Scotland prepare for latest Euro 2016 qualifier with Qatar friendly
Almost 70 places in FIFA’s world rankings separate Scotland from upcoming friendly opponents Qatar, and Coral make Gordon Strachan’s side strong odds-on 2/5 favourites to warm up for a crunch Euro 2016 qualifier with the Republic of Ireland by beating this Middle East opposition.
The Tartan Army are in Qatar’s present, but what of their future? World football’s governing body FIFA are under investigation following allegations of widespread bribery and corruption surrounding their successful bid for the 2022 World Cup.
For a nation whose most famous sportsperson is currently athlete Mutaz Essa Barshim – someone that is closing in on breaking the men’s high jump record at the 2015 IAAF World Athletics Championship – their football team touring Britain could hardly have come at a worse time.
Made massive 13/2 outsiders to upset the Scots, Qatar hold little hope of any cheer at Easter Road. Even a draw seems a remote prospect at 7/2, but Ipswich Town defender Christophe Berra has pledged to take this encounter seriously.
“Ultimately the most important one for us is the Republic of Ireland,” admitted Berra. “It’s a game that when we cross that white line we want to win. When you’re playing in a competitive game, if there’s a ball there for a 50/50, more likely than not if you don’t go fully committed that’s when you get injured.
“We’re not going to do anything silly, but we’ll go out there and give our all and we want to put on a good performance for the fans and to gain confidence for a massive game the following week.”
Scotland assistant boss Mark McGhee suggested the players may keep something in reserve, however. “I think they will approach the game in a way that is controlled,” he said prior to Berra facing the media. “They will go into it in a measured way; giving enough to get a result but keeping something for the Republic game.
“It’s not a game that they have to give everything in the way they will against the Republic. I’m not diminishing the game, but the Qatar game is preparation for the Ireland game.”
Strachan’s main centre forward Steven Fletcher, 9/2 to score first, is expected to shake off a knock to figure, though in-form Celtic striker Leigh Griffiths (5/1 in the same market) could be in line to replace him for this friendly after nine in the last eight Scottish Premiership games.
Left back Andy Robertson should also bet fit, while recalled Charlie Adam (10/3 anytime chance), Berra and Griffiths’ Bhoys teammate James Forrest will all be targeting game time. Strachan could also give an opportunity to Bournemouth winger Matt Ritchie (11/4 to score here) to show what he can do from the start, after helping the Cherries reach the Premier League.
Al Sadd, where Barcelona metronome Xavi Hernandez is moving to for next season, have Qatar’s most prolific player in winger Khalfan Ibrahim, who is a 4/1 anytime shout for the visitors.
El Jaish pair Mohammed Muntari, also 10/3 in that market, and Magid Mohammed (11/2) may also pose some threat to the Scots, but punters can expect a comfortable win for Strachan’s side.
Coral betting tip: Taking fabulous odds of 5/1 for Scotland to enjoy an easy 2-0 win look a worthy investment here.