The Tenner Bet: James Morgan’s top World Cup qualifier picks

You don’t have to be a mathematical genius – yes, I do understand irony – to know that betting on international football can be a fraught experience. Take a look at last night’s fixture list for evidence of that. You’ll find Denmark were priced at an unbackable 1/20 to beat a Faroe Islands side they only managed to scrape past by a single 85th minute goal, a little more than two months ago. Yes, Kasper Hjulmand’s Euro 2020 semi-finalists managed to achieve the win but the skinny margin of their victory is barely reflected in the skimpiest of prices against them. Witness Germany’s defeat by North Macedonia earlier in this World Cup qualifying campaign for proof that you can imagine you’re lumping on a banker only to be left with egg on your face.

Let’s take the following example over the next two days of Belgium, Germany, Turkey and France. On the face of it, and considering Estonia, Armenia, Gibraltar and Kazakhstan are their respective opponents, one might assume that there was a fair chance of the quad paying out if you were to take the four heavy odds-on favourites. But the pittance that could be accrued from such an accumulator is simply not worth it unless, of course, you can consider a profit of £2.68 a decent return.

The positive news is that betting on international football can be a productive endeavour providing you can find the right way to skin a cat.

One bet I’m willing to explore is one involving goals in Germany’s visit to Armenia. Take a look at the rate at which they have been rattled in since Hansi Flick took over from Joachim Low as Germany coach in September. In that time, Flick has lowered the average age of the team, reinstated some of those players such as Thomas Mueller who had fallen out with Low and generally imbued his side with the old, formidable ruthless mindset so characteristic of German sides of the past. In the six games since Flick took over Germany have scored 27 and have brought reminders of his all-conquering Bayern Munich side of season 2019/20. Admittedly, nine of that number arrived on Thursday in their victory over Liechtenstein, a tally that was certainly aided by the visitors losing a man after just nine minutes.

Tomorrow they take on an Armenia side that they stuck six past in September and which shipped another five at home to North Macedonia the other night. As noted, the away win is unbackable but – with them averaging 4.5 goals per game – I’m looking at Die Mannschaft to ram home their qualification from Group J with another comprehensive win in Yerevan against the 88th ranked side in the world.

In the same group, North Macedonia need a victory to guarantee a play-off berth ahead of Romania. They host an Iceland side that is a shell of the team that won so many friends at Euro 2016. A sex scandal has engulfed the national team and Thursday’s 0-0 draw in Bucharest capped a run of just one win in six matches and that against 10-man Liechtenstein. By contrast, North Macedonia arrive in the fixture with confidence brimming after their 5-0 thrashing of Armenia in midweek allowed them to overtake Romania in the race for a play-off spot. The sides drew 2-2 in Reykjavik in September, a result that came just as news of the scandal was breaking but this is a bet based on the belief that North Macedonia’s need will be greater and at 3/5 they are the pick. Finally, in the group H decider between Croatia and Russia it’s a both teams to score selection.

Selection: Armenia v Germany over 2.5 goals and both teams to score no (11/8), North Macedonia (3/5), Croatia v Russia both teams to score (21/20)

Treble pays: 6.79/1

Season’s total: -£60  

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