World Cup qualifiers continue on Monday evening with England primed to secure their place in Qatar next winter as they face whipping boys San Marino.
Gareth Southgate’s men need only a point against the world’s worst team according to FIFA rankings in order to advance through to next year’s tournament.
Meanwhile, both Scotland and Northern Ireland bring their qualification campaigns to a close.
Steve Clarke’s men, who have already sealed a play-off place for next spring, play Denmark and will hope to end their 100 per cent record at the final hurdle.
Northern Ireland have nothing to play for as they face Euro 2020 winners Italy, who need three points to guarantee qualifications.
One-sided Contest Expected in San Marino
Gareth Southgate is the consummate professional and highlighted that on Sunday when he said his team haven’t yet qualified and they plan to take San Marino seriously.
But virtually everyone else knows that a spot in the Qatar World Cup is virtually sealed with San Marino the final, small hurdle.
England won the previous meeting 5-0 and after nine games, the side ranked 210th in the world have conceded 36 goals, scoring just once in a 7-1 home defeat to Poland.
To give an indication of just how unlikely it is that San Marino will get anything, their national team’s Wikipedia page has a sub-section titled “List of matches not lost by San Marino”.
Their last point in a qualifier came in November 2014 when they held Estonia to a goalless draw.
After their 5-0 thrashing of Albania on Friday, another big win is on the cards for England and they can be backed at 31/20 to score over 6.5 goals.
Scotland to Fall Short Against Danes
Scotland did exactly what was required of them on Friday as they defeated Moldova 2-0 to secure their play-off spot and give them a chance of going to a World Cup for the first time since 1998.
Steve Clarke’s men will certainly be relieved at that given the challenge they face in the form of Denmark.
Kasper Hjulmand’s side have had a phenomenal campaign and won all of their nine games.
Most impressively, they have conceded just one goal in that time and have proven to be one of the hardest teams to beat in Europe.
Scotland are undoubtedly improving under Clarke – five wins in a row suggests exactly that – but Denmark are an established force in Europe and they can be backed to win to nil at 49/20.
Azzurri Too Strong For Northern Ireland
Northern Ireland are another team in a transitional period as Ian Baraclough’s first campaign ends empty-handed.
They have lacked quality in the group stage, scoring just six goals in seven matches – with two of them being penalties and one an own goal.
Their toughest opponent has been saved to last in the form of Roberto Mancini’s Italy.
It is amazing to think the Euro 2020 winners, who recently saw a 37-match unbeaten run ended by Spain in the Nations League, haven’t sealed qualification going into the final group game.
However, three draws from seven have proved costly and, with Switzerland facing Bulgaria at home and expecting to win, Italy must pick up all three points to guarantee a flight to Qatar in November.
Their away record has been good in this qualification period and they haven’t conceded a goal in three games.
Couple that with Northern Ireland’s inability to score regularly and Italy should win this comfortably – they can be backed at 20/31 to win to nil.
*All odds correct at time of writing