The Final Race for EURO 2016
Norway against Hungary
According to the TonyBet bookies, Norway is a definite favourite in this match up. Their odds at going through to the final phase of the tournament are at 3/5 vs just 13/10 that Hungary got – but is their qualification really out of the question already?
If you take a look at the history of these two national teams playing together, things really do look much better if you’re rooting for Norway: out of the last five games, they’ve seen four victories of which three were clean sheet and just a single draw. However, the last game was in 2012 and it’s reasonable to figure Hungary’s luck could have shifted.
What’s similar about these two teams is that neither of them are scoring a decent amount of goals. Hungary has only managed 11 during the entire qualification campaign, with top-scoring Daniel Bode having netted just two in two appearances, while Norway is doing a bit better with 13 goals, three of which were by Alexander Tettey in a period of nine games.
Naturally, that leads to defence efficiency comparison. Hungary has allowed its opponents to score nine times, while Norway let through ten goals. However, half of these in Norway’s case were during a truly horrible game vs Croatia where they lost 1:5 which was rectified by winning 2:0 against the same team in a later match.
In a situation like this, something like home field advantage could really be the deciding factor – and as luck has it, Norway will have it during the first leg. If they can make use of it, it’s entirely possible that we’re going to see them play in the Euro finals after 15 years.
Bosnia and Herzegovina against Republic of Ireland
Now this is going to be a very close game. Both Bosnia and Herzegovina and Republic of Ireland played well in their respective difficult groups, and this draw isn’t going to make their lives any easier.
However, there’s always a favourite to go through, and this time around it’s Bosnia and Herzegovina with the odds of 3/4 against the 19/20 that Republic of Ireland got. Not exactly unbeatable, it-would-take-a-miracle kind of odds though – both teams have a fair shot at qualifying at this point.
The only game that they have played together was the 1:0 match in 2012 that ended in Ireland’s victory. The potential boost of confidence that could give them may very well be hindered by the fact that Hungary will be playing at home during the first leg.
On the other hand, Republic of Ireland not only drew against Poland and Germany, but went on to win the second match against the Germans, who finished at the top of their group. Now these are some brilliant results and it’s clear that this team is not to be underestimated – and that they’re not about to just give up the much-coveted place.
Bosnia and Herzegovina were decent enough during their qualification, too, winning and drawing against Wales and drawing against Belgium – who both went on to the final phase already. They will also benefit greatly from their top scoring player Edin Dzeko, who has come back from his injury in time to participate in the upcoming matches.
Without a doubt, this is going to be a tough game. Republic of Ireland may suffer a bit due to absence of a few key players, but on the other hand, they have their top scoring Robbie Keane. A lot will depend on the first leg and whether one of the teams manages to secure an early advantage – but the winner will have to endure a proper battle for the victory.
Ukraine against Slovenia
Ukraine currently has the best odds at qualifying of the whole lot: their chances are valued at 9/20, which is a whole lot better than Slovenia’s 7/4. It will be the five match against each other for these teams, and Ukraine hasn’t won a single one of them: two ended in Slovenia’s victory and two were drawn. However, the last game was in 1999 – pretty much ages ago.
At first, Ukraine does look rather strong, them coming out as a second-best team of the remaining eight. On the other hand, they did manage results like the 2014 draw against Lithuania with no goals on either side and the 2015 draw against Latvia with just one goal.
Most of the Ukrainian players are from either Shakhtar Donetsk or Dinamo Kiev, who are both playing in the Champions League and both sport the third place position in their groups. Evgen Konoplyanka is the only one to play for the Spanish Sevilla who just recently won a match against Real Madrid in La Liga and managed two assists in this game.
Now Slovenia got ranked as the bottom team in these playoffs, however, things don’t really look completely grim in their case. They managed to score two goals against England and against Switzerland, and even though in the end Slovenians succumbed to the stronger teams, Ukraine may not come out as lucky.
While Ukraine is no doubt a team that can play good football, they can also struggle to score which Slovenia could use to their advantage and it could turn out to be their ticket to the Euro 2016 – that is, if they can manage to overpower the Ukrainians who will play the first leg at home.
Sweden against Denmark
This matchup is arguably the most interesting of the lot. Sweden and Denmark have a lengthy history together, which is to be expected when their first game was in 1913. If you take a look at the five latest matches, you will see a single draw followed by four in a row clean sheet victories achieved by Denmark. Could this be the match to break Sweden’s horrible luck?
According to the TonyBet bookies, that is very likely: Sweden has the odds of 3/4 at qualifying against Denmark’s 19/20. However, the advantage is pretty slight and if Sweden wants to go through to the final phase, they will have to give their all.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic has scored eight goals in as many appearances, and Sweden will be hoping he can be a reliable source of netting them in these two legs, too. Denmark is not so lucky, as the best scoring players Nickla Bendtner only managed two in eight games – somebody will have to step up in their squad.
However, both of the teams can give a fair amount of trouble to each other, and consequently – to one another’s chances at qualifying. While it is a bit of a pity they will meet before the final phase, we do get two crucial matches, so it’s going to be a real treat.
Sweden has a home field advantage in the first meet, which could be a considerable help, but it’s likely to be a close-call type of a situation and it may not be clear who is going to play in the finals until the very last minute.
Say what you will, but the draws for the playoffs are pretty brilliant. Considering the fact that these matches mean so much to the teams, they all should be pretty interesting to watch. Six days of football are ahead – and it’s not the kind of meets that you can afford to skip.