While no game in international football can be considered as ‘easy’ (okay, I’ll give you San Marino at home), Germany, Italy and defending champions Spain all have what, on paper, should be relatively straightforward fixtures as the road to the World Cup in Brazil 2014 continues on Friday evening.
As regular readers will know, our general approach in ‘Playing Away’ columns is to look for three visiting teams who each offer value individually and then let you decide if you fancy any of them, rather than talking up the prospect of backing them in a treble.
But on this occasion, all three sides are odds-on to secure a win in their respective matches and the treble is most definitely on the cards at a price of 26/25, which could potentially be worth £40.88 to new bwin customers backing it with their free £20 bet.
With more difficult fixtures on the horizon for the trio, anything other than victory would be a major disappointment as they all aim to end the qualifying campaign as group winners.
Germany to beat Republic of Ireland @ 9/25
Two victories in their opening two games – a 3-0 success at home to the Faroe Islands followed closely by a 2-1 win away in Austria – sees Joachim Loew’s side sit top of Group B as they travel to Dublin to take on Ireland this weekend.
Victory for Germany would result in their 13th successive qualifying match win after they booked their place at Euro 2012 with a 100% record after ten games, and they are provided a good opportunity to reach that milestone against an injury-hit Ireland side.
Giovanni Trapattoni’s men looked unconvincing in their opening game, needing late goals from Robbie Keane and Kevin Doyle to avoid an embarrassing defeat in Kazakhstan, and are without Doyle, James McClean, Richard Dunne, Glenn Whelan, Sean St Ledger and Robbie Keane through injury.
In midfielder Mesut Ozil, Germany possess one of the most talented players in Europe and the Real Madrid schemer will be the key man for Loew’s side having notched three goals in his last two matches.
But even if Ozil fails to shine, Germany also possess the likes of Bastian Schweinsteiger, Thomas Muller, Marco Reus, Mario Gotze and evergreen goal-grabber Miroslav Klose within their ranks, not to mention Arsenal hitman Lukas Podolski.
With such an awe-inspiring array of attacking options at his disposal, Loew will expect his men to wreak havoc on an Irish defence which, in truth, was all over the place for the vast majority of Euro 2012.
Italy to beat Armenia @ 33/100
Paired in a group that also consists of Bulgaria and Denmark, any slip-ups throughout the qualification campaign could prove costly for Cesare Prandelli’s Italy side, who have their first ever meeting with Armenia on Friday evening.
Italy have got off to a solid, if unspectacular, start on the road to Brazil 2014, drawing 2-2 with Bulgaria in Sofia in their opening game last month, before a 2-0 win at home to Malta four days later ensured they sit top of the group with four points after two games.
The Azzurri have proved a difficult side to beat in competitive fixtures, losing just one of their last 18 competitive matches, that coming in this summer’s European Championship final defeat at the hands of current world champions Spain.
That run to the final saw Prandelli’s men hold La Roja to a draw in the group stages and take care of England and much-fancied Germany in the knock-out rounds, so they certainly have the quality to match anyone on their day.
Armenia head into this game with three points from their opening two matches, as they secured maximum points with a 1-0 win in Malta, who look likely to finish bottom of the group, before a narrow 1-0 defeat followed in Bulgaria.
Prandelli and his players certainly won’t be expecting an easy match – Armenia are no longer the whipping boys they once were – but given the quality he has throughout the squad, an Azzuri win looks likely.
Spain to beat Belarus @ 13/100
Undefeated in a competitive match since a 1-0 loss against Switzerland in June 2010, Vicente Del Bosque’s Spain side travel to Belarus looking to take maximum points from their opening two fixtures, having seen off Georgia 1-0 away from home in their first game.
The eagle-eyed among you may have noticed that it has been a rather successful four years for Spain. Having become the first country to successfully defend their European title in the summer, with a World Cup win sandwiched in between, they are now generally regarded as the greatest ever national side to play the game.
So poor old Belarus are unlikely to provide much competition for La Roja and head into this game on the back of successive qualifying defeats, the first a 1-0 loss in Georgia before going down 3-1 away to France. In fact, they have not won a competitive match since June 2011.
With France also in this group, Del Bosque will not need to stress to his players how costly a slip-up could prove, but the 86 places between these two sides in the FIFA world rankings accurately represents the huge gulf in quality, so expect nothing other than a comfortable away win.
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