THESE Euro play-offs are tight to call – none more so than tonight’s clash between great rivals Sweden and Denmark.
So far results haven’t been expected – Hungary’s win in Norway and Ireland’s draw at Bosnia – but there has been one constant. I said at the start most of these play-offs are low scorers and both have gone under 2.5 goals so far.
And here’s a stat for you – the last five meetings have produced just five goals and with two finals to come you have to expect more cagey affairs.
Denmark are the much more pragmatic side and that could serve them well. They netted just eight goals in their eight qualifiers and I expect more of the same with a clean sheet their priority.
Sweden have one factor in their favour – and that’s Zlatan Ibrahimovic, the only world-class player in either line-up – although ex-Celt John Guidetti might not agree.
Zlat’s won games for his country single-handedly in the past and will have to be at his best to open up a route to France.
He’s in good form with 11 goals in 11 games after an injury-plagued start to the season with PSG. You can have 5-4 at McBookie and Ladbrokes to net and 7-2 at Paddy Power and William Hill to score first.
Denmark’s best chance of a goal will come from ex-Arsenal striker Niklas Bendtner who is 7-2 at Paddy Power to break the deadlock and 8-1 to net at any time.
If you don’t fancy goals what about bookings. I’m sure the tackles will be flying in and ref Nicola Rizzoli averages four yellows a game at international level. Watch for prices when they become available.
Tonight’s other tie sees Ukraine entertain Slovenia who are noted as poor travellers. They did OK in qualifying but thew away a 2-0 lead in Switzerland to lose 3-2 when they had a chance to miss the play-offs.
Ukraine never stood a chance to top Spain but would have expected to finish above Slovakia. Losing home and away to both was crucial and against a weaker Slovenia they must be looking for a first-leg advantage. They are a best 8-13 at Ladbrokes to get it and 4-7 at Coral to qualify.
Anyone who fancies the Slovenians – and there’s no way they can be totally written – can have 9-5 with 888sport on them heading to France.
Ibrahimovic to score (5-4)
Ukraine to qualify (8-13)