Heartbreak for Scotland in Belgrade

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The final four places at Euro 2020 are to be decided on Thursday, with Scotland facing a tough task as they travel to Serbia.

Scotland manager Steve Clarke

Scotland are just 90 minutes away from reaching their first major international tournament since 1998, but it could well be heartbreak for Steve Clarke’s side when they face Serbia in their European Championship play-off final.

It is arguably Scotland’s biggest match in a generation and they head to Belgrade in good spirits, as they are currently on an eight-match unbeaten run that stretches back over a year.

Indeed, the Tartan Army did not even concede a goal during the last international break, a three-match sequence that includes their play-off semi-final victory over Israel on penalties.

However, Serbia are likely to prove a much tougher proposition, as Ljubisa Tumbakovic’s side sit 15 places above the Scots in the world rankings and they boast talent such as Aleksandar Mitrovic, Dusan Tadic and Sergej Milinkovic-Savic.

Serbia are priced at 5/7 to win the match and qualify for next summer’s Euros, which looks the most likely outcome, while Scotland are available at 9/2, although the draw is on offer at 13/5 and that cannot be ruled out given both sides were taken to extra time during their playoff semi-finals.

Long Night in Belfast?

Neither Northern Ireland nor Slovakia will head into their play-off final in Belfast in good form, with the two teams both suffering back-to-back defeats following their playoff semi-final successes last month.

Indeed, Northern Ireland’s penalty shootout victory over Bosnia & Herzegovina is their only success from their last six matches, with new boss Ian Baraclough yet to win a game inside the regulation 90 minutes.

Slovakia also needed penalties to overcome the Republic of Ireland in their play-off semi-final and Thursday’s match could also go the distance, with the draw after 90 minutes being priced at 39/20.

There certainly does not appear to be much between the two sides and a repeat of the 0-0 they played out when they last met in an international friendly back in 2016 could well be on the cards.

Hungary to Leave Iceland Feeling Blue

Iceland may be looking to make it through to a third successive major tournament, but it appears the bubble may have already burst on the most successful period in the country’s footballing history, as they have lost each of their last four competitive games.

That being said, Erik Hamren’s side have faced Belgium twice, England and Denmark during that run, while Hungary, who have only lost one of their last six, have not been taking on the same calibre of opposition.

However, momentum is a powerful thing in football and the Hungarians certainly have that on their side and they will be hoping to make home advantage count in Budapest following impressive results in Serbia and Russia last time out.

Hungary are priced at 13/10 to win the game, while Iceland are available 49/20 and the draw after 90 minutes is on offer 21/10.

Indeed, it finished all-square the last time the two sides met, which was during the group stage of Euro 2016, a tournament that saw both teams reach the knockout stages.

History Beckons in Tbilisi

The winner of Thursday’s play-off final in Tbilisi between Georgia and North Macedonia will qualify for their first ever major international finals.

Neither nation has ever threatened to make it through before, but they have benefited from UEFA’s restructuring of the qualifying system and proven themselves to be the best of the continent’s less established teams.

Georgia have only lost two of their last 11 games and have a particularly impressive record on home soil, as they have been beaten just once in their last 14 matches on their own patch.

North Macedonia’s form is also good, they are unbeaten in six, but Igor Angelovski’s side don’t tend to be good travellers, as they have failed to win any of their last four on the road.

This will be the third meeting between the two sides in the space of three months, as they have also clashed in the UEFA Nations League, with both those previous games ending all-square.

However, Georgia will fancy their chances of making home advantage count this time round and they are priced at 17/10 to win the match and book their place at next summer’s Euros.

*All odds correct at time of writing.

A single-handicapper, James always offers an interesting insight to the world of golf, with extensive knowledge of both the US and European Tours. James also has a wealth of information about the domestic and international football scene.

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