Germany v France: France Draw No Bet – 10/11
Die Mannschaft gave their World Cup backers a good shafting with a toothless performance this summer despite their second-favourite status before the tournament.
The turnover required in their team was clear from Samir Khedira’s cumbersome lumbering a couple of years ago, but Joachim Löw elected to remain loyal to his 2014 heroes in the main and the Germans suffered an embarrassing exit.
Where France are flush with youthful stars, Germany must now try to bed in younger players in light of that flop, Joachim Löw’s remaing in situ despite his complacency, and the DFB’s embarrassing “management” of Mesut Ozil’s premature departure.
Bayern Munich’s midfield recruit Leon Goretzka should freshen up midfield, and Julian Brandt was one of the few German players who sparkled in the summer gloom, but we can’t recommend them in this spot against a French who delivered on their Russian promise with an imperious procession to gold in their Eastern adventure.
Les Bleus have had a strong record in the recent meetings between these sides too and ought to be at peak confidence, so they look decent in the Draw No Bet market at 10/11.
Portugal v Croatia: Over 2.5 Goals – 11/8
As if the addition of the UEFA Nations League to the football calendar wasn’t confusing enough, two of Europe’s leading lights are not brightening the inaugural round of fixtures with their presence, but do play a friendly on the opening evening of the competition.
We haven’t heard if they’re making the goals smaller, or throwing extra balls on the pitch, just to meddle with it all even more, but watch this space…
One thing we should be able to rely on in this fixture is goals. Portugal do not have Cristiano Ronaldo in their squad, but that’s been a regular feature of their non-competitive games in recent seasons and has not impaired their goal-scoring efforts, so we’ve no reason to think it will hold them back here either.
They’ve seen three or more goals scored in seven of their last 11 games, and plenty of these have not seen their superstar demi-god involved. They concede and score frequently, and Croatia, even without their now retired talisman Mario Mandzukic, have enough craft to cleave open the Euro 2016 champions defence to get on the scoreboard themselves.
Over 2.5 goals should be a solid prospect at a substantial 11/8.
Czech Republic v Ukraine: Draw – 2/1
Neither of these sides graced Russia with their presence, but Andriy Shevchenko’s Ukraine side have enjoyed a reasonable run of form since their World Cup hopes died though, and present a tough opponent on their travels having lost just once in their last seven games away from home.
The Czechs at home present a chequered picture, with some impressive results against teams of their level or just below, but also draws against Azerbaijan and Northern Ireland scuppering their qualification efforts last time around.
Their recent record on home soil shows three draws in seven. Given this is the early stages of UEFA Nations League and there are prizes at stake in this new competition, would it be all that surprising to see these two sides add another stalemate to their results? We think not, and will back the draw at 2/1.
*All odds correct at time of posting