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5 Handicap Bets to Watch for the World Cup Qualifiers on Matchday 1

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Gibraltar vs Norway: Norway (-4)

Erling Haaland versus Gibraltar - frightening.

After the high of winning promotion to League C in the Nations League and enjoying their first wins as a member of UEFA, Gibraltar will not be fortunate enough to face San Marino and Liechtenstein this time around, instead, they are facing the most prolific striker in world football right now, Erling Haaland of Norway.

The Nations League offered respite for the newly formed minnows, who, in their last World Cup qualifying campaign, conceded 47 goals in ten matches. Plus, it will not just be Haaland they have to worry about. Expect the Norwegians to go all-out attack here and include the likes of Alexander Sorloth (RB Leipzig), Martin Odegaard (Arsenal), Josh King (Everton) and Jens-Petter Hauge (AC Milan) alongside the Borussia Dortmund man.

In their Nations League group, Norway put five past Northern Ireland at Windsor Park and beat Romania 4-0, meaning they should have more than enough to replicate that against a part-time Gibraltar side. Norway (-4) is 6/4 with Sky Bet.

World Cup Qualifiers Tips

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Norway -4 @ 6/4

Portugal vs Azerbaijan: Portugal (-3)

European champions Portugal begin their 2022 World Cup qualifying campaign at home to Azerbaijan and have all their exciting attacking options to choose from in this international break.

Cristiano Ronaldo, now having scored over a century of goals for his country, will be licking his lips at the prospect of playing in arguably an even better Portugal team to the one which won the European Championship in 2016, and it is games like this one where he will see the best chance of chasing down the world record of international goals, held by Ali Daei of Iran, with 109.

But even if Ronaldo is kept fresh for the following match versus Serbia, Portugal still have a plethora of talents to choose from, including Bernardo Silva, Bruno Fernandes, Diogo Jota, Pedro Neto, Joao Felix and two of the best attacking fullbacks in Europe, Joao Cancelo and Raphael Guerreiro.

In qualifying for Euro 2021, they put 11 past Lithuania in two games, as well as beating Andorra 7-0 and putting four past Croatia in last Autumn’s internationals. Even though Azerbaijan have drawn their last four fixtures 0-0, with Portugal’s record of late, they may be staring down the barrel at a similar fate that was dealt to them by Kosovo and Slovakia recently, who inflicted heavy defeats.

Portugal to win with a (-3) handicap is priced at 21/20, and this is our tip here.

World Cup Qualifiers Tips

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Portugal -3 @ 5/6

England vs San Marino: England (-6)

England start their road to Qatar with a banker tie at home to the world’s lowest-ranked side, San Marino, on Thursday, with the bookmakers pricing England in at 1/200, in what should be the most routine of victories.

No prizes for anybody who correctly predicts the outcome of this one, the only factor to take into consideration will be the margin of England’s win. The Three Lions were utterly ruthless in their passage through to Euro 2021, beating Montenegro 7-0, Bulgaria 6-0 and the side who qualified along with them, the Czech Republic 5-0, showing the gulf in class between them and the rest of the group.

Their group this time around appears to be of a similar ilk, and an opening match versus San Marino is the perfect way to establish themselves at the top from the offset. They have scored 37 goals in six previous meetings with the minnows, but this England side has the potential to score even more than all the sides that have preceded them, having topped their previous qualifying group with 37 goals scored in just eight games.

If it is not Sancho-Kane-Sterling, they still have a perfectly capable second string which could include Rashford-Calvert-Lewin-Foden, with Bukayo Saka and Mason Mount also available. This spells trouble for a San Marino team who, in their last qualifying campaign, lost 9-0 in Belgium and Russia, and 6-0 at Hampden Park against Scotland.
England (-6) is our tip here, priced at 10/11 with Sky Bet.

World Cup Qualifiers Odds

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England -6 @ 8/11

Malta vs Russia: Russia (-4)

Russia play their first World Cup qualifier in almost eight years, since a 1-1 draw in Azerbaijan in November 2013, when they travel to Ta’Qali in Malta, this Wednesday.

The 2018 World Cup hosts stunned everybody by reaching the quarter-finals of the competition and then carried that form into the Euro 2021 qualifiers, sealing their place at the finals comfortably, with 24 points from ten games. They certainly filled their boots as well during the qualifying phase, putting 31 goals past the four sides who finished below them in the group, including 14 over two games against San Marino.

Malta fared well in the bottom tier of the Nations League last Autumn, but against better opposition, they have shipped quite a lot of goals, especially at home. Kosovo came here and got five, Sweden and Romania both scored four, and even Estonia put three past them, while they also lost 7-0 in Spain recently.

The signs look ominous for Malta here, and we expect Russia to see them off with ease. Russia (-4) is 5/1 with Sky Bet.

World Cup Qualifiers Predictions

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Russia -4 @ 5/1

Latvia vs Montenegro: Montenegro (-2)

Two sides hoping to avoid just making up the numbers in Group G will meet in Riga on Wednesday, when Latvia welcome Montenegro to the Skonto Stadium.

Taking form into consideration, Montenegro should see this as the perfect chance to get themselves among the big sides in the group by starting strong with a favourable margin of victory before facing Gibraltar a few days later. They have Stevan Jovetic available which is great news for them as no player contributed to more goals than him in the last edition of the Nations League (four goals, three assists), and pacy Lazio wing-back Adam Marusic, another one of the big players in the squad, will look to create for him.

The Eastern European outfit have only lost once in their last nine games since being hammered at Wembley by England, as their notable improvements include having Jovetic back in the setup, and if he can stay injury-free, then the Monaco striker will hope to fire Montenegro into an unlikely playoff spot in this group.

Latvia finished rock bottom in qualifying for Euro 2021, with their only points coming on the final matchday against a third-string Austria side who had already qualified. In the nine games before that, they let 28 goals in without collecting a single point. The Baltic nation also finished a very lowly 53rd out of the 55 UEFA competitors in the Nations League last Autumn.

Montenegro to win with a (-2) handicap is our tip here, priced at 6/1.

By Andrew Delaney

International Football Predictions

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Montenegro -2 @ 6/1