4 Tips for Thursday's European World Cup Qualifiers - 24/3/22

Ismail Ansar

ITALY vs North MACEDONIA: CIRO IMMOBILE & LORENZO INSIGNE TO BOTH SCORE - 7/2

European Champions Italy continue their bid to secure a spot at the 2022 World Cup when hosting North Macedonia in their World Cup qualifying match on Thursday, with the winners meeting the winners of Turkey's clash with Portugal.

Both sides have met each other twice previously, with Italy undefeated against the minnows. A 2016 meeting between the two sides ended with the Azzurri securing a narrow 3-2 win, and in their most recent matchup in 2017, the two sides played out a 1-1 draw.

The Italians will come into this match wary of the fact that Macedonia could spring a surprise. With just two wins from their last seven in all competitions, one of them coming in this tournament, Italy come into this crucial match with form that doesn't inspire any confidence. Their squad, however, is full of players with experience and talent and should see the reigning European champions through.

Three successive defeats in their Euro 2020 group meant Macedonia exited their first major tournament in 27 years without a point, but with 3 wins in their last 5 in this tournament, including a 3-1 win over Iceland, their recent form could be a source of hope for them to pull off an upset.

Two players that will be vital in Italy’s bid to qualify for the World Cup are Ciro Immobile and Lorenzo Insigne. Immobile has scored 21 goals in 25 Serie A matches for Lazio and will be desperate to add to the 15 goals he has scored in 54 appearances for the Azzuri.

Meanwhile, Insigne is also having a superb season for his club side, Napoli, firing in nine goals and creating seven assists across all competitions. The 30-year-old will perhaps feel that he is overdue a goal in the European World Cup qualifiers, having not scored for Italy since the quarter-finals of Euro 2020 against Belgium.

European World Cup Qualifying Tips

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ITALY VS NORTH MACEDONIA: CIRO IMMOBILE & LORENZO INSIGNE TO BOTH SCORE @ 7/2

WALES vs AUSTRIA: GARETH BALE & MARKO ARNAUTOVIC TO SCORE IN 90 MINS - 10/1

Wales are not far away from ending their 64-year absence from the World Cup, but they have to first face an Austria side who will be looking to snatch victory for themselves.

In their 10 meetings between each other, Austria lead with 5 wins compared to Wales' 3. One of the two draws played out between these sides was a 2-2 in 2016, just before Wales' 1-0 victory in their last meeting in 2017.

Wales should have confidence coming into this tie, with their only loss in qualifying coming to Belgium. Home advantage may help out Wales here, as the last time they lost a competitive game at home was to Denmark back in 2018.

With three wins and two losses in their last 5 in all competitions, Austria is an unknown quantity. With a talented squad who went all the way to the round-of-16 at the Euros, they can grind out wins, but they do not do it enough, as shown by their 4th-place finish in Group F of World Cup qualifying.

Both Gareth Bale and Marko Arnautovic have good records for their national sides as the Welshman has scored 36 goals in 100 appearances, whilst the former West Ham and Stoke City striker has found the back of the net 32 times in 96 matches.

European World Cup Qualifying Tips

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WALES VS AUSTRIA: GARETH BALE & MARKO ARNAUTOVIC TO SCORE IN 90 MINS @ 10/1

SWEDEN vs CZECH REPUBLIC: SWEDEN TO WIN - 19/20

After already confirming their progression to the next round, Poland will face the victor of Thursday night's clash between Sweden and the Czech Republic.

In the last three matches in this fixture, Sweden has had the edge, with their 2-1 win back in 2005 separating a 3-3 draw three years earlier and a 1-1 draw between the two sides when they last met in 2016.

The Czech Republic come into this game undefeated in their last 5 matches in all competitions, and just one loss in their last 5 games in qualifying. Star striker Patrik Schick and goalkeeper Jiri Pavlenka are both out due to injury. With 17 goals in 33 international games, and 20 alone in the Bundesliga this season, Schick's absence will be a big blow for the Czechs.

Sweden finished the group stage of qualification with back-to-back defeats to Georgia and Spain, finishing runners-up to the latter in Group B. They have 2 wins and 3 losses from their last 5 matches in all competitions. But talented players like Emil Forsberg, Alexander Isak and Dejan Kulusevski can be the difference-makers in this close-to-call tie.

European World Cup Qualifying Tips

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SWEDEN VS CZECH REPUBLIC: SWEDEN TO WIN @ 19/20

PORTUGAL vs TURKEY: PORTUGAL TO WIN IN 90 MINS & BOTH TEAMS TO SCORE - 11/4

Portugal and Turkey do battle at the Estadio do Dragao on Thursday in their World Cup qualifying playoff semi-final, with both sides forced into a play-off match after finishing as runners-up in their qualifying groups.

In their eight previous encounters, Portugal have triumphed in six games and only lost twice. One of those losses came in the most recent clash between the two countries, a match in which Turkey convincingly won 3-1.

Portugal enters this game having lost 2-1 last time out to Serbia, with forwards Dusan Tadic and Aleksandar Mitrovic scoring. Having a leaky defence, Portugal will be relying on their attack to win them this game. With Diogo Jota in fine form for Liverpool right now and Cristiano Ronaldo always a danger, the pair will be Portugal’s main threats at goal - underlined by the pair combining for 10 goals in qualifying.

Turkey come into the game after beating Montenegro 2-1 in their last fixture, with midfielder Orkun Kokcu scoring in that game - he is a threat and is someone Portugal will need to look out for. Burak Yilmaz and Hakan Calhanoglu are also ones to watch out for.

European World Cup Qualifying Tips

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PORTUGAL VS TURKEY: PORTUGAL TO WIN IN 90 MINS & BOTH TEAMS TO SCORE @ 11/4


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