The World Cup qualification campaign in Europe is coming down to its final stages, with some of the world’s elite looking for vital wins over the next seven days to assure their place in Qatar next year. But, which picks should gamblers make for some of the most eye-catching fixtures taking place?
Ireland vs Portugal
One of the tightest groups in European qualification is Group A, as the 2016 European Champions are on the brink of having to settle for a place in the playoff round. Cristiano Ronaldo and co make the trip to Ireland on Thursday evening, knowing that only a win will do before their final fixture in the group against Serbia.
Portugal are currently second in the group, and sit a point behind Serbia. However, they have played a game less than the side currently above them. Ireland are already eliminated from contention, as they have picked up just five points from six games.
These are typically the moments when Ronaldo stands up and proves his worth for his nation, and he will likely fire his country back to the top of the group ahead of the game against Serbia next week.
Italy vs Switzerland
It could be a potentially cagey end to Group C for the European Champions. Italy and Switzerland are both level on points coming into the penultimate game, and it could be a case of winner taking all.
Switzerland showed at Euro 2020 that they weren’t afraid of the heavyweights in the international game, as they knocked out France, and they are unbeaten in qualification coming into this game on the road.
However, Italy have an outstanding record against the Swiss, and will have the added advantage of knowing that a draw will see them remain top courtesy of their healthy goal advantage. Regardless, the narrow win for the Italians looks hard to oppose here.
Greece vs Spain
Thursday night will be a big game for Spain, as their hopes of reaching Qatar are hanging in the balance. They come into the penultimate round of games in second place, two points behind Sweden. Greece are breathing down their necks, and a victory for the hosts would put them within one point of the Spaniards.
Spain will still be heavily expected to finish in the top two places, but defeat on Thursday could see them starring down the barrel of an embarrassing third-place finish. Greece’s form has been relatively strong in Group B, as they have lost just once, which ensures it won’t be a comfortable evening for Spain this week.
However, with the quality that Spain have within their squad, they should edge over the line to a win, and set up a winner-take-all showdown with Spain in the final round of fixtures.
Montenegro vs Netherlands
Group G is going to go to the wire, with all four teams in the top places still able to finish in the top two spots. The Netherlands are the current leaders, but they have just a two-point advantage over Norway and a four-point lead over Turkey.
Victory in this fixture for the Dutch will assure at least a second place finish, and will certainly make the final match against Norway very interesting, as both nations look for the win that they need to finish in top spot of Group G.
Montenegro have been competitive so far in this group, as they have won three from eight games. However, they were beaten very easily by the Dutch in the first meeting, as the leaders ran out 4-0 winners. Another win for the Netherlands looks hard to oppose.