Scottish strikers can net profit

Ian Ogg previews Tuesday's World Cup qualifiers, including Ukraine v England, but feels the best bet comes in Macedonia.

Last Updated: 10/09/13 at 19:47 Post Comment

Leigh Griffiths: Can help Scotland get on the scoresheet in Macedonia

Leigh Griffiths: Can help Scotland get on the scoresheet in Macedonia

Ian Ogg previews Tuesday's World Cup qualifiers and he expects both sides to net when Macedonia host Scotland.

England did what was expected of them in brushing aside Moldova but they now face a far sterner test of their mettle when they travel to Ukraine.

Rickie Lambert and Danny Welbeck linked well on Friday but the latter is now suspended for a match in which opportunities were always likely to be thinner on the ground. With Wayne Rooney and Daniel Sturridge out injured, England have problems up front.

The last time these sides met in Kiev (2009), the home nation recorded a 1-0 victory in a match that saw Rob Green sent off after 14 minutes and a four of the Ukraine side shown yellow.

England, though, do have the upper hand with that defeat - which came after they had already qualified - the only time that they have failed to take something from Tuesday's opponents with four wins and a solitary draw (in the current qualifying campaign) completing the head-to-head tally, including a 1-0 victory in the Euros at Donetsk last summer.

Ukraine warmed up for this crucial game with a 9-0 rout of San Marino and will be full of confidence having come within three minutes of claiming all the points at Wembley 12 months ago.

Defeat would put qualification out of England's hands with home games against Montenegro and Poland remaining while the Ukraine have another chance to boost their inferior goal difference against San Marino as well as hosting Poland.

Roy Hodgson is a naturally cautious manager and the match situation makes it even less likely that the Three Lions will be given licence to roam. The two sides have conceded just seven goals between them thus far (while netting 44 times) and this promises to be a tight encounter and there may not be more than one goal separating the sides at the final whistle.

England have yet to lose a game in the group and the fractionally odds-on prices about them in the draw-no-bet market make a modicum of appeal but, in a game that could boil down to one or two key moments, this looks a match best watched.

Macedonia were put up by my colleague Ben Coley to beat Wales on Friday and they duly obliged and it's a little surprising to see them chalked up at 11/8 to beat Scotland in the next round of matches, even if they did ride their luck at times.

Scotland were far from disgraced in defeat against Belgium and have been showing plenty of resolve under Gordon Strachan but they lost on their previous visit to Skopje and look too short at 23/10 to come away with the three points.

They did, however, create chances against Belgium and they will fancy their chances of getting on the scoresheet. The sides fought out a 1-1 draw in the reverse fixture and backing both teams to score looks to be the best way forward.

Kenny Miller has led the Scottish line with aplomb for many years but for all his energy the much-travelled striker never looked a natural goalscorer whereas the two men vying to fill his boots, Jordan Rhodes and Leigh Griffiths, both have that knack of being in the right place at the right time.

They're in the formative stages of their international careers but Griffiths has scored 78 goals in 146 league starts for his various clubs and the Blackburn man has 114 in 179.

Rhodes, who already has three international strikes to his name, will be missing on Tuesday but there's also the likes of James Forrest (who started with Griffiths against Belgium), Jamie Mackie and Ross McCormack to pick from.

Shaun Maloney has only scored once for Scotland but he has the ability to threaten from set-pieces and there was plenty of encouragement to be taken from the substitute appearance of Ikechi Anya last week.

The two teams may have hit the onion bag just nine times in 15 games in this group but they've proved that they are dangerous against teams of comparable ability and there should be openings at both ends in this encounter.

Both teams scored in Scotland and in the three games between these sides and Wales (the other nation towards the bottom of the group) and backing them to do so again looks to be the best route to profit.

Gareth Bale made the bench against Macedonia despite not being fit as Chris Coleman engaged in some 'mind games' and it remains to be seen what the former Fulham boss has up his sleeve for their home encounter with Serbia.

The visitors have picked up just one draw from their four away trips, scoring only once, so it's difficult to be full of confidence despite their 6-1 battering of the Welsh in the reverse fixture.

Serbia have three players missing through suspension so, although Wales have only kept one clean sheet in 13, this looks a game to be wary of.

Northern Ireland haven't won away from home since September 2010 but they travel to the principality of Luxembourg as the even-money favourites to record their second win in this group.

They drew 1-1 at Windsor Park and will be missing Kyle Lafferty and Chris Brunt for the return fixture following a 'lively' clash with Portugal on Friday which further weakens their limited resources.

Northern Ireland have achieved some fine results against the bigger nations in the group but have struggled to dispatch the 'lesser' sides and there's little incentive to get involved at the forecast prices.

The Republic of Ireland's hopes of qualifying from Group C lie in tatters after their costly home defeat to Sweden and Giovanni Trappatoni has no easy task to pick his men up for the trip to Austria.

Talismanic striker Robbie Keane will no doubt be doing his best to raise morale but they've been defeated on their last three visits to Vienna and it's hard to envisage them bouncing back after Friday night's body blow.

The Irish will surely look to attack and the goal lines are of interest with 12 of Austria's last 16 games realising over 2.5 goals, including the first meeting between them in this group which ended 2-2 after a brace from Jonathan Walters.

That does appear to have been taken into account by the layers though and the 3/1 about over 3.5 goals is easy enough to resist as is the 11/10 about over 2.5 goals.


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