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A Hater's Guide to EURO Qualifying / 2018 Year in Review (insert Soccer flair here)
After a surprisingly decent start to the Nations League that saw some upsets and some decent football, another Euro qualification campaign awaits us. Teams are scrambling to achieve something before their generational talents depart and leave them rudderless. Managers are scrambling for decent results to avoid getting fired. UEFA is scrambling to get the populace to hate them even more with the Der Spiegel leaks......... and the bullshit that is their attempt at a UEFA Superleague, designed to kill those pesky irrelevant small-market teams and countries once and for all. Before international football takes a serious beating at the hands of leaks and Qatar 2022, lets take a look at the contestants. This will be a little different from the standard Haters Guide, as I'll be breaking down the groups and major teams recent fortunes in light cliff notes form instead of going in full on everyone. Even if half the team previews would be some variation of "You're fucked", its still soