World Cup 2022 Spots Up For Grabs

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Portugal and Spain both face crucial final qualifiers for the World Cup finals in Qatar.

Portugal face a showdown with Serbia.

The final round of group games in Europe’s World Cup qualifying take place on Sunday with direct spots in Qatar up for grabs in a number of head-to-head showdowns.

It would be almost unthinkable to imagine a finals without Cristiano Ronaldo, but should Portugal lose at home to Serbia they would drop into the play-offs, while Spain would suffer a similar fate to their Iberian neighbours if they lose at home to Sweden.

Elsewhere there is a straight shootout between Croatia and Russia for a place in the finals and North Macedonia will grab a play-off spot if they can beat Iceland at home. If they fail to do that then Romania could pounce.

It all promises to be a fascinating day of action with kick-offs staggered from afternoon through to evening and the best bet could come in Lisbon.

Nervy Night Ahead For Ronaldo

Portugal are 10/21 to win against Serbia, however, that looks really short for a game the Euro 2016 champions don’t even need to win.

A pragmatic approach looks likely from boss Fernando Santos as they search for the point which nails qualification and a nervy night could be ahead despite possessing the brilliance of Ronaldo.

Portugal have laboured in qualifying, beating Azerbaijan 1-0 thanks to an own goal, dropping points in Serbia and Ireland and they had to come from behind on a couple of occasions to see off the Irish and Luxembourg.

Ronaldo, Bruno Fernandes, Diogo Jota and Bernardo Silva are fine attacking players and Joao Cancelo offers so much from full-back too, however, they are rarely able to cut loose and Serbia have scored the same amount of goals as Portugal (16) in qualifying.

Red-hot striker Aleksandar Mitrovic has been flying for Fulham and leads the Group A scoring charts with seven goals but he isn’t the only threat.

Fiorentina’s Dusan Vlahovic is a class act and the same can be said of Ajax’s Dusan Tadic and Lazio’s Sergey Milinkovic-Savic.

Serbia are assured of a play-off spot and can attack the game with the away win nicely priced at 11/2, while conservative punters could consider them and the tie double chance at 7/4.

Spain to Eventually See Off Swedes

Spain breathed a huge sigh of relief on Thursday as they regained top spot in Group B with a 1-0 win in Greece, while on the same day Sweden slipped off the summit with a surprise 2-0 loss in Georgia.

It means a point will do for Spain in their quest to reach Qatar, whereas at some stage Sweden will have to pour forward if they are to snatch the automatic place.

The two teams met in Seville earlier this year at Euro 2020 and will resume hostilities in the same city and the best bet could be tie/Spain in the half-time/full-time double result market at odds of 13/5.

It was 0-0 at the Euros despite Spain having 86 per cent possession with La Roja frustrated. This time the difference is Sweden will have to come out and that’s when Spain’s youthful bench, with the likes of Dani Olmo, can take advantage of any tired legs.

Back Russia With Love

Croatia are the more likely winners of their clash with Russia, although odds of 5/9 appear to underestimate the outsiders.

A point does Russia and taking them and the tie on the double chance appeals more at 29/20 for a match where the onus will be on the Croats to attack.

Russia were seen as performing poorly at the Euros, but they beat Finland and lost to Belgium and Denmark – two of the best teams in the tournament.

They have since drawn 0-0 with Croatia and won their next five games by an aggregate of 13-1.

*All odds correct at time of writing

Mark is the Racing Post’s football betting expert and he is also a regular pundit on talkSPORT and the Guardian’s Football Weekly.

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