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Northern Ireland have given themselves a right chance of qualifying for their first World Cup since the ‘80s after their demolition of Lithuania on Thursday night. What that means is a nation can look forward to a huge game against the Swiss next week, but as is the way with the international breaks, first they’ve to try and get past a meaningless friendly.
Saturday 17:00 – Estonia v Northern Ireland
Sky Sports Football
But, for Northern Ireland, this is more about preserving their starters and handing experience to fringe players. For Estonia? Their qualifying campaign is all but over, having shipped 15 times in their opening three games in a group that, genuinely, felt almost favourable. So, who’s up for this one? Anyone? Right, at least we can try make it worth your while. Here’s three plays to follow.
The Shorty: Under 2.5 Goals
However limited you feel these teams are, their exposure when the squad begins to thin is unnatural. It’s not often about the lack of quality either, it’s the fact they very rarely even kick a ball together. The issue with the North here is that their fringe players are either too young and lack first-team experience, or too experienced at club level to properly invest in this.
And I’m not being funny, but one of Estonia’s back three against Belgium didn’t even have a club. And he’s a first-choice option.
Value Play: Under 1.5 Goals
I understand there’s a theme and this is a touch dull, but can you envisage any situation where these two play out anything even remotely entertaining given the lack of buy-in, their respective World Cup qualification situations and the lack of chemistry in the second strings?
Even if we’re to delve deeper, Estonia had a few friendlies against Sweden, Finland and Lithuania where they appeared to be semi-functional. The blueprint for those performances was keeping it tight. They’ve since gone on to be more expansive early on in games and then got thumped by Belgium. They took 10 shots against them! Back to type for this methinks.
Long Shot: Full Time Score: 0-0
If you need a spectacle, then watching the ball be passed around badly in the middle of the pitch for over an hour can only be entertaining in one betting angle – if you’ve backed the lack of end product.
This is hardly the biggest shock to anyone, but even the most impressive of strike partnerships for Ian Baraclough pairs a 33-year-old Kyle Lafferty who is plying his trade in Cyprus, with a three-cap Dion Charles – who lines out for Accrington Stanley and who has hit a slump so far after an impressive showing in 2020.
Football Tips Today
- BET BUILDER: Our 14/1 punt for England v Andorra
- PHIL THOMPSON: My best bets for England v Andorra today
- TOP TIPS: 14/1 punt among our Belarus v Wales best bets
- BTTS ACCA: Tonight’s 13/1 bet from a busy night of action
Sunday big bet
- PHIL THOMPSON: I wanted Jack Grealish at Liverpool – he’d walk into the team
- Jadon Sancho my only concern after Man Utd’s mega transfer window – Phil Thompson