Back quality to shine through

Our tipster Matt Brocklebank previews tonight's World Cup qualifiers and brings you his best bets.

Last Updated: 15/10/13 at 19:12 Post Comment   

Robert Lewandowski: Too big at 10/1 to net first at Wembley

Robert Lewandowski: Too big at 10/1 to net first at Wembley

The final round of World Cup qualification matches always makes for an exciting night and England's hopes will be high going into their pivotal tie with Poland at Wembley.

Roy Hodgson's men haven't ripped up any trees in Group H but there were enough positives to be gleaned from Friday night's ultimately comfortable 4-1 defeat of Montenegro to suggest they will overcome an already-eliminated Poland side and book their ticket to Brazil.

The decision to introduce Tottenham's Andros Townsend to the international scene on such a big occasion paid off handsomely, the 22-year-old not only matching Theo Walcott's direct style and blistering speed, but also coming up with a final product - something for which the injured Arsenal man has so often been criticised.

The fledgling partnership of Wayne Rooney and Daniel Sturridge can hardly be knocked after they both found the net, while Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard have looked more comfortable playing together in the middle of the park since reducing their forward bursts.

Hodgson has only lost once since taking over and it's not hard to envisage another triumph but, in Borussia Dortmund's Robert Lewandowski, Tuesday's visitors boast a world-class marksman and he looks tremendous value around the 10/1 mark to catch the hosts cold and score first.

The likelihood of Phil Jones coming in for the suspended Kyle Walker is nothing to panic about and the left-back cover is as strong as ever, but the central pairing of Phil Jagielka and Gary Cahill, charged with the task of stopping Lewandowski, is not so convincing.

Whilst the duo went some way to atoning for a pretty hapless display against Scotland in August with back-to-back shutouts at home to Moldova and in Ukraine, there is still a sense of vulnerability, while Joe Hart's recent form cannot easily be forgotten.

The tension will be cranked right up inside Wembley if England don't break through in the opening stages and the silky Lewandowski, who has recently agreed to sign a pre-contract agreement to join Bayern Munich next summer, will not hesitate to capitalise on any frailties.

As well as scoring three in Poland's failed qualification campaign, Lewandowski has already netted six times for Dortmund in the Bundesliga this term, plus two in the Champions League, and will also be keen to showcase his talents in England having been sought after by Chelsea and Manchester United, among others, in recent summers.

A much shorter but no less tempting price on the Tuesday night coupon is 2/1 about Holland prevailing in Istanbul.

Turkey really need to win as they sit second in Group D ahead, on goal difference, of Romania, who close their campaign with a seemingly straightforward home game against Estonia, and have been well-backed to come up with the goods.

But the Oranje arrive on the back of an 8-1 hammering of Hungary on Friday and are clearly thriving having now gone unbeaten in 14 matches since losing in Belgium in Louis van Gaal's first game back at the helm in August 2012.

Punters could be forgiven for thinking Holland might have taken their foot off the gas since securing their spot in Brazil last month but they have responded to Van Gaal's urgings to keep up the momentum and win their remaining games.

The clear incentive is to qualify as one of the seven nations (plus hosts Brazil) to be seeded for the World Cup group stage and there is a distinct possibility they will achieve that target with another success.

Robin van Persie's domestic form has taken a notable dip since his fine brace at Swansea on the opening weekend of the Premier League season, but he surpassed Patrick Kluivert as Holland's all-time leading scorer with a hat-trick on Friday night, taking his tally to 11 goals in the qualification campaign.

Van Persie is clearly hard to contain once on a roll but the bet ultimately hinges on Turkey's own struggles as, despite Istanbul having the proverbial 'tough place to go' tag, the Crescent Stars have only won once in their past eight home games, namely a 5-0 stroll against international minnows Andorra.

Turkey performed above all expectations to finish third in the 2002 World Cup in Japan and South Korea, but that was the first time they appeared at the finals since 1954 and they have since fluffed their lines in both subsequent attempts, failing to make Germany in 2006 and South Africa in 2010.

The hosts will be looking to atone for those painful experiences but there could be scenes of desperation in the Sukru Saracoglu Stadium if the likely news of Romania taking the lead filters through, and this is precisely when the Dutch are going to be at their most ruthless.

  • Posted at 1300 BST on 13/10/2013.

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