The first international break of the season is fast approaching which will mean a pause on domestic fixtures for at least a week. However, unlike most seasons the international breaks this season will take up extra significance with the upcoming European Championships on the horizon and managers looking to implement tactics they believe will ensure their team’s with a chance of going all the way to the final at Wembley on the 12th July.
However, football team’s will be looking to ensure their place at the Euro’s before dreaming of success, and the latest round of fixtures will go a long way into deciding which countries will ultimately be competing in the biggest sporting event of the summer in 2020.
EURO 2020 qualification: England vs Bulgaria
There is a sense around England that the country has never had a better chance to build on their success at the World Cup than right now. Gareth Southgate has implemented a unique atmosphere around the squad, and a fixture at Wembley against Bulgaria shouldn’t raise too many issues for the Three Lions. England have won both their previous qualifiers, while Bulgaria have drawn both of their games. The Bulgarians may have been hoping for at least a second-place finish in the group, but with the unlikely Kosovo and Czech Republic above them, they will need to start getting points on the board as we reach the halfway stage of fixtures in qualification.
It would be incredibly difficult to bet against England in this fixture, as they look to gain momentum ahead of a possible dream summer next year which could include a semi-final and possibly a final appearance in their home stadium.
STS Tip: England to beat Bulgaria at 107/1000
EURO 2020 qualification: Germany vs Netherlands
Last year was a terrible one for German football. The country were embarrassed at the World Cup by crashing out at the group stages by finishing bottom. It didn’t get much better for the Germans post-World Cup either as they finished bottom of their Nations League group and were relegated into League B. During that campaign, they came up against the Dutch. The Netherlands went onto top the same Nations League group before beating England in the semi-finals and losing to Portugal in the final. The Netherlands didn’t lose to Germany in either of their clashes in the Nations League last year. The Dutch won 3-0 in Amsterdam before drawing 2-2 in Berlin to book their place in the finals.
There will be a sense of redemption for the Netherlands after they missed out on the World Cup last year, and this clash will be intriguing to see which side will top group C. The Netherlands are already languishing behind Northern Ireland and Germany, which means a win is imperative if they have hopes of reaching the Euro’s. However, their record in Germany isn’t great, and this could be another disappointing evening for them.
EURO 2020 qualification: Serbia vs Portugal
The reigning European champions are in serious danger of missing out of qualifying for next summer’s event via the group stages. However, fortunately, they already look like certainties for the competition after winning the Nations League over the summer. But, they will be hoping to defend their crown by gaining momentum through the group stages and at present that looks unlikely. They are yet to win a fixture in group B and are only above Lithuania in the standings. A trip to Serbia wouldn’t have been their ideal fixtures as the hosts can jump into the top two with a win over Cristiano Ronaldo and Portugal.
The Portuguese are a strange commodity when it comes to international tournaments. They only won once in normal time on their route to success in 2016, and they always struggle through qualification stages. The qualification for their successful European Championships in 2016 was only ensured via a playoff with Sweden, in which a Ronaldo hat-trick saved their blushes from defeat in Stockholm. Serbia will pose a tough threat, and it’s difficult to see them winning in such a hostile environment.
EURO 2020 qualification: Ireland vs Switzerland
The Irish are currently sitting comfortably at the top of group D by five points from their nearest rivals. However, they have played two more games than their Swiss opponents, and Switzerland will be hoping to win both their games in hand to leapfrog the resurgent Ireland team. Switzerland did well to reach the Nations League finals over the summer as they overcame Belgium to achieve the honour. However, they fell short in their semi-final against Portugal and then the third-place game against England. Despite that, they maintain a high ranking with FIFA, which means they have a great chance of making the Euro’s via the backup option.
Switzerland will not want to rest on that option, however, and will want to come safely through a tricky looking group which also includes Denmark. A win against Ireland in Dublin will put them back on track, but they may be happy with a draw.
EURO 2020 qualification: Slovenia vs Poland
Poland have begun the qualification stages stronger than most other teams. Poland have registered four wins out of four, and sit five points clear of Israel. The Poles are also yet to concede a goal, and with talisman, Robert Lewandowski is fine form for Bayern Munich so far this campaign, it could be a perfect opportunity for the country to get one foot in next summer’s event. Two wins in their next two matches would mean that they have effectively qualified depending on other results, and the match in Slovenia will be the most crucial of these. Slovenia are sitting in fourth place and have only won once so far.
Their defensive issues could be a significant aspect in how this game may play out. If Slovenia gives a chance to Lewandowski, then there is no doubting that he will score. This could be a cagey fixture, but Poland will maintain their perfect qualification campaign.
STS Tip: Poland to beat Slovenia at 13/10