Friday welcomes in a fresh batch of World Cup qualifiers, with more vital points up for grabs on the road to Qatar.
Having righted their course after a shock defeat at the hands of North Macedonia early in the campaign, Germany have the chance to truly stamp their authority on Group J against dark horses Romania.
Norway and Turkey do their best to keep pace with the Netherlands in Group G, while Wales face a tough trip to the Czech Republic in their dogfight for the Group E runners-up spot and, crucially, a ticket to the playoffs.
Germany Learn Their Lesson
Alarm bells pealed and hasty inquests were opened in the wake of Germany’s 2-1 defeat to North Macedonia in March – their first loss in two decades’ worth of World Cup qualifiers. However, since that night, die Mannschaft have cut an altogether more imposing figure – indeed, the two goals conceded to the Macedonians remain the only time the German defence has been breached across six games.
Having netted on 17 occasions in all, Hansi Flick’s side sit four points clear of Armenia atop the standings; a home win over the third-placed Romania will likely render this group a two-horse race.
A lone Serge Gnabry effort separated the two sides in Bucharest, in the days preceding the Macedonian disaster, but the ease with which Iceland and the Armenians were swatted aside in September – by a cumulative scoreline of 10-0 – point towards another routine three points.
A German win is at 1/9, while a victory to nil can be backed at 10/13. The draw is available at 19/2, while 23/1 says Romania have a tall order to manage a first competitive win in this fixture.
Tables Turning for Turkey?
While the Netherlands – free-scoring group leaders – occupy themselves with Latvia, two pretenders to the Group G throne – Turkey and Norway – attempt to unseat one another in Istanbul.
With the Dutch leading the Norwegians on goal difference, both with 13 points to their name from six outings, it is Friday’s hosts who have ground to make up. Taking the reins after a dismal Euro 2020 group-stage elimination brought about the farewell of Senol Gunes, Turkey’s German boss Stefan Kuntz sees his charges two points off the pace in third.
A thumping 6-0 hammering at the hands of Holland last time out will have done little to raise confidence, but the Crescent Stars will take reassurance from the three-goal punishment they meted out against their Nordic opponents in March’s reverse fixture.
A further boost comes via the absence of Norway’s standout performer Erling Haaland, forced out of action by an unspecified muscle injury.
Turkey are at 7/5 to take full advantage and complete the double, while 23/10 sees Norway eke out a draw. An away win is at 2/1.
Do or Die for Dragons
Having played just four qualifiers so far, Wales’ current position in Group E – third out of five teams – may give a false reflection on the state of campaign. At first glance, the Dragons sit nine points off top spot and are locked on points with second-placed Czech Republic; however, with a game in hand on the Czechs – and two on group leaders Belgium – Friday night’s appointment in Prague presents Rob Page’s side with a prime opportunity to stake a claim to a playoff berth.
A single Dan James goal was enough to see off Jaroslav Silhavy’s men at the Cardiff City Stadium in March, and though talisman Gareth Bale is unavailable due to injury, Juventus’ Aaron Ramsey returns to captain the side.
A win for Wales can be found at 19/5, while 23/10 says Ramsey and co. leave the Czech capital with a point. But at 5/6, a win for the home side threatens to cast a long shadow over the Dragons’ World Cup qualification credentials.
*All odds correct at time of writing.