IT'S been a while since I took any serious interest in International Football from a betting perspective but there's a few mismatches in the coming days that have piqued my interest, so I'm back in the game with my usual International Correct Score Treble bets that have proven profitable in the past.
Regulars on the site may have seen this kind of bet from me before, if not, it's a simple case of finding matches where minnow countries take on relative big boys and back them in the correct score market to lose by certain scorelines to nil. Wrap them up in multiple bets, usually trebles, and you've got yourself a viable bet in what's usually one of the the hardest cards of the season to find value.
The introduction of the UEFA Nations League had killed any chance of finding suitable fixtures for this kind of bet, as the nature of the competition pits similarly strengthed teams against each other in various groups, but with the start of Euro 2020 qualification we've a number of matches where the only thing in doubt is the size of the victory rather than the victory itself.
Today for example, we have Republic of Ireland‘s visit to the tiny British Overseas Territory of Gibraltar as well as Greece‘s visit to Liechtenstein. On Sunday, the Scots travel to lowly San Marino and on Monday we have Albania‘s trip to Andorra to look forward to. But it might be best to wait until Tuesday when 125/1 shots Liechtenstein visit Italy and Spain make the trip to Malta who are priced at 80/1 for the win.
Any of the above matches should be on your radar but the three I'm going to concentrate on are;
San Marino v Scotland
I know, I know! Before we start. I know! Yes I did see Scotland's abject performance in Kazakhstan on Thursday and yes, it was one of the worst results in the country's history but, hear me out, it can't possibly be that bad again! And, they're up against San Marino – ranked 211th in the world, out of of 211. Yep they're officially the worst team in international football.
Surely, even Scotland couldn't f**k this one up!
Since their debut on the international stage in 1990 San Marino have yet to win a competitive match. Indeed their only victory came in a 1-0 friendly international against Liechtenstein back in 2004 when Andy Selva wrote his name into the country's history books with the only strike.
They take regular thumpings and even the parity of the Nations League hasn't afforded them much respite as they finished bottom of League D, pointless and goalless. They're now nine games without a goal and have scored just three goals in their last 20 qualification matches. Anything less than a clean sheet for Scotland and Alex McLeish can collect his P45 on his return to Glasgow Airport.
So, it should be all about how many Scotland can score.
Scotland's two previous visits to the microstate (1995 & 2000) resulted in less than impressive 2-0 wins. At home things were a wee bit more convincing (4-0 and 5-0) but it's unlikely the travelling Tartan Army will need to use both hands to count the score on Sunday.
McLeish's men will be hurting after Thursday's kicking in Kazakhstan and I expect they'll be looking to restore some national pride with a resounding win, however the lack of firepower is a concern. Of the eleven that started in midweek only two had scored an international goal; James Forrest (5) and Stuart Armstrong (1).
The best gauge of how many San Marino might concede is to look at results against similarly ranked teams as Scotland (i.e. those outwith the elite but better than the whipping boys). Recent results at home include 0-1 Moldova, 0-2 Belarus, 0-3 Northern Ireland, 0-2 Slovenia and 0-2 Lithuania. And those make 0-2 to 0-4 scorelines look like the way to go here, although it's also worth pointing out that Norway and Czech Republic have notched 8-0 and 6-0 wins there respectively in 2017.
- San Marino 0 Scotland 2 13/2
- San Marino 0 Scotland 3 11/2
- San Marino 0 Scotland 4 6/1
- Best prices currently at PaddyPower
Italy v Liechtenstein
125/1 will get you Nigel Farage to become UK Prime Minister in 2019, Theresa May to participate in Strictly Come Dancing or Liechtenstein to beat Italy.
So that's the measure of the task facing the principality, population 38,547, on Tuesday. Therefore it's just a matter of how many the Italians will win by in Group J.
Compared to San Marino, Liechtenstein look prolific in front of goal. Prior to their match against Greece tonight (Saturday) they've scored four in their last four, albeit in their League D Nations League Group, which they managed to finish bottom of, despite it also including Macedonia, Armenia and Gibraltar.
But when they play the top nations in Europe it's a different story. Spain took EIGHT off them without reply twice in World Cup 2018 qualification. Italy were unable to match the Spaniard's scoring exploits but still recorded comfortable 4-0 (A) and 5-0 (H) wins in the same group. Bosnia-Herzegovina (19th at the time) are the highest ranked team that Liechtenstein have scored against, so a clean sheet for the Italians feels assured.
As for Italy, we seldom see goals galore when they play. In fact since that 5-0 win over Liechtenstein in June 2017 they've scored just 12 goals in 17 matches, scoring twice in just one of those games. Despite a rich pool of strking talent to choose from they're not renowned for running up huge scorelines against the minnows (1-0 v Malta, 2-1 v Azerbaijan, 2-0 v Malta, 1-0 v Faroe Islands), preferring to do just to enough to secure the three points more often than not.
So an improving, better organised, Liechtenstein versus a Italian side content with three points, draws me towards the lower end of the correct score market for this one.
- Italy 2 Liechtenstein 0 12/1
- Italy 3 Liechtenstein 0 15/2
- Italy 4 Liechtenstein 0 6/1
- Best prices currently at BetVictor (Not available at Paddy Power atm, more bookies will price this up nearer kick-off)
Malta v Spain
You have to go back to June 2013 for Malta's last competitive international victory, a 1-0 win in Armenia. It's one of only two wins this century in World Cup or Euros qualification campaigns, placing them firmly in the international also-rans category.
They're by no means the worst of the bottom tier but they shouldn't be able to compete with former World Champions Spain.
Although they're most likely be on the end of a respectable two or three goal deficit when facing the higher ranked teams they've lost 5-0 to Kosovo in November, 4-0 to England towards the end of 2017 and even Scotland put five past them in 2016. They've lost 6-0 on three occasions in the last five years so it's hard to make a call on how many Spain can score.
The Spanish are among the most prolific on the international stage and have scored four or more no less than nine times in the last three years. they had a hugely disappointing Nations League campaign however, losing both matches to England and Croatia by three goals to two. Both those teams are on a different level to Malta and for the purposes of this bet we have to back Spain to keep the Maltese out.
The two nations have met seven times. Unsurprisingly, Spain have won all seven, with an aggregate of 33-3 but the last meeting was in 1997 so not much can be made of the head-to-head stats therefore it's a bit of a punt on this one. Unlike Italy, Spain seem more willing to press for goals even when comfortably ahead so I'm happier going for a higher spread in this one;
- Malta 0 Spain 3 9/2
- Malta 0 Spain 4 5/1
- Malta 0 Spain 5 15/2
- Best prices currently at PaddyPower
- Scotland to beat San Marino 2-0, 3-0 or 4-0 WIN
- Italy to beat Liechtenstein 2-0, 3-0 or 4-0
- Spain to beat Malta 3-0, 4-0 or 5-0
- 3 x 3 x 3 Correct Score Trebles = 27 Bets
- Lowest possible return 250/1*
- Highest possible return 828/1*