Bosnia v Portugal, Slovenia v Russia and Ukraine v Greece – European Play-Offs Second Leg

15th November 2009 | World Cup Betting category: World Cup 2018 Betting Predictions
World Cup 2018 Betting Predictions

All of the European World Cup qualifiers are still finely balanced after Saturday’s first leg action. While New Zealand, Cameroon and Nigeria all booked their respective spots at the South Africa 2010, the eight European teams still have ninety minutes on Wednesday to make or break their World Cup dreams. With France getting the edge over the Irish in Dublin, courtesy of a Nicolas Anelka goal, Portugal and Russia both got their noses just in front. But with the return legs to come, there is nothing settled at all about the outcomes, with all eight teams still in with a great chance of making it to South Africa next year.

Bosnia (0) v Portugal (1)
Judging by the performances, Bosnia could well be favourites to come through this tie. A Cristiano Ronaldo-less Portugal looked uninspired and could already be out of the running if it were not for being saved by the woodwork on three occasions. It does make you wonder, when things like that happen, if some things are just meant to be. The Portuguese rode their luck through the qualifying group, and certainly did in the first leg of their play-off against Bosnia-Herzegovina. The visiting Bosnians, never going to be a push over, won just about every stat on the game, except two. The scoreline obviously, and the fact that they could only manage to get one shot actually on target.

But the truth is, they created chances, and could have been out of sight. Rallying to cancel out Portugal defender Alves’s goal, Bosnia hit the woodwork twice in the final minute of action. That was after a header smacking against the Portuguese crossbar in the first half. Bosnia are a good attacking side, quite refreshing and joyful to watch. They have the potency to score in Edin Dzeko and this tie is far from finished. They will have been disappointed not to get an away goal, but while Chelsea midfielder Deco was pulling a lot of strings in the midfield, Portugal do not look a great side, certainly not any better than the Bosnians. With the home crowd behind them, Bosnia could easily make themselves a little bit of history on Wednesday night, by reaching their first ever World Cup finals

Match Odds Only
Bosnia to win: 23/10 at Paddy Power
Draw: 12/5 at SkyBet
Portugal to win: 11/8 at SkyBet

Prediction: Bosnia have nothing to lose now. They should be heartened that they can find a way past the Portuguese defence at home. They do have the firepower, now it will all be down to passion and execution on the night. Portugal can expect a torrid time on Wednesday, and if they are going to get through, then it will probably be down to their ability to hang on. They themselves will want to get an away goal to kill off the tie, but that could expose frailties at the back.

Slovenia (1) v Russia (2)
Russia, a very good side under Guus Hiddink, will be kicking themselves for the late goal they conceded in this match, a vital away goal which will have given the Slovenians some great hope for the return fixture on Wednesday. Stretching their legs out to a 2-0 lead with a brace from Everton’s Bilyaletdinov and the home side had looked in complete control. Arsenal’s Andrey Arshavin and Chelsea’s Yuri Zhirkov both enjoyed good, influential games and looked to pose a threat every time they got on the ball. This was a fixture which Russia was expected to win with ease, and that had looked on the cards, being the largely dominant side.

The Slovenians, who have a collectiveness and unity to their play, in contrast to any individual flair, struggled a little on their big night. But a late goal by Pencnik for Slovenia, who finished off a rebound, gave them hope of turning Wednesday night into a really momentous night back in Maribor. Indeed the Slovenians could have nicked a cheeky late equaliser. Only an excellent back post save from Russian keeper Igor Akinfeev saved the day, as a second away goal for the Slovenians would have been extremely tough on the Russians.

Match Odds Only
Slovenia to win: 9/4 at SkyBet
Draw: 23/10 at William Hill
Russia to win: 11/8 at Paddy Power

Prediction: Russia are good enough to see off this tie. You would expect them to get at least one more goal, and could be an interesting team to follow at the World Cup. They have a nice balance of flair going forward and workmanship, all with some familiar names to English Premier League fans. Definitely one to watch, and the occasion on Wednesday night is likely to be too much for the Slovenians based on the evidence of the first match.

Ukraine (0) v Greece (0)
As was expected, this was the tightest game of the four qualifiers, with literally nothing to choose between the two teams. Ukraine on a whole though, will be feeling the more satisfied, and definitely the more confident, as they created just that little bit more than the home side. After a keen start by both sides, the game drifted in a display of the two teams cancelling each other out a bit. This was always going to be the difficulty in picking a winner from this tie, as they both appear to rely on the defensive side of the game for success.

Greece had a couple of chances to win the game, especially when the European zone’s top scorer Theo Gekas missed a headed chance, and then Liverpool’s Greek defender Kyrgiakos sent a last minute header wide on a good opportunity. Ukraine though, did have the best glimpses of creativity out of the two sides, showing just a little more poise on the ball, especially when counter attacking. Ruslan Rotan had possibly the best opportunity of the match, when he pounced on a mix up in the Greek defence, only to waste the opportunity presented to him. Both sides wasted their best opportunities, and it looks as if one goal either way will be enough to get to the World Cup 2010.

Match Odds Only
Ukraine to win: 5/6 at Paddy Power
Draw: 5/2 at SkyBet
Greece to win: 7/2 at SkyBet

Prediction. This could head to extra time, and even penalties. Heading back to the Ukraine though, the home side will be slight favourites. But again, the workmanship in midfield and defence of both sides, meant that a stalemate looked the most likely result in the first leg, the Ukrainians will be happy enough to win the tie in their own backyard.

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* All mentioned odds were valid at the time of writing. Betting odds are subject to fluctuations. Please check the current odds with the respective bookmaker!

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