First the value by half

Our Andy Schooler picks out his best bets for Wednesday night's internationals, including Sweden v England.

Last Updated: 13/11/12 at 22:06 Post Comment

Leigh Griffiths: In superb goalscoring form in the SPL

Leigh Griffiths: In superb goalscoring form in the SPL

November international friendlies. Don't you just love 'em?

The leading club managers don't - incidentally there are several high-profile withdrawals from a whole host of teams - and I can't say I disagree, especially when called upon to find a betting angle.

But, ever the professional, I've dug out what may appears to be a simple but effective strategy for England's trip to Sweden, one being made to celebrate the host nation's national side moving to their new home, the Friends Arena.

You can get 9/4 about the first half being the highest-scoring half which looks a decent price.

The theory is not particularly original - that the game will flow freely until half time at which point a host of changes will be made. Expect more to follow around 60 and 70 minutes with both sides becoming less creative and more disjointed.

Certainly don't expect another 3-2 humdinger like the sides produced at Euro 2012; neither will be busting a gut to grab a late winner, or indeed equaliser if things are close late on.

Statistics help make the case.

Four of England's last five friendlies have all seen more goals in the first half than the second. They include a home clash with the Swedes 12 months ago and another in neighbouring Norway in May.

Narrow it down to matches for which Roy Hodgson has taken charge and the stat becomes three out of three.

As for Sweden, three of their last five home friendlies would have seen this bet come in.

OK, the hosts have more of their big names available than England for the contest but we've already seen on many occasions that Hodgson, who spent more than a decade managing in Sweden, knows how to organise his teams and it's hard to see them falling apart in the second half no matter how many substitutions are made.

To me, the market has been priced up to Premier League standard - 11/10 about more second half goals is about the norm.

But international friendlies are a world away from the cut and thrust of such club football and 9/4 looks good value.

Elsewhere, just days after Craig Levein's sacking, Scotland head to Luxembourg where caretaker-boss Billy Stark takes charge.

The Scots also have plenty of fresh faces around which, after a poor start to their World Cup qualifying campaign - one that cost Levein his job - may not be a bad thing.

Certainly Leigh Griffiths, who significantly has played for Stark at under-21 level, cannot have done much more to win a place in the team and the red-hot Hibs striker may well be worth a bet in the goalscorer markets.

Griffiths, on loan at Easter Road from Wolves, has fired Hibs to the top of the SPL this season, scoring 12 times in 12 games thus far. Most recently he's netted in each of his last five matches, scoring seven times in that run.

He also scored for Scotland under-21s earlier this season - against none other than Luxembourg.

Scotland have hardly been a team to put fear into the opposition in recent times - and, to be frank, Luxembourg will probably approach the game thinking they can get a result - but the hosts have struggled to keep teams out, a fact which adds to the case to back Griffiths.

Israel scored six here last time out, while previous home games have seen Portugal, Georgia and Malta all score twice.

Scotland bagging at least two is hardly unrealistic and with no Steven Fletcher to call upon, the stage looks well set for Griffiths, even if he has to start on the bench.

He's 6/1 for the first goal and 15/8 in the anytime market with bet365 - we'll go with the former option each way. Remember, win stakes will be returned if our man is still on the bench when the first goal is scored.

One final angle to look at concerns Northern Ireland's clash with Azerbaijan - one of few World Cup qualifiers taking place on Wednesday night.

The bookies fancy the hosts, who are odds-on across the board for victory and 13/8 to win to nil.

Given that pricing, it's somewhat surprising to see that both teams to score can be backed at 6/5.

Northern Ireland have conceded in their last five home games, including games agains Luxembourg and Estonia.

Only one of Azerbaijan's three qualifiers so far may have featured both teams scoring, but it s notable that their Euro 2012 campaign was one which featured plenty of goals - both teams scored in seven of their 10 games.

The hosts have lost five from their original squad, including defensive duo Jonny Evans and Alex Bruce, so the odds-against is worth consideration at least.

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