Qualifiers for the UEFA European Championship started last Thursday week with 55 teams in 10 groups vying for the 24 available slots in the finals. Matchday One had 17 matchups produce goals, except for the Portugal tie – as the reigning champions were held to a goalless draw. The hosts were favourites to take the day but all their efforts proved abortive in front of goal.
World Cup runners up, Croatia, had to sweat before getting themselves a 2-1 win over Azerbaijan in their opening fixture.
On the 19th minute mark, Ramil Sheydaev put the visitors in front but that lead was cut short one minute before half time. It took a strike from Andrej Kramaric to give Croatia a much-needed victory 11 minutes before full-time.
Croatia was later joined at the top of Group E by Slovakia after seeing off a 2-nil victory over Hungary. Ondrej Duda and Albert Rusnak were on target for the Slovakians.
Netherlands cruised to a 4-0 victory over Belarus in Group C with Memphis Depay finding the back of the net twice. Liverpool firepower Georginio Wijnaldum and Virgil Van Dijk were also on the scoresheet.
Northern Ireland broke the jinx after securing a 2-0 win over Estonia. Northern Ireland had not recorded a competitive win since September 2017.
Niall McGinn’s 56th-minute opener put them in front, and a well-taken penalty kick by Steven Davis ensured they got all 3 points.
Poland and Macedonia got the better of their opponents in Group G, and San Marino slumped to a 5-0 defeat to Cyprus, which didn’t come as a surprise.
Belgium kick-started their campaign with a 3-1 victory over Russia. This win came in spite of Thibaut Courtois’ error which led to a goal in the 16th minute. Russia was later reduced to 10 men after Alexsandr Golovin was given marching orders.
Other results from Matchday One:
Thursday 21 March
Austria 0-1 Poland, FYR Macedonia 3-1 Latvia, Israel 1-1 Slovenia, Kazakhstan 3-0 Scotland.
Friday 22 March
Group A: England 5-0 Czech Republic, Bulgaria 1-1 Montenegro
Group B: Portugal 0-0 Ukraine, Luxembourg 2-1 Lithuania
Group H: Moldova 1-4 France, Andorra 0-2 Iceland, Albania 0-2 Turkey
Saturday 23 March
Group D: Georgia 0-2 Switzerland, Gibraltar 0-1 Republic of Ireland
Group F: Spain 2-1 Norway, Sweden 2-1 Romania, Malta 2-1 Faroe Islands
Group J: Italy 2-0 Finland, Bosnia and Herzegovina 2-1 Armenia, Liechtenstein 0-2 Greece
Germany and Netherlands locked horns in what became a thrilling encounter with a total of 5 goals. With the two teams fairly evenly matched a game with 5 goals was an outside chance, over 8 to 1 odds. Those who bet on Germany and over 4.5 goals would have thoroughly enjoyed the entertainment. The game looked to be a draw before Hoffenheim’s Shulz scored the winner at the end. This game was an easy over 2.5 prediction for punters who also took advantage of the moplay bet 10 get 30 betting offers.
In the same Group C, Northern Ireland went on to grab their second victory in the Euro 2020 Qualifiers, defeating Belarus. While early strikes from Hazard and Batshuayi gave Belgium a 2-0 win in Cyprus in Group I.
After struggling to get a victory in their opening game, World Cup finalists Croatia slumped to a shocking 2-1 defeat to Hungary in Group E. Mate Patkai of Hungary struck the winner 14 minutes before full-time.
In the same Group E, Wales grabbed their first win in the qualifying campaign with Daniel James’ lobe strike in the 5th minute against Slovakia.
In group G, Eran Zahavi poached a hat-trick in Israel’s 4-2 win over Austria, Slovenia and Macedonia settled for a draw, and it took two late goals from Lewandowski and Kamil Glik to give Poland a 2-nil victory over Latvia.
Other results from Matchday Two:
Sunday 24 March
Group I: Kazakhstan 0-4 Russia, San Marino 0-2 Scotland, Cyprus 0-2 Belgium
Monday 25 March
Group A: Montenegro 1-5 England, Kosovo 1- 1 Bulgaria
England’s second five goals in a week was averaging 12 to 1 with the bookies, having been around 9 to 1 to score 5 against the Czech Republic the previous week. With the majority of the Montenegro team operating at levels in leagues below those of the Czech Republic players this was attempting offer that attracted plenty of wagers.
Group B: Portugal 1-1 Serbia, Luxembourg 1-2 Ukraine
Group H: Turkey 4-0 Moldova, France 4-0 Iceland, Andorra 0-3 Albania