Sep 4: World Cup Group F Preview


IT seems as if we’re still getting over Euro 2016 and now we’re hit with the World Cup 2018 qualifiers.

There are nine ties on Sunday in Groups C, D and F with F of course featuring England and Scotland.

Scotland must kick off with a win in Malta to have any chance of ending 20 years of World Cup misery.

Anything but three points against the Group F minnows will leave Gordon Strachan behind the eight-ball after just 90 out of 900 minutes.

So the pressure’s on and while bookies are convinced Strachan’s side will win I can see it being a nervy 90 minutes unless Scotland can nick an early goal.

Leigh Griffiths is the country’s deadliest hitman but his withdrawal – alongside several others and skipper Scott Brown’s retirement – is a huge blow.

Once again Steven Fletcher will be asked to provide a finish while Griffiths’s replacement Tony Watt has to yet to prove he’s more than a one game against Barcelona boy wonder.

Talking of boy wonders there is genuine hope Ollie Burke will be a Scotland star of the future but after a whirlwind week that saw him move to Red Bull Leipzig for £13million it’s asking a lot for the 19-year-old to be the saviour and he’ll probably be used as an impact sub.

Scotland are no bigger than 4-9 at Betway and it’s price that worries me. Ladbrokes are much shorter at 1-3 but will refund stakes if it’s a draw.

Our h2h record against the Maltese is perfect and while they don’t concede many these days they aren’t a high-scoring side either.

Eight of Malta’s 10 Euro qualifiers went under 2.5 goals and they netted just five times in 10 outings. And eight of Scotland’s last 10 victories have been by 1-0.

Interestingly Malta lost 1-0 at home to Italy, Belgium and Croatia and I’m sure a 1-0 Scotland win would delight Strachan.

Stan James go 21-10 on Scotland to win and under 2.5 goals but as Craig Alves pointed it’s better doing split stakes on 1-0 Scotland at 5-1 with McBookie and Ladbrokes and 2-0 at 11-2 with Paddy Power.

Under 2.5 goals pays evens at bet365 while under 1.5 is 13-5 with McBookie.

Griffiths hasn’t scored for Scotland but I’d have backed him to break the deadlock in Valletta. In his absence Fulham new boy Chris Martin and Steven Fletcher are 4-1 favourites at bet365.

Fletcher is a guaranteed starter and netted seven times in the Euro qualifiers – most against minnows – so would be the preferred option.

Deadball expert Matt Ritchie is 7-1 at Paddy Power and rejuvenated James Forrest worth a look at 11-1 with bet365 if he starts. I have to mention no scorer at 11-1 with Skybet – but let’s hope that’s a no-show.

Even before this tie Scotland’s chances of qualifying are slim with Ladbrokes going a biggest 5-1.

England are certs to win the group which is why they are no bigger than 2-5 at Coral while Slovakia are second favourites at 11-2 with McBookie and Ladbrokes and Scotland 9-1 with the same firms.

Remember only the winners automatically go to Russia so it’s a really tough ask for a team missing in action since France 1998.

England kick off their campaign with their most difficult match on paper in Slovakia. The sides drew 0-0 at the Euros but Sam Allardyce has replaced Roy Hodgson and I expect him to start with three points.

England are being well backed and are now 21-20 at Betway and it looks decent. Picking a first scorer is tougher after Harry Kane and to a lesser extent Jamie Vardy flopped in France.

But it’s Kane who has been given the nod to start and he is 5-1 at bet365. Wayne Rooney has kept hold of the captaincy and is 9-5 at McBookie to celebrate with a goal.

Recommended Bets

Scotland & Under 2.5 goals

Malta v Scotland under 2.5 goals

S Fletcher to score first

England to win

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  1. Profile photo of Alves
    Alves 2 years ago

    Surely youd be better taking 1-0 at 5/1 & 2-0 11/2 and half stake rather than 11/10 for Scotland/unders

  2. Profile photo of adamdm21
    adamdm21 2 years ago

    Hello there. Do you think germany poland double just over evens is a decent price?
    add England 3/1

  3. Profile photo of Johnb
    Johnb 2 years ago

    Mr f, Sam Allardyce has replaced Roy Hodgson, when did that happen?
    Because as far a I can see it’s just Hodgson in disguise.

    Three changes from the team that played so brilliantly against the Mighty Iceland,
    England were a cert to win their Euro group,
    Every time I look at today’s team I burst out laughing, Hart, Henderson, Sterling, Lallana, Rose, Walker.
    Really hope it’s the same team against Scotland

    • Profile photo of jimron12
      jimron12 2 years ago

      Let’s just hope from my point of view that these “stars” finally start acting like it!

      • Profile photo of Mr Fixit Author
        Mr Fixit 2 years ago

        My one fear is Allardyce saying a draw would be a good result.
        Anyway as a Scot I don’t mind backing England and then seeing them not win.
        Although because we’re competing with Slovakia for second place Scotland want England to win tonight.

    • Profile photo of edgeman
      edgeman 2 years ago

      Are you taking the p*ss John? For someone who is supposedly switched on and betting savvy, you don’t half see some things through tinted specs. Your laughing at lallana , sterling, rose and walker???? Your telling me there is anyone in the Scotland team better than those? I really hope it’s the same team against Scotland (bar Henderson, I take your point with him), and you will get royally pumped.

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