world cup

With games running out in UEFA World Cup qualifying, Belgium can become the first European team to seal their place in the finals. Russia have automatically qualified as hosts but prior to the 8th round of matches in the European section, not one team has sealed a place at the 2018 World Cup.

As things stand in World Cup qualifying Group H, Belgium are top with 19 points from their 7 games played.  They are 6 points clear of their upcoming opponents Greece, who are in second place with 13 points. Bosnia and Herzegovina are third with 11 points but the best they can really hope for now is second place in the group.  That means a win for Belgium in this match against Greece, will see them through.

Greece Form

The Greeks were hoping to take maximum points ahead of this match against Belgium by defeating Estonia on Thursday night.  However, things did not go to plan and Greece could not force the breakthrough, even though they were the home team.

The 0-0 draw was a big disappointment and means Greece must now win this game to stay in contention for top spot in the group. The 0-0 draw with Estonia on Thursday was Greece’s fourth straight draw in the group and while they have remained undefeated, they have been unable to win games. However, the 1-1 draw in Belgium will give them the belief they can take something from this match and hopefully keep their automatic qualification hopes alive.

Belgium Form

Belgium have a very talented squad of players and brushed Gibraltar aside in their match on Thursday night, defeating them 9-0 despite being down to ten men for over half of the match. That result means Belgium have now scored 33 goals in their 7 group games at an average of 4.7 goals per game.  This average was helped by the 8-1 home victory over Estonia, a team Greece failed to break down. Belgium are undefeated in their last 8 games, including friendlies and have been scoring goals for fun.

Only Greece and Netherlands have prevented them from scoring more than 1 goal. Away form in World Cup qualifying shows Belgium have won each of their last 8 matches, including wins in Wales, Serbia and Croatia.  Belgium have scored 22 goals and kept 7 clean sheets in those games.

Team News

Greece may hand a debut to Dimitris Kourbelis in midfield, while Sokratis, Kostas Manolas, and Kyriakos Papadopoulos should continue in defence, with Kostas Mitroglou in attack. Eden Hazard is expected to start the match for Belgium having recovered from injury and will join Romelu Lukaku, Kevin De Bruyne and Dries Mertens in an exciting forward line for the visitors.  Axel Witsel is suspended.

Top Betting Tips

Given recent results and the talent in the Belgian squad, the visitors are favourites for this match but Greece are very difficult to defeat on home soil.  The Greeks make a tempting draw/no bet at 11/4 with Bet365. In their previous 10 home World Cup qualifying matches, Greece have kept 8 clean sheets and while they may struggle to break down Belgium, they will try and hold firm at the back.  Under 2.5 goals is 8/15 with Unibet. More about this bookmaker you’ll find in a Unibet review.

If there is one man capable of breaking the deadlock in what could be a tight game, it is Romelu Lukaku.  The Belgian striker scored a hat-trick on Thursday night and has started the season well for Manchester United.  Lukaku is 3/1 with William Hill to score the first goal.

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You must go back to the 2006 World Cup finals in Germany to find the last and only time Czech Republic have qualified for the World Cup. Since then they have struggled to make it to the finals and they have another uphill task on their hands if they are to make it to Russia next year.  The Czech’s currently sit in third place in UEFA World Cup qualifying Group C with 9 points from their 6 games played.

Northern Ireland occupy second place on 13 points, which means Czech Republic cannot afford to fall further behind with games running out.

Germany have no such concerns and top the table with 18 points having won all 6 of their matches.  The Germans are the defending World Cup holders and will want to head to Russia in style by winning all their games.

Czech Republic Form

Czech Republic have not been an easy team to defeat in this group having lost only 1 of their 6 games.  However, they have not found winning matches to be easy and have picked up just 2 wins in the group.

The victories came against Norway at home and away to San Marino.  The win over Norway was 2-1 and the win in San Marino a much easier 6-0 thrashing.  Their only defeat in the group was against upcoming opponents Germany and the Czech’s went down 3-0 in Hamburg.

Goal scoring at home in World Cup qualifying games has proven difficult for Czech Republic and they have failed to score in 5 of their last 7 matches.

Germany Form

Germany continue to march towards the World Cup finals and have even taken time out from their qualifying schedule to win the 2017 Confederations Cup with a much-changed squad.

Germany have a 100% record in the group and have scored 27 goals in their 6 games, which is a tremendous record.  They are currently averaging 4.5 goals per game and have conceded only 1 goal, which came in the away match at Azerbaijan.

The Germans are undefeated in their last 29 World Cup qualifying games, which is a phenomenal record and they have won their last 11 away World Cup qualifying matches, which is also a great achievement.

Team News

Czech Republic have gone with a few surprises in their squad and have left out the experienced duo of Tomas Sivok and defender Michal Kadlec.  Midfielder Vladimir Darida is the most experienced man left in the squad while there are several players still waiting for their first cap.

Germany have chosen to recall some familiar names following their Confederations Cup success.  There are recalls for Mats Hummels, Thomas Muller, Mario Gomez, Sami Khedira, Toni Kroos and Mesut Ozil but Manuel Neuer is not fit enough to take part in the match.

Top Betting Tips

Given the excellent form of Germany and their World Cup qualifying record, it is impossible not to back them for the win in this game.  They are 4/9 favourites with Ladbrokes to leave Prague with maximum points.

Germany have been scoring goals for fun but have also been defensively sound.  The same cannot be said for Czech Republic who have been struggling to score goals at home in World Cup qualifying games.  Germany to win the match to nil is 11/8 with Bet365. (Odds:

Given the goals scored by Germany and the fact Czech Republic must come out to try and win the match, there should be plenty of goal scoring opportunities.  Germany to win and over 2.5 goals is 6/5 with Ladbrokes.

Both pairs had to beat some pretty tough opposition in the 5 rounds it took them to reach the final, so we all knew it was going to be a belter. A small but elite crowd gathered at John O’Gaunt this weekend to watch Dorothy Blackburn and Di Green from Aspley Guise take on Brenda Gibbons and Louise Simons from The Bedford. With just 4 shots difference in handicap, the match was all square after 5 holes, with some pretty impressive play. On the par 3 6th, Dorothy teed off first and put the ball to about 12 feet. Not to be outdone, Louise then put hers to 11 feet. Hole halved in tap in pars. The 7th saw another excellent par for Brenda and Louise and they edged into the lead. Dorothy and Di won the 9th after The Bedford pair made their only error of the day, but they soon clawed back winning 10 and 11 to go 2 up. Nicely on the green for 2 on the 12th, it looked as though they may go 3 up, but Dorothy and Di were having none of it. Dorothy stiffed a chip and Di duly holed out to halve the hole. They then won the 13th and it was game on again.
Louise’s drive on 14 found the centre of the fairway, and Brenda put the ball on the green, leaving Louise an uphill putt. Di faced a wicked downhiller for the half, which slid agonisingly by very slowly and then just ran on and on and on…
With the bit between their teeth, the Bedford girls played the 15th beautifully to go dormie. Would there be one last twist in the tale? Dorothy and Di were getting a shot on 16, and played the hole very sensibly for a nett par. Brenda was blocked out behind a tree after two, but played an excellent and equally sensible chip away from the pin to set up 2 putts for the match. A great match played in great spirit, and a worthy final. Well played all four of you.

Also thanks to John O’Gaunt Golf Club for allowing courtesy of the course at a very popular time, and also to match referee, Heddwen Molloy, who worked almost as hard as the players!