Our top bets for the week feature international friendlies and the new UEFA Nations League.
The UEFA Nations League will kick off at the Allianz Arena on Thursday with a tantalising match between the two most recent world champions, Germany and France. While France showed grit to seal their second World Cup title in history, their predecessors were eliminated at the group stage following a tame showing in Russia. Les Bleus scored at least two goals in three of their four games in the knockout stages, while the Germans final match ended in a humiliating 2-0 loss to South Korea. France have scored two goals in each of their last three encounters with Germany.
In another high profile match on Thursday, the reigning champions of Europe Portugal will host Croatia, the losing finalists of this year’s World Cup. Croatia’s campaign was notable for very entertaining matches, as they scored and conceded in each of their last five matches in Russia. The same was true for the Portuguese’s last two matches as well, a 1-1 draw against Iran in their final group match before they went out after losing 2-1 against Uruguay.
Ryan Giggs will lead his Wales side in an all-British UEFA Nations League clash against the Republic of Ireland at the Cardiff City Stadium on Thursday. Only one goal has been scored in the last three matches between the two nations, when James McClean struck to give the Irish three points in a World Cup qualifier in October last year. Wales’ last two matches ended, first in a 1-0 China Cup loss to Uruguay and more recently in a 0-0 draw in a friendly with Mexico.
Italy will play their first competitive match since missing out on the World Cup when they face Poland in Bologna on Friday. The Azzurri have since appointed Roberto Mancini as their manager, but the former Manchester City boss’ reign has not started in the way he would have wished. They beat Saudi Arabia 2-1 in May, but they then lost 3-1 to France before being held to a 1-1 draw by the Netherlands. That match against the Dutch actually marked their third consecutive draw on home soil.
Poland have done rather well on their travels recently, with only a single loss in their last nine matches on foreign soil, excluding the World Cup.
Belgium will hope to continue their impressive World Cup form when they play Scotland in a friendly at Hampden Park on Friday. Roberto Martínez’s side actually won as many matches as France, except that they crucially lost their semi-final match against the eventual champions. Scotland are on a poor run of form, with four losses and a draw in their last six matches. They have also ended on the wrong side of a 2-0 defeat in their last three games against Belgium.