European Championship Playoffs: What’s at stake?

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So, a two –year qualification campaign has now come down to a two-match knock-out for eight countries desperately fighting it out for a place at next summer’s premier European international football competition in France. With so much hinging on just two solitary matches, and the hopes of entire nations resting on the player’s slim shoulders, now is the time for heroes to be made and villains to be cast. The eyes of the finest football tipsters will be turned to these eight matches spread over six days from Thursday until Tuesday. Here are the match-ups in more detail;

Norway V Hungary, Thursday 12th November at 19.45 GMT & Sunday 15th November at 19.45 GMT

Per-Mathias Høgmo’s Norway side were only undone in their hunt for automatic qualification by a last day away defeat at group winners Italy – an earlier impressive 2-0 home win over eventual second-placed finishers Croatia pointing to the talent and potential at the 55-year-old’s disposal. Goals were very much shared around the Norwegian team with no fewer than nine players notching during qualifying, but top scorer, midfielder Alex Tettey, only managed three, so the Norwegian public will be looking at their forwards to see where the goals can come from. The Hungarians and coach Bernd Storck enjoyed a rather peculiar qualification campaign in which they only lost twice, but with one of those coming in their final match against a Greek team that had already finished bottom of the group . Similarly to their opponents, nine players scored in their run to third in their group, but this time their top scorers were Dániel Böde and Krisztián Németh with only two goals apiece. These two teams only conceded 19 goals in a combined 20 matches to reach this stage, so a high-scoring affair in either match is unlikely, but as always let the finest football tipsters guide you in all your betting choices.

To Qualify – Norway 1.57, Hungary 2.37

Bosnia and Herzegovina V Rep. of Ireland, Friday 13th November at 19.45 GMT & Monday 16th November at 19.45 GMT

Ireland held hopes of qualifying automatically from Group D right up to the end of their match in Warsaw, a 2-1 defeat rather than a 2-2 draw condemning Martin O’Neill’s men to a play-off. However, while qualification may have been close at hand at particular moments in that match against Poland, it now seems a long-way off after the draw paired them with Bosnia, who overcame a poor start in Group B to finish comfortably in third behind Belgium and Wales. Indeed, those early results cost the Bosnians although they may well lay stake to being the form team moving into these playoff games – three wins from their final three matches including a comprehensive 2-0 victory over second placed Wales points to a difficult task for the Irish, especially when considering that Bosnia also secured a 0-0 draw in Cardiff. Edin Dzeko will be a huge threat to the Irish defence, with seven goals in seven games in qualifying ample proof, if it was needed, of the big striker’s pedigree. It’s a contest that is almost too close to call, which is why the advice of the most knowledgeable football tipsters is worth its weight in gold.

To Qualify – Bosnia-Herzegovina 1.80, Rep. of Ireland 2.00

Ukraine V Slovenia, Saturday 14th November at 17.00 GMT & Tuesday 17th November at 19.45 GMT

On paper at least, this looks like the most one-sided affair, and indeed the bookies agree. Ukraine were at times impressive in their qualifying campaign, but were undone by their direct results with their nearest competitors Spain and Slovakia – a 0-1 home defeat at the hands of the latter in their opening match perhaps proving critical. Head coach Mykhaylo Fomenko will be looking to the influence of his twin attacking threats Andriy Yarmolenko and Yevhen Konoplyanka as well as skipper Anatoliy Tymoshchuk to lead his side to the finals in France next year, and they are clear favourites to do so. Slovenia, meanwhile, emerged in third place in a disappointing group E which saw England canter home undefeated and Switzerland join them almost by default. The Slovenians do possess the attacking threat of 36-year-old Milivoje Novakovič, who plays his club football for Nagoya in Japan, and bagged six goals in qualifying, and the class of Chievo defender and national team captain Boštjan Cesar at the back. Indeed, coach Srečko Katanec will need the all the experience of these players if his side are to prevail through this play-off round. See what the expert football tipsters are predicting only at

To Qualify – Ukraine 1.50, Slovenia 2.60

Sweden V Denmark, Saturday 14th November at 19.45 GMT & Tuesday 17th November at 19.45 GMT

With three Scandinavian teams in the playoffs, a ‘derby’ was a likely outcome, and so it proved as these two great rivals were matched together in an intriguing contest. The Danes had a relatively poor qualification campaign, with two draws against Albania, coupled with two defeats to group winners Portugal and a disappointing 0-0 draw in Armenia putting paid to their automatic qualification hopes. Niklas Bendtner finished his country’s top scorer with two goals, yet the Danes only finished with eight goals in total from their eight games. More will be expected from  chief playmaker Christian Eriksen in particular if Denmark are to overcome their neighbours Sweden, who were one of the main victims of an amazing qualification campaign from Austria which saw them go undefeated and win nine consecutive qualifying games – only England could boast a better record. A 1-4 home defeat at the hands of the Austrians proved fatal to the Swedes automatic qualifying hopes, with Russia pipping them to that all-important second-spot, so coach Erik Hamren will be looking to captain, top-scorer in qualifying (8) and all-round footballing superstar Zlatan Ibahimovic to inspire his country through to another major finals. How the Danish defence cope with the big Swedish striker could well be where the analytical focus of the most studious of football tipsters will be held.

To Qualify

Sweden 1.80,  Denmark 2.00

All odds courtesy of Bet365 and correct as of 17.00 GMT on Tuesday 10th November.

By: Steven Paget