As we begin the new football season, all focus on the international football is squarely on the qualification of the teams towards the World Cup 2018 in Russia. The qualifying campaign is expected to finish by November 2017, and we will have a full host of qualifying games until then to decide who makes it to the finals.
Poland come into the campaign for World Cup 2018 on the back of some decent performances in the recently concluded Euro 2016 where they managed to reach the quarter finals before getting knocked out by Portugal on penalties. The Polish players have now become household names like Lewandowski, Błaszczykowski, Grosicki, Milik, Krychowiak, Szczesny, Fabianski, Glik, Piszczek and will be looking to take the recent confident performances to the next level in their qualification campaign. Many of the players will be upbeat as they have secured transfers to some high profile clubs due to their strong performances in the Euros. Their forwards, Lewandowski and Milik come into this game with some great form behind them, already finding the back of the net in the 2 club games already played since. Adam Nawalka will be aiming for his side to build on their strong defensive efforts, much like they did during the Euros and that qualification campaign.
The Polish take on the Kazakhs who have been in pathetic form in competitive fixtures will be looking to take a big scalp in this game at home. The Kazakhs had won just 1 game in their entire Euro 2016 qualification campaign which was against the worst side in their group in Latvia. They lost 7 out of those 10 games, and managed to hold 2 other draws against Latvia and Turkey. Today their defence will be looking to keep out a good offensive unit in Poland and that looks like a struggle for them especially since they shipped many goals at home including 4 against the Czechs, 3 against Iceland and 2 against Netherlands. All of their players are home based players playing mainly for Astana. Many of their players will be a bit tired after a long season that has been underway since March and has been played through the summer.
These two sides have met 3 times, and the Polish have come out winners on all occasions. I expect the Polish to run riot and make a statement on this group where they are favourites to go through and a great price can be found on them to win on the Asian Handicap markets.
If you watched the Euro 2016; you heard one major statement “Will Grigg’s on Fire, your defence is terrified” and despite that he never appeared for a single minute on the pitch with Michael O’Neill opting for Kyle Lafferty to start up front and after notching 4 goals this campaign, he has still yet to be called up. The defensive unit of Northern Ireland is what helped them stay afloat in the Euros as they never lost any game by more than 1 goal, and often a late one. O’Neill will probably stick with a similar backline of Gareth McAuley, Jonny Evans, Craig Cathcart.
The Czech Republic side have lost many stalwarts from this tournament as Cech, Rosicky, Plasil, Hubnik, Limbersky and Lafata to name a few who have now retired from the international game. The Czech side will be injecting a lot of youth with an average squad age of 26-27 to get them ready for the tournaments coming ahead. The problem for the Czechs will be keeping opponents out of their goal, as they were one of the leakiest sides during Euro 2016. Scoring the goals will rely a lot on Necid and Vydra who would be their furthest 2 up front. While the Czechs will have the home ground advantage, its the Northern Irish who will have the vocal support as we saw in France earlier which could motivate them.
The 2 sides last met in the World Cup 2010 qualifying campaign with both games landing up to be a 0-0 affair. I expect this game to be an extremely tight and drab affair with a Northern Ireland Double Chance seeming to be the best pick for the price on offer.