Sport

Euro qualifiers get underway

JustBet offers $1.32 for Italy to beat Finland

Friday, March 22, 2019

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THE European Championships 2020 qualification campaign gets underway this weekend and two of the favourites for the competition next year will be in action tomorrow (Saturday, March 23, 2019).

Firstly, Italy will look to hit the field running when they welcome Finland to the Dacia Arena in Udinese in their bid to lift the trophy for the first time since 1968. After which, Spain will host outsiders Norway seeking to make the tournament finals for the first time since 2000.

After their major disappointment of not qualifying for the 2018 World Cup, Italy are now looking to put in a confident and commanding display at home against Finland. Italy have found themselves on the path to redemption after the failure to qualify for the last World Cup. However, it has been something of a transitional period for them and they look as if they still have a fair way to go before they can be regarded as a genuine super power of world football again. In the Nations League last year, they finished second to Portugal in the group and could only manage home draws in both their games in that campaign. They scored two goals in their four games.

Finland are hoping to kick-start their campaign with an upset win over their more fancied rivals. However, this might be easier said than done, as the Eagle Owls have lost three of their last four games and each of those were outside of Finland. Before this slump, Finland were on a great five-match winning streak. Four of those wins were in the Nations League campaign as they raced out of the blocks chalking up four-straight victories. Both these sides have met 11 times down the years with the Italians winning 10 of them — and a 0-0 draw back in 1975 in a European Qualifier was the only time Finland hasn't lost. Amazingly, Italy have not lost a home game in European Championship Qualifying since a 3-2 loss to Denmark back in 1999 which is a run of 20 games — and they have never lost a World Cup Qualifier either.

The betting tip? Italy for the win

Event # 2

Spain, the 2008 and 2012 winners, are the strong favourites in their opening game of the 2020 European Qualifier against Norway at the Estadio de Mestalla in Valencia come tomorrow. Spain suffered a disappointing year following on from a chaotic World Cup as they also failed to reach the inaugural UEFA Nations League finals.

Luis Enrique's side secured an impressive 2-1 win away in England and trashed Croatia 6-0 at home, but their campaign fell apart with a 2-3 loss at home to England before losing by the same score line in Croatia. Many believe Spain's golden era has now passed, but underestimate Luis Enrique's men at your own peril. La Roja, as Spain are known worldwide, have registered nine wins and a draw away to Italy during the 2018 World Cup qualifying campaign, scoring 36 times and conceding only three goals.

The Norwegians, on the other hand, have recorded three wins in their previous four games, which will surely give their fans a reason for optimism ahead of this difficult trip to Valencia.

The Scandinavians have not reached a major tournament since 2000 and still appear a bit short of star quality heading into this campaign. They did not do well on their travels in their 2018 World Cup qualifying group, being thrashed 6-0 in Germany and losing away to Northern Ireland, Czech Republic and Azerbaijan.

However, Norway did inflict a surprise 1-0 win over Spain during the 2000 Euro although that remains their only victory over La Roja. The last time the teams met, Spain ran out comfortable 3-0 winners in a 2003 European Championship playoff to qualify for the 2004 tournament — while the first ever meeting between both teams came in March 1978 with Spain winning 3-0.

Interestingly, Enrique has left out Real Madrid's Isco from the Spanish side as the player is probably paying the price for a lack of game time at his club.

The betting tip? Spain to win


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