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Thursday, 31 August 2017

World Cup Qualifier Football Picks 2017 (August 31st-September 5th)

The Transfer Window closes on Thursday, but this is the day the World Cup Qualifiers begin with the final four rounds of games played over the next six weeks.

This is an important time for some big nations who are desperate to book their place in Russia for the World Cup Finals, especially for Argentina and the Netherlands who are struggling in their individual Qualifying campaigns.

Both of those nations begin the first of their two World Cup Qualifiers on Thursday, but there are plenty of other nations looking for a positive two games to put themselves in the position they want to be in.

This thread will be left as the 'favoured post' over the next few days with a break on Saturday for the College Football Picks on Saturday and Sunday. I will be adding all of the World Cup Qualifier Picks from the next few days on this one thread as I look to begin September with some positive results.

France v Netherlands Pick: If you wanted proof of the kind of fall the Netherlands have suffered in their national team over the last three years, just take a look at the kind of price you can get on them winning this game.

After finishing 3rd at the last World Cup under Louis Van Gaal, the Netherlands failed to even Qualify for the European Championship Finals last summer despite the increased number of teams who could reach the Finals. That disappointment has continued in this World Cup Qualifying Group and the Netherlands look set to miss out on back to back major international tournaments for the first time since 1986.

It will take a special final four games for the Netherlands to even finish in the top two in the Group and that begins with the difficult task of stopping this French team.

France have so much talent that they look like being major contenders for the next four or five international tournaments. Losing in the Final of Euro 2016 was a huge blow for the team, but France can use that experience and they have looked to be the best team in the Group.

Only a Hugo Lloris error in Solna has prevented France from already being in a very strong position to Qualify, but I would still expect France to win the Group. This is arguably the most difficult game left, but France have been strong in home Qualifiers and are facing a Netherlands team who haven’t been good on their travels.

Holland did earn a draw in Sweden, but the loss in Bulgaria means they have lost half of their last 8 away Qualifiers over the last two Qualification campaigns. It ended 2-0 to Bulgaria in the last away Qualifier which also means 3 of their 4 away Qualifier losses since 2014 have come by a couple of goals at least and also without the Netherlands scoring.

I am not sure France have the most trustworthy of defence with their style likely to leave them short at the back. However, the attacking threat should find a way to break down the Netherlands defence and breach them at least twice which is why I am backing France to cover the Asian Handicap.

5 of their last 7 home Qualifiers have been won by a couple of goals at least and I will look for France to add to the Netherlands woes with another dominant home win here.

Chile v Paraguay Pick: Games are running out in a very tight South American World Cup Qualifying Group where only Brazil have secured their place in Russia next June. With the fixtures left, both Chile and Paraguay are looking for a vital three points, but I have to lean with the home side getting the edge.

There is plenty of talent in the Chile squad who finished Runners Up at the Confederation Cup a couple of months ago. They have been inconsistent in the Qualifiers, but they have entered the top four now and Chile are a much stronger team at home.

Chile also face a desperate Paraguay team who will know anything less than a positive result will likely mean their Qualification chances have gone. Even a draw might be a result that plays spoiler than aiding Paraguay and I do think this is a team that have confidence knocked of late.

This is a team that hasn't travelled well and the win over Argentina looks an exception than the rule for Paraguay away from home.

Paraguay have made life difficult for Chile when hosting them, but this time they have to deal with the loud crowd who will be cheering on their team. Chile have won their last couple of home Qualifiers by at least a couple of goals and I will look for the better Ranked team to come through this one.

It is a big three points, but Chile have enough in the final third to break down the Paraguay resistance. At some stage Paraguay will have to commit men forward and that is where Chile can take advantage for a comfortable win on the night.

Uruguay v Argentina Pick: There is a huge rivalry between these nations at the best of times, but the pressure filled environment that Uruguay and Argentina will be involved in makes it a fascinating World Cup Qualifier. Argentina have plenty of work to do to finish with an automatic spot in the Russia World Cup Finals, but Uruguay also need some points to ensure a place in the top four in South America.

It makes this a fascinating game and with the attacking talent in the line ups this should also be a decent game of football. Luis Suarez is expected to miss out for Uruguay, but they are at home and will have noticed how weak Argentina have been on their travels.

However Argentina look to be reinvigorated by Jorge Sampaoli who took over as manager in the summer. He has previously guided Chile to unprecedented success and was also performing well as manager of Sevilla which gives Argentina confidence they can secure their spot in the top four by the end of the Qualifiers.

Winning here won't be easy though and Argentina have proved that in recent years with a just a single victory in 8 visits to Uruguay. Losing Suarez is a blow for the home team, but they should still have chances in this one against an Argentina team who will press and thus leave the defence a little exposed.

Edinson Cavani gives Uruguay an attacking threat, but Argentina can match that and it feels like this could be a fixture which produces a few goals. Only 2 of the last 6 between Uruguay and Argentina have finished with at least three goals shared out, but I will look for this one to go that way with both teams likely to produce an attacking game plan.

I do think they will have the chances to reach at least three goals in this one and I will back that to happen at odds against.

Czech Republic v Germany PickThis is a very big week for the Czech Republic who play the two teams above them in this World Cup Qualifying Group and have a 4 point gap to make up to 2nd placed Northern Ireland. Two wins from two games would be huge for the Czech Republic, but I am not sure this current squad is good enough to do that.

They are certainly going to be tested to the full when facing Germany who look to be producing another squad that is capable of winning the World Cup as they did in 2014. The Confederations Cup success has shown the depth Germany have and they have been dominant in this Group with six wins out of six.

However there is still work for Germany to do if they want to win this Group and secure their spot in Russia for the World Cup Finals. While they are 5 points clear of Northern Ireland, Germany still have to visit Windsor Park and a loss here would likely mean they are only 2 points clear of Northern Ireland who head to San Marino on Friday night.

It would be some surprise if Germany do lose in the Czech Republic with the quality they have and the home team perhaps going through a transition at this moment. The Czech Republic have not lost a lot of home Qualifiers in recent years, but they also have not faced too many teams of the quality of Germany in that time and I think that shows up here.

In the European Championship Qualifiers Germany did fail to score in Poland and the Republic of Ireland, but generally the side have been able to wear down opponents and produce plenty of chances in away Qualifiers. I think they can do the same here in Prague and I do believe Germany will end up securing a win by a couple of goals on the day.

That will give Germany a chance to put one foot into the World Cup Finals and I will back them to cover the Asian Handicap in this one.

Lithuania v Scotland Pick: There is so much on the line for Scotland and Gordon Strachan and you have to feel that anything less than a win in Lithuania will likely mean curtains for their chances of making it to Russia and the next World Cup Finals. They play Malta at home early next week and Scotland need the full six points on offer to keep the pressure up on Slovenia and Slovakia in the race for the 2nd place in the Group.

While Scotland will have been pleased with four points from their last couple of Qualifiers against Slovenia and England, the way they dropped two points against England could be the difference between a Play Off and being at home next summer. They have to use the confidence from the performances in a positive way, but this is the kind of game Scotland have failed to win on many an occasion in their long absence from a major international tournament.

It was a 1-0 loss in Georgia in the European Championship Qualifiers which cost Scotland a chance of playing in France last summer and this Lithuania team have to be respected.

Lithuania are 1-1-1 at home in the Group and came close to beating Slovenia when leading them 2-0 here before settling for a 2-2 draw. They have scored at least once in each of their home Qualifiers in the Group and Lithuania will believe they can win this kind of fixture having already drawn 1-1 in Glasgow.

That makes Lithuania a dangerous team for Scotland to face and the fact they do score goals at home only heightens the danger. Scotland have conceded in 8 of their last 9 away Qualifiers with the one exception coming at Gibraltar and this feels like a match that could produce at least three goals with both nations likely to score at least once.

Neither will settle for a point in this one which should keep the attacks coming, although historically this has been a fixture that hasn't produced a lot of fireworks. This one may be the exception and at a big price it has to be worth a chance to see at least three goals in this one.

Malta v England Pick: The layers won't be giving away anything with the England price as they will be big favourites to win this World Cup Qualifier in Malta. The home team have already been beaten by Scotland, Slovenia and Slovakia here and England are seen as the superior of those nations.

The question from this fixture is how comfortable will it be for England? While they should win, August is a tough time to play in Malta with the high temperatures something that the English players are not that accustomed to.

It could be a question of simply getting things done as far as Gareth Southgate is concerned, especially with the big home Qualifier against Slovakia to come in a few days. That game may determine the winner of the Group and so Southgate will be looking for a professional performance in Malta and that is what I think he will get.

England have the quality in the squad to break down the Malta defences, although they will have seen at Wembley Stadium how difficult this opponent can make life. They only won 2-0 at home, and I have to say the Scotland win here has looked like an exception in recent performances Malta have provided.

Scotland won by a four goal margin, but both Slovenia and Slovakia have had much tougher wins here. Italy and Croatia both won by single goal margins here in the last European Championship Qualifiers and this is going to be a difficult test for England to say the least.

I do think England can win by a slightly wider margin than Italy, Croatia and Slovenia provided and can instead match what Slovakia did in their 1-3 win here. It has been 23 games since England scored more than three goals in a game and that was against San Marino who are considerably weaker than this Malta team.

With the thoughts likely to be to get into a position to earn the three points and then try and control the game in the heat of Malta, I think backing England to win by either a two or three goal margin could provide a profit. Dutching those two margin of victories provides an odds against return and that is the way I will back England on Friday for the win.

San Marino v Northern Ireland Pick: This could be a pivotal moment for Northern Ireland in the Group as a win coupled with a Czech Republic failure to beat Germany would mean they are in complete command of the Play Off spot in the section. There would still be an outside chance of Northern Ireland winning the Group as they host Germany later in the section, but most of the fans have to just be concerned with wrapping up 2nd place and the Play Off berth.

It has been another successful campaign in the Qualifiers for Michael O'Neill and Northern Ireland who have shown the last set of Qualifying matches was not a fluke or taking advantage of a weak section. Performances against the Czech Republic and Norway have shown Northern Ireland in a very positive light and they should be too good for San Marino.

However, like England, Northern Ireland are unlikely to blow out too many teams and especially away from home. They did beat San Marino 4-0 at home, but this is going to be tough in warmer conditions.

Eventually I do think Northern Ireland will prove to be too good for a San Marino team who have not won any of their last 41 home games and who have found goals hard to come by. They have lost 7 in a row at home and Northern Ireland have proved in performances in the Czech Republic and Azerbaijan that their strong defensive shape gives them the platform to go on and win matches.

Northern Ireland haven't scored more than a single away goal in their 3 away Qualifiers in this Group, but they did score twice in 3 away Qualifiers in the last European Championship Qualifying Group. I think the Northern Irish can be backed to win here and picking two correct scores should give every chance of producing a healthy profit.

Backing Northern Ireland to win 0-2 and 0-3 and dutching those scores returns a healthy odds against quote and has to be worth backing in this latest World Cup Qualifier.

Slovakia v Slovenia Pick: This is a big game for both Slovakia and Slovenia and a draw doesn't do much but open the door for Scotland to get back into the race for a top two finish in the Group. The winning team may feel they have a chance to finishing above England in the Group while also strengthening their own Play Off berth and it is an intriguing game.

I do give the edge to the home team who will have the support from the stands and who have won their last 2 World Cup Qualifiers here. In both they have thumped Scotland and Lithuania and I do think there is a lot to like about Slovakia.

Their opponents won't be a pushover and a draw likely suits Slovenia a little more, but the defeat in Scotland and being 2-0 down in Lithuania is not encouraging form.

I do think the attacking threat of Slovakia is going to find a way to wear down the Slovenian visitors and it will be a narrow win for the home team. It will be a big win for Slovakia to take them closer to a potential place at the next World Cup, and I like them at odds against to earn that here.

MY PICKS: 31/08 France - 1 Asian Handicap @ 1.91 Bet365 (2 Units)
31/08 Chile - 1.25 Asian Handicap @ 1.95 Bet365 (2 Units)
31/08 Uruguay-Argentina Over 2.5 Goals @ 2.00 Paddy Power (2 Units)
01/09 Germany - 1.25 Asian Handicap @ 1.88 Bet365 (2 Units)
01/09 Lithuania-Scotland Over 2.5 Goals @ 2.38 Bet Victor (2 Units)
01/09 Dutching England to Win by 2 Goals & England to Win by 3 Goals @ 2.25 Ladbrokes (2 Units)
01/09 Dutching Northern Ireland to Win 2-0 & Northern Ireland to Win 3-0 @ 2.67 Bet365 (2 Units)
01/09 Slovakia @ 2.05 Bet365 (2 Units)

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