Austria vs Poland: Austria to win – 11/10
Quarter-finalists in Euro 2016 and top of their qualifying group for the 2018 World Cup, Poland have gone in the complete opposite direction to the Netherlands since last summer’s tournament in Russia.
First seeds in what was one of the weakest group’s in the tournament, the Poles were eliminated after just two games and finished bottom of a group consisting of Senegal, Japan and Colombia. They have since been relegated from the top tier of the Nations League with barely a whimper and even had the embarrassment of drawing at home to Ireland in a friendly.
Austria, on the other hand, have recovered somewhat from an extremely forgettable qualifying campaign for last year’s World Cup. They were steady in the Nations League and only a narrow defeat in Bosnia prevented them from promotion to Europe’s top league.
They have lost just once at home since 2016 – a defeat to Brazil in a World Cup warm-up – and their last competitive defeat at the Ernst Happel Stadium, ironically, came at the hands of Ireland and James McClean in November 2016.
Austria have been more consistent than Poland recently and home advantage should see them over the line on tonight.
The Netherlands vs Belarus: Netherlands (-2) – 6/5
Having failed to qualify for both Euro 2016 and the World Cup in Russia last year, Dutch football was at it its lowest ebb since the early 1980s. 1986 was the last time the Netherlands failed to qualify for two international tournaments in succession and following their dismal qualifying campaigns in 2016 and 2018, things looked particularly bleak.
However, the Dutch turned a corner somewhere along the line and are experiencing something of a renaissance. Tipped by many to be relegated from Nations League after they were drawn in a group of death with Germany and France, the Dutch not only survived but topped the group.
Holland suddenly look a different prospect. Ajax are turning back the clock in the Champions League and there is now a plethora of young Dutch talent to choose from. 19-year old Matthijs De Ligt partners Virgil van Dijk in what looks an almost impenetrable defensive partnership, while Frenkie De Jong looks certain to be one of the best midfielders in the world.
Steven Bergwijn, consistently linked to Manchester United, and Memphis Depay are just two of many exciting players in the Dutch attack, and they should easily brush past Belarus in Amsterdam.
Northern Ireland vs Estonia: Northern Ireland to win to nil – 5/6
Northern Ireland were desperately unlucky to find themselves drawn in the same group as Germany and Holland. Circumstances dictated that the Republic of Ireland, a host country in 2020, couldn’t be drawn in the same group as two other hosts, so Northern Ireland took their place.
It seems very unlikely that the Northern Irish will occupy one of the two top spots in Group C, but it is imperative that they win this one if that is to be the case.
The Green and White Army find themselves in the unusual predicament of playing both Belarus and Estonia twice before they come into contact with the two giants of the group, which gives them a chance to get 12 points out of 12.
They have won eight of their last 12 games at Windsor Park, keeping clean sheets in seven of those games. Home form will be key to any chances Northern Ireland have of progressing to Euro 2020 and they should start off with a shutout on Thursday night.
* All odds correct at time of posting.