Euro 2016 Play-Offs Part 1

At this stage I’m not planning on doing any betting pieces this week, although that could change if I decide to delve into the murky, unpredictable world of Leagues One and Two.

Leicester hauled my chestnuts out of the fire last week but again it was a small loss so maybe a break will do me good. But then again I am a gambler, and sometimes the pull is just too strong – gambling is a little bit like cocaine; only potentially more expensive and infinitely less glamorous.

Anyway, I’ve decided to have a look at the Euro 2016 qualifiers – easily the most exciting part of the qualification campaign.

Norway V Hungary

Got to be honest here, I know almost nothing about these two sides.  Yeah, I could look at their recent records, form both home and away etc and bang something out but I won’t insult your intelligence by doing that.  I know a few players in the Norway squad and a few less in the Hungary one – but sometimes that creates a better spectacle for the neutral.  Go in with no preconceptions and just enjoy the occasion.  I am looking forward to seeing Real Madrid’s Norwegian starlet Martin Odegaard in action though, I’ve been meaning to check him out somewhere other than YouTube for a while now so hopefully the 16-year-old gets a bit of game time either tonight (Thursday) or in the return leg in Budapest on Sunday.

If you do happen to be a Norway fan heading to Budapest for the second-leg incidentally I highly recommend the ruins bars in the Jewish Quarter, and try some of the goulash – it’s a treat, and one I’ve just not been able to recreate myself since.

Bosnia V Republic of Ireland

The Irish really got handed the shitty end of the Euro 2016 play-off draw stick for me.  Of the seeded teams (Bosnia, Ukraine, Sweden and Hungary) I’d argue Bosnia and Herzegovina are the strongest in terms of the talent within their squad.  They have at least three real top quality players; Roma pair Edin Dzeko and Miralem Pjanic and Chelsea keeper Asmir Begovic, and a few other stars as well.  The ROI don’t possess that same quality and they’ve got loads of players missing for the first-leg away from home.

John O’Shea and Jon Walters are suspended, Shane Long is injured – as are keepers Keiren Westwood and Rob Elliot.  There are others too, and the task in Zenica could well be just to ensure they don’t let their Euro 2016 hopes get away from them before the home leg in Dublin.

Ireland will play with plenty of heart and desire – they almost always do when the stakes are high – whether that will be enough remains to be seen but if they can come away from Bosnia still in the tie they’ve got a good chance of getting the right result in Dublin.

I’ll do the other two play-offs tomorrow (Ukraine/Slovenia and Sweden/Denmark), until then enjoy the Euro 2016 qualifiers.  These are basically the only international breaks I ever look forward too, from here on in its just uninspiring friendly ties until the Big Kahuna next summer.

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