have home advantage and the better quality of players but that alone isn't always enough to make the difference. That gives England a considerable edge in this match, but the other big factor might be Gordon Strachan's position as manager of Scotland which looks on the brink of ending.

I am not sure the players are buying everything Strachan is doing to improve Scotland and the 3-0 capitulation at Slovakia has to be a big concern just last month. However the players will know exactly what this means to Scotland and so I expect a much better and fuller effort given than the one they produced in Slovakia in October.

While that result is having some influence on the markets, Scotland can't be underestimated having earned draws in Poland and the Republic of Ireland in the last set of Qualifiers and only narrowly losing in Germany. They also won in Croatia in the last set of World Cup Qualifiers and scored in all of those games so Scotland can come down south and cause some problems.

England have only conceded twice in their last 10 home Qualifiers, but the two friendly games between these teams in 2013 and 2014 has shown the kind of game this could develop into. With Scotland conceding twice in Germany and Poland and three times in France and Slovakia there is every chance England can cover the goals market on their own, but I also think a Scotland team that have scored in some away Qualifiers can play their part.

Odds against quotes for at least three goals to be scored in this one looks a little too big for me and I will back that to happen on Friday night.

France v Sweden PickThis is a big game for Sweden if they have genuine ambitions to win this Group and earn an automatic spot at the next World Cup. In a tough Group which contains France and the Netherlands, home results are going to be important so Sweden may feel they have dropped 2 points already in the 1-1 draw with Holland.

That might mean they feel they can't really afford a loss here but it is a big test for them to head to France and come away with a positive result. France have been scoring plenty of goals at home and their 0-1 win in Amsterdam last month will have boosted the confidence in a squad that is loaded with talent.

This is the second home game they have played since losing the Euro 2016 Final to Portugal and France crushed Bulgaria 4-1 in their first Qualifier at home. Those goals means France have scored at least twice in 13 of their last 15 games and it might be difficult for this Sweden team to stay with them.

I do think a lack of goals is a concern for Sweden going forward and did consider backing France to win to nil considering how difficult the Swedes can make life when they defend in numbers. However instead I am backing France to become the first team in over twelve months to beat Sweden by a couple of goals as I can see France breaking them down and pulling away.

Sweden potentially could play their part, but pushing forward might open things up for France on the counter and I will back them to win by two goals or more on Friday in this last Qualifier until 2017.

Malta v Slovenia PickThere aren't any easy games in international football and I am going to buy into that cliche with this pick because I think Malta can keep things very competitive with Slovenia when they host them in their latest World Cup Qualifier.

I know Malta were crushed by Scotland in their first home Qualifier in this Group, but they've looked more competitive in narrow losses in England and Lithuania. That loss to Scotland was also in a game that was very close before Malta were reduced to ten men and their opponents were able to kick on and win that game with a level of comfort.

Before that defeat to Scotland only 3 of 10 home World Cup Qualifiers had seen Malta lose by two or more goals. That includes a narrow 0-1 losses to Italy and Croatia and they can make life tough for Slovenia who have had to battle hard for wins at San Marino, Faroe Islands and Estonia in recent years and who could only force a 2-2 draw in Lithuania earlier in this Group.

This Asian Handicap needs Malta to lose by three goals or more to come back as a losing pick, while half the stake will be returned if they lose by two goals. However a one goal loss or earning a result will offer a full payout and I do think Malta are capable of keeping this close against a team who have only scored three times in 1 of their last 18 away Qualifiers.

Backing Malta in an international game is perhaps not for everyone, but I will take them on the Asian Handicap in this Qualifier.

Ukraine v Finland PickThe winner and runner up in this Group is likely going to be the team that can perform best at home and also not drop too many points against the likes of Finland and Kosovo. Ukraine have managed to beat Kosovo here already and need to back that up against a Finland team that have yet to win a game in the Group and who have been beaten by Iceland and Croatia in the section.

The top two teams play one another this week and Ukraine have to look to take advantage by closing the 2 points to those teams with a victory in their own game. They have managed to win their home Qualifiers against the teams they have been expected to beat and even the draw with Iceland might not be a fatal blow for Ukraine.

This is a team that have scored goals at home and Finland are going to be tested. I do have to respect the fact that Finland can make life difficult and were leading 1-2 at Iceland before conceding two injury time goals to lose that game. Finland have tended to find a way to avoid heavy defeats away from home in these Qualifiers and only 1 of their last 10 away Qualifiers has seen the side defeated by more than a single goal margin.

However I think the Ukraine can become another team to do that with their team scoring goals and likely to have plenty of the pressure in and around the Finland goal. It will be tight, but I can see Ukraine finishing off the Finnish late in the game and securing a killer goal on the counter attack which can help them win and cover the Asian Handicap on Saturday.

Wales v Serbia PickWhen these nations met in the 2014 World Cup Qualifiers it was Serbia who were considered the stronger team and more likely to reach the World Cup Finals. They proved that on that occasion with two heavy wins over Wales, but this time around it is Wales who are considered the more likely team that will play in the next World Cup Finals.

This is a big game for both teams though and the winner is going to feel much better going into the next few months with a strong looking position in the Group. For Wales it is almost a must not lose game having dropped home points against Georgia and a defeat here would mean being 5 points behind Serbia despite playing 3 of their 4 games at home.

Both Aaron Ramsey and Gareth Bale are available for Wales for this game and Chris Coleman will hope they can show more in the final third when Serbia defend in numbers. The counter attacking threat is still there if Wales are away from home or if they are leading, but Serbia won't commit too much going forward in this one as they force Wales to try and break them down.

