Three European outsiders set to impress in World Cup 2018 qualifying
There’s no doubt that Euro 2016 was the tournament of the underdog. Portugal were 18/1 to lift the trophy ahead of the first game. Few expected Iceland to win a game, let alone reach the Quarter Finals. And Wales’ semi-final berth provided yet another against-the-odds story.
So, as we head into qualifying to reach World Cup 2018, Ladbrokes News have picked out the three underdogs you should be backing to reach the finals in Russia.
We’ll be honest, we think our traders have missed a trick by placing Israel at the hefty odds of 50/1 to win their qualifying group.
Admittedly they are in with Spain, but La Furia Roja looked like a shadow of their former selves at Euro 2016, while the likes of FYR Macedonia and Liechtenstein are unlikely to cause Israel any problems.
A 3-0 demolition of Bosnia-Herzegovina was one of the high-points of a Euro 2016 qualification campaign which saw Israel narrowly miss out on a play-off spot, but The Blue and Whites also managed an away draw in Wales, as well as wins in Cyprus and Andorra.
With the likes of talented Brighton & Hove Albion pair Beram Kayal and Tomer Hemed in their ranks, as well as prolific hitman Moanes Dabour, the Israelis possess plenty of pace and goalscoring threat.
Elisha Levy’s men begin qualifying against Italy, with 19/4 for the hosts to win in Haifa.
There’s little doubt Norway were the unluckiest side not to reach Euro 2016. Missing out on automatic qualification to Croatia by a single point, they were then eliminated in the play-offs by a Hungary side who were under siege for the best part of 180 minutes, yet somehow scraped a 3-1 aggregate win.
But despite their cruel elimination, there was plenty for Norway fans to be positive about, including an impressive 2-0 victory over Croatia and an impressive three wins in their five away outings.
And the makeup of the Norwegian side suggests they’re only going to get better, with 13 members of their current squad aged 25 or below, including talented and lightning-quick strikers like Alexander Sorloth and Bournemouth’s Josh King.
With Azerbaijan and San Marino all-but-certain to occupy the lower echelons of the group, it will be one from four to finish top of the pile, with 20/1 for impressive and improving Norway to take that spot.
Per-Mathias Hogmo’s men begin by welcoming Germany, with 11/2 for the Norwegians to record a second successive victory over Die Mannschaft.
We’re staying in Northern Europe with the Finns, who are 14/1 outsiders to finish top of Qualifying Group I – a wide open group, and one of only three without an odds-on winner.
Huuhkajat have proven themselves to be excellent travellers, as June’s 1-1 draw in Belgium showed, with the Nordic outfit winning two of their five away games in Euro 2016 qualifying, including an impressively disciplined win against Euro 2004 champions Greece.
Difficult to break down, they only conceded 10 times in as many games in a tough group, just missing out on a play-off spot for Euro 2016. And with the likes of Teemu Pukki and Bayer Leverkusen prodigy Joel Pohjanpalo in their striking ranks, they could be even more impressive at the other end.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing