With the European club season coming to an end in recent weeks, the continent’s main pastime enters into hibernation for the next few months. But before doing so, national sides will have to call upon their players for one last game, as the World Cup qualifiers close the season off with a series of important games for nations looking to qualify for the premiere competition in world football to be held in Brazil next year. The qualifying phase for the tournament has thrown up a few surprises along the way so far, and just having passed the halfway stage of the qualification phase, this is a crucial period for all teams involved.
European World Cup Qualifying Odds
Montenegro and Bosnia have thus far proven to be the biggest surprises of the qualifying phase. With neither team ever having participated in a World Cup, they lead their respective groups, and with wins on Friday night could cement their places atop the standings. Bosnia (4/7) head Group G ahead of Greece (8/11) by three points, and could consolidate their lead with a victory in Latvia (5/1), hoping that Lithuania (4/1) can take points away from the Greeks.
Belgium (4/7) host Serbia (5/1) and Croatia (4/11) host Scotland (8/1) as the two sides, currently on the same points on top of Group A, continue their battle for automatic qualification to the World Cup.
Arguably the most high profile game of the weekday takes place in Portugal (4/5), as Russia (15/4) come to visit in a crucial tie. Russia currently top Group F with four wins from four, one point ahead of both Israel and the Portuguese. If Portugal want to prevent the Russians from running away from the group and keep their qualifying ambitions afloat, they will have to come away from the game with a victory.
Another game of interest will be in Prague, as Italy (11/10) face the Czech Republic (13/5) in a game that may well decide the fate of the group. Italy lead the group three points ahead of Bulgaria with a game in hand, with the Czechs two further points behind. A victory for the Italians may well seal the group for them, ahead of the potential decider at home against Bulgaria in September.