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World Cup Qualifying – The Early Signs

World Cup Qualifying – The Early Signs

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It may be too early to predict who will make the World Cup in 2018 but some familiar countries are already sitting pretty after making winning starts in qualifying.

The first round of European qualifiers for the tournament in Russia in two years’ time have now been played and traditional heavyweights Germany, Italy and Spain were among those  getting off to winning starts.

Reigning champions Germany brushed Norway aside 3-0 and it would be a major surprise if Joachim Low’s men do not comfortably top qualifying Group C (1/15) ahead of the Czech Republic, Northern Ireland and international minnows San Marino and Azerbaijan.

It looks like the rest will be battling it out for second place but Northern Ireland built on their impressive performance at Euro 2016 this summer when earning a 0-0 draw in the Czech Republic, and that sort of dogged form might just tempt some into backing them at a long 33/1 to top the group.

Italy kicked off their campaign with an impressive 3-1 win in Israel while Spain, also in Group G, were easy 8-0 winners over Liechtenstein. With only one automatic qualification place up for grabs, one of these two may have to settle for a play-off place.

Italy beat Spain in France this summer in the last 16 and look good value at 6/4 to top the group although the Spanish are the 4/9 favourites.

Belgium saw off Cyprus 3-0 and already seem near-certainties to top a tame Group H (4/19) which also contains Bosnia, Greece, Estonia and Gibraltar.

England left it very late to beat Slovakia 1-0 as Adam Lallana’s first goal for his country gave Sam Allardyce a win in his first game in charge. But it was far from convincing overall from the Three Lions, who are 4/23 to top Group F which also includes Scotland, Malta, Slovenia and Lithuania.

Scotland haven’t qualified for a major tournament since 1998 but began well with a 5-1 win over Malta. Judging Gordon Strachan’s side on that game is difficult but their odds of 8/1 to top the group may appeal to some.

Wales also started well with a 4-0 win over Moldova and at 8/5 to top Group D, Chris Coleman’s side look an attractive bet, even though Austria (2/1), Serbia (33/10) and Republic of Ireland (9/2) may have other ideas.

There is usually a shock in qualifying when one of the big boys doesn’t make it to the finals and trying to work out who that will be after one game is tricky, but there are some early candidates.

Step forward European champions Portugal. Without injured superstar Cristiano Ronaldo they lost 2-0 away against Switzerland and already have some ground to make up in Group B.

They have plenty of time to recover, of course, but the Swiss to top the group at 5/6 – the same odds as Portugal – looks a better option at this stage.

Finally, France also surprisingly failed to kick-off with a victory when they were held 0-0 in Belarus but they are still the 1/2 favourites to win Group A, even though the Netherlands and Sweden, who drew 1-1 on Tuesday, are also in the mix.

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Gareth Freeman Gareth is our daily tipster, who has years of successful sports betting behind him and is always on hand to offer a value bet. As well as a passion for Football (UK and European), he also has in-depth Tennis, Boxing, Snooker and Basketball knowledge.