Look to Irish for value

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 08 October, 2005, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 08 October, 2005, 12:00am

There is unlikely to be much value on the midweek internationals, with teams that need a positive result sure to be offered at prohibitive odds.

One exception is likely to be the Ireland-Switzerland game in group four, which probably will be one of the few remaining games where both teams need to perform at their best. Ireland will need to win and they look capable of getting that result, whatever the group situation after today's games. Ireland are ranked 21st in the world, 17 places ahead of Switzerland, and should be able to make that count.

Ireland have won 13 of their last 20 competitive games at home. Last month's 1-0 loss to a France team boosted by the return of veteran stars like Lilian Thuram (pictured) was only their second loss in that period. The other, perhaps significantly, was 2-1 to the Swiss in Euro 2004 qualifying and they also lost in Switzerland during that campaign.

There are two ways of looking at Ireland's results in this campaign, which has seen them throw away the lead in Switzerland and against Israel (twice). The first is that they are not secure enough at the back; but the more positive view is that they have proved their ability to take a grip on games, even if they have lost it eventually.

One of the teams will be playing for a draw in the Slovakia-Russia game, and that outcome appeals. Turkey should get the win they need from their final group two game in Albania.

Croatia look the best bet for an away win on their trip to Hungary, if that is the result they need after today's game against Sweden. If Croatia win today and take top spot in group eight, a draw is enough in Hungary and that result should be backed in that case.

The Czechs will need to go for the win in Finland, whatever result they achieve at home to Holland today.

Sweden are short-odds bankers for their final home game against Iceland, although victory in Croatia would make the result immaterial. Iceland's only points have been gained against Malta.

Best homes: Ireland, Sweden.

Best aways: Czech Republic.