That should lead to space for the visitors on the counter attack, although Serbia have conceded four goals in two games against the Republic of Ireland and Austria already in the Group. On the other hand they have shown they can score goals with 8 scored in the Qualifiers in their opening three games and I think they definitely bring a threat to Wales.

Wales have to show more going forward too and this has the makings of a entertaining game where goals might not be an issue. It should be noted that Wales' home games in the Euro 2016 Qualifiers were generally very tight, but this feels like one where both teams can score and the need for the home team might make it a more open game than some imagine.

The big price might have something to do with how the Wales home Qualifiers went in the Euro 2016 Qualifying Group, but that is a tempting price in a game that could easily end 2-1 to either team.

Austria v Republic of Ireland PickA wide open Group might find some separation in the coming days especially if the Republic of Ireland can head back from Austria with three points in the bag. If both Ireland and Serbia can win their World Cup Qualifiers on Saturday then this Group really will begin to feel it could be a two horse race for top spot even though we are yet to reach the halfway point of the section.

Things are likely to be tighter than that over the next twelve months as these nations fight it out for places in Russia and this is the kind of game that Martin O'Neill and Roy Keane would happily take a point from. That would mean they have visited both Serbia and Austria and remained unbeaten which would be huge for the Republic of Ireland.

After Austria lost in Serbia to follow up a 2-2 home draw with Wales, one of the disappointing dark horses in Euro 2016 have been put in a difficult spot in the Group. The pressure is on to get on the front foot and win this game, but defensively they do look like a team that will concede goals.

You can understand why the layers have suggested it will be a tight game when you think of how Austria home Qualifiers and Republic of Ireland away Qualifiers developed in the Euro 2016 Qualifiers. However this feels a game where both nations will have their chances to score goals and I think that potentially makes it a more exciting game than they imagine.

There is much on the line for both teams heading into this game and that might make the managers a little nervous and cautious. The problem is that both don't look solid enough defensively to sit back and I do think both will score in this one.

With the onus on Austria to attack and try and win this game, I think there might be opportunities for both teams in the final third and the price looks a touch big for goals in this fixture. A high-scoring draw, like their respective games against Wales and in Serbia, can not be ruled out, but 2-1 either way wouldn't surprise either and backing at least three goals to be shared out at odds against looks the call.

Switzerland v Faroe Islands PickAnything other than a Switzerland win would not only be a huge surprise in this World Cup Qualifier, but it might erase the positives for the home team when they beat Portugal to open the Group. That 2-0 win gives Switzerland a big chance to win this Group and move through to the World Cup Finals in Russia, but they can't afford to slip up in games like this.

I can't see that happening despite the Faroe Islands looking much improved in recent years and definitely not the pushovers they perhaps used to be. They don't lose too many games heavily these days but goals remain a problem for them and that is the angle I am playing here.

Faroe Islands have failed to score in 7 of their last 11 away Qualifiers and the goals have come against the likes of Greece, Hungary, Kazakhstan and Latvia. The goal in Hungary came in the last minute of that game and scoring in Switzerland will be tough for them.

10 of the last 11 home Switzerland wins in the Qualifiers have come with a clean sheet and the goals they have conceded have generally come against the better nations in European football. The layers are perhaps offering enough of a price to back Switzerland to win with a clean sheet in this one and I will back that to happen.

Belgium v Estonia PickThe last time Belgium and Estonia played in the Qualifiers came eight years ago and suffice to say that Belgium are much improved since winning that home game 3-2.

This current Belgium squad look to be one filled with goals and they have shown that by averaging more than four goals per game in their opening three World Cup Qualifiers. The crushing of Bosnia and Herzegovina at home shows what Belgium are capable of in a weak section and Roberto Martinez will not shackle the attacking intentions of this side even if they are in a commanding lead.

That has to be a worry for Estonia who have conceded 7 at Portugal and 5 at Bosnia and Herzegovina in their last two away games. They have also lost 8 of their last 9 away Qualifiers and I can only see a fairly comfortable home win for Belgium in this one.

It is a big number that Belgium are being asked to cover, but they have scored at least three times in their last 4 home Qualifiers and I think their attacking threat will show up here. I do think Belgium will likely win this one by at least three goals and I will back them to win by that margin or more.

MY PICKS: Colombia-Chile Over 2.5 Goals @ 1.95 Bet365 (2 Units)
Uruguay - 1 Asian Handicap @ 2.06 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Paraguay to Win by One Goal @ 3.50 William Hill (1 Unit)
Brazil @ 2.10 William Hill (2 Units)
England-Scotland Over 2.5 Goals @ 2.00 Bet Victor (2 Units)
France - 1.5 Asian Handicap @ 1.81 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Malta + 1.75 Asian Handicap @ 1.90 Bet365 (2 Units)
Ukraine - 1.25 Asian Handicap @ 1.80 Stan James (2 Units)
Wales-Serbia Over 2.5 Goals @ 2.38 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Austria-Republic of Ireland Over 2.5 Goals @ 2.30 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Switzerland Win to Nil @ 1.67 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Belgium - 2.5 Asian Handicap @ 1.77 Bet Victor (2 Units)

November Update7-14, - 14.56 Units (42 Units Staked, - 34.67% Yield)

October Final29-41-2, - 21.23 Units (139 Units Staked, - 15.27% Yield)
September Final43-28-1, + 35.17 Units (133 Units Staked, + 26.44% Yield)
August Final31-38-2, - 9 Units (124 Units Staked, - 7.26% Yield)
Season 2016/17102-107-5, + 4.94 Units (396 Units Staked, + 1.25% Yield)

Season 2015/16133-174-2, + 0.89 Units (669 Units Staked, + 0% 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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