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World Cup Qualification (UEFA) – Fourth Fixture Picks

UEFA’s World Cup qualifiers are in full swing. As always, the strongest FIFA conference will pit many of the best teams in the world against one another in the build-up to Russia 2018.

The fourth set of fixtures doesn’t feature a ton of heavyweight tilts, but that’s not terrible for betting purposes. There are still a handful of games that look to be offering good value.

Let’s take a look at the three I like best.

Sweden (725) at France (-294), Draw (392)

Date: Friday, November 11 | 2:45 PM Eastern

Venue: Stade de France, Paris

Handicap: France -1

France (2-1-0) are tied for first in Group A with seven points in three games. They beat Bulgaria (4-1) and the Netherlands (1-0) but let a couple points go to waste against Belarus (0-0). Les Bleus have been nearly unbeatable at home in qualifying, going 7-0-1 in their last eight. The last time they lost a WC qualifier at home was to Spain – then the top team in the world – back in 2013. They’ve also taken two of the last three against Sweden, but that dates all the way to 2008.

Sweden are tied for first in the Group with an identical seven points thanks to wins over Bulgaria (3-0) and Luxembourg (1-0) and a draw against the Netherlands (1-1). Like France, they have a +4 goal differential (five goals-for, one goal against).

With Zlatan Ibrahimovic retired from international play, the Swedes aren’t a favorite to qualify. Wins over Bulgaria and Luxembourg are nice, but don’t say much, and drawing the Netherlands doesn’t mean what it used to. The team is 4-1-2 in it’s last seven away qualifiers, but as mentioned, this is a team in transition. France, on the other hand, is full of budding stars like Antoine Griezmann and Paul Pogba. They should be too much to handle on home soil.

Pick: France -1.

Poland (160) at Romania (160), Draw (227)

Date: Friday, November 11 | 2:45 PM Eastern

Venue: National Arena, Bucharest

Handicap: PK

Poland and Romania both had to like their draw for the qualifiers, landing in Group E with Montenegro, Armenia, Denmark, and Kazakhstan. Both will have thoughts of a first-place finish and automatic qualification.

Poland are off to the better start with seven points through three fixtures thanks to wins over Armenia (2-1) and Denmark (3-2) and a draw against Kazakhstan (2-2). They’re currently tied with Montenegro on points, but sit second in the group based on goal difference.

Romania are on five points (good enough for third in the group) with a win over Armenia (5-0) and draws against Montenegro (1-1) and Kazakhstan (0-0) on their resume so far.

The Romanians haven’t been as good at home lately as they would hope, going a mediocre 3-2-2 in their last seven qualifiers. But Poland haven’t been a good bet to win on the road, either, failing to register the full three points in their last three away fixtures. The draw is a good play in this one as neither will want to cede three points to arguably their biggest competition in the group.

Pick: Draw (227). 

Scotland (658) at England (-227), Draw (317)

Date: Friday, November 11 | 2:45 PM Eastern

Venue: Wembley

Handicap: England -1

There’s never any shortage of drama or malice when Scotland square off with their big brother England. Scotland need a positive result from this one if they’re going to retain any hope of winning Group F. They already let points slip away with a draw against Lithuania (1-1, home) and an embarrassing loss at Slovakia (3-0, away). Their only win, to date, was a 5-1 drubbing of tiny Malta (away).

England are on top of the group with seven points. The Three Lions started qualification with back to back wins over Slovakia (1-0, away) and Malta (2-0, home). They were somewhat lucky to escape Slovenia with a point (0-0, away) last time out, and have goalkeeper Joe Hart to thank for keeping their goals-against column clean.

There isn’t as much history between these neighboring teams as you might think. England has won four of the last five, but that dates all the way back to 1968. They haven’t met in WC qualifying since 1954. 

Scotland are having a hard time keeping the ball out of their net and England should be able to capitalize with the likes of Daniel Sturridge and youngsters Dele Alli and Marcus Rashford pressing for goal.

Pick: England (-227). 

Photo credit: Ben Sutherland (Flickr) [creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/].

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