Fri, Oct 6, 5:14pm by Staff Writer
While 2006 World Cup winner Italy should qualify for Russia 2018, it can’t afford to let the foot off the pedal in its final two qualifiers.
Italy is second in Group G behind Spain as it prepares to host Macedonia on Saturday morning.
While the Azzuri are unbackable favourite to take the match at $1.06, the win needs to be a big one to ensure Italy is among the eight group runners up to qualify automatically after going down 3-0 to Spain last round.
Macedonia is on $41 for an unlikely win with $11 for a draw. Italy’s final qualifier is against Albania on October 10.
Adding to the pressure, Italian football federation president Carlo Tavecchio has described the possibility of the four-time champions not qualifying as “the Apocalypse”.
Barring the inaugural World Cup in 1930, in which it did not enter, Italy have appeared at every tournament except 1958 when they were eliminated in qualifying by Northern Ireland.
Spain leads the group by three points and is paying $1.06 against $51 in its home match against Albania.
Group H is tenuously poised ahead of Belgium’s match in Bosnia.
Given Belgium has already qualified, the Bosnians are a good chance to overcome an understrength Belgian team and cement second spot. The two teams are both paying $2.60 for a win, with $3.40 for a draw.
A point behind Bosnia and with an inferior goal difference, Greece will need to improve if it is to have a chance of making the most of its trip to Cyprus. Greece is the $1.50 favourite to win, but the $8 on offer for Cyprus will tempt punters familiar with the two sides’ rivalry.
Despite having won all its eight games so far, Switzerland leads European champions Portugal by just three points ahead of its home match against Hungary.
The Swiss are paying $1.28 against $12 to beat Hungary, but a bigger test looms when it plays Portugal in the final round.
Portugal should have no trouble seeing off Andorra in its penultimate qualifier, paying just $1.02 for an away win and $51 for a loss.
France, the 1998 World Cup winner, is no certainty of reaching Russia next year with matches against Bulgaria and Belarus remaining.
Group A leader France is the $1.20 favourites to beat Bulgaria, but second-placed Sweden’s match against Luxembourg will be closely watched.
The Swedes are three points ahead of the Netherlands and will be guaranteed second place at worst with a big score Sunday morning, with $1.05 on offer for a win, $26 for a loss and $13 for a draw.
Suggested Bet: Take Bosnia to beat an understrength Belgium: $2.60
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