France to Finland: 5 WCQ 2018 games you can’t miss this weekend
Fantastic international action on the cards
World Cup 2018 Qualification is reignited this weekend, as the Race to Russia heats up. But while most eyes will be on the fate of the Home Nations, that’s just the tip of the iceberg as far as this weekend of international crackers go.
The Coral News team have rounded up the top five fixtures outside of these shores, beginning with France’s vital clash against the Netherlands at Stade de France…
France v Netherlands (Thursday 31 August, 20:45)
With the visitors having finished fourth in their Euro 2016 qualifying group, and hosts France bypassing the battle to reach the tournament, it was hard to know what to expect from the pair heading into this WCQ group.
It’s the former who have looked stronger, with second-placed France currently on 13 points after six games, while the Netherlands are three points behind. However, Dick Advocaat’s men did thump Luxembourg 5-0 in an impressive display in their last qualifier.
Les Bleus have won the past three meetings against Oranje, with the last meeting sealed by a Paul Pogba winner in Amsterdam. With the Frenchman on fine form for club side Manchester United, Coral News fancy him to do the damage again this weekend.
Coral Tip: Pogba to score and France to win @ 5/1
Denmark v Poland (Friday 1 September, 19:45)
Robert Lewandowski and co. are flying high at the top of Group E, with a six point gap. Meanwhile, the Danes are closing in on Montenegro in the battle for second spot. Victory for the hosts would blow the race wide open, while a win for Orly would all-but-secure their place in Russia.
From a neutral point of view, this pair always produce cracking games. The last two meetings both ended 3-2 to Poland, but the Danes won the last meeting on their own patch, back in 2006.
These two are both in good form, with neither having lost in their past 10 games combined. With the visitors having bagged a victory in Montenegro on their most recent away assignment, the Coral News team like Adam Nawalna’s men to edge a high-scoring affair.
Coral Tip: Poland to win and Both Teams to Score @ 5/1
Slovakia v Slovenia (Friday 1 September, 19:45)
Either of these sides could still beat England to top spot in Group F, though in truth it’s likely to be about the battle for a play-off position. Right now, it’s Slovakia who find themselves a single point ahead of their Friday night opponents. But will that change after this game?
The answer looks to be: Yes.
Slovakia have won their last two competitive games 4-0 and 3-0 respectively, while Srecko Katanec’s visitors have tasted victory in just one of their previous eight away games. The value appears to lie with a comfortable home victory in Trnava.
Coral Tip: Handicap Betting: Slovakia -1 @ 29/10
Finland v Iceland (Saturday 2 September, 19:00)
Iceland found themselves 2-1 down in the 90th-minute during the reverse fixture in Reykjavik, only to sensationally win 3-2, with Ragnar Sigurdsson bagging a winner five minutes into stoppage time.
The visitors are currently second in Group I, with Croatia ahead on goal difference. Meanwhile, each of Turkey and Ukraine are just two points behind. That makes this, at the very least, a must-not-lose game.
As for Huuhkajat, they’re out of the running to reach World Cup 2018, but will be keen to halt the progress of their Nordic rivals and get revenge for October’s heartbreaking loss.
Iceland have won their last three, while Finland haven’t won at home since September 2015, so it’s the Euro 2016 Quarter-Finalists who are likely to come up trumps again at Ratina Stadium.
Coral Tip: Iceland to win @ 10/3
Spain v Italy (Saturday 2 September, 19:45)
It’s hard to think of an international fixture which has provided more drama in the past decade than this one. La Furia Roja knocked Italy out of Euro 2008, and produced a 4-0 rout of the Azzurri in the Final four years on. However, the latter got some revenge last summer, beating Spain 2-0 in the Round of 16.
The stakes are pretty high this time, too. Both sides are locked on 16 points, with nobody else in Group G remotely close to them. The winner of this game will likely prove decisive in terms of who books their place in Russia, and which side are forced to navigate a tricky play-off.
It’s hard to call who’ll win this one, but what you can expect is a low-scoring, cagy affair. None of the past five meetings have produced more than two goals, so Under 2.5 Goals should be fancied this weekend.
Coral Tip: Under 2.5 Goals @ 4/7
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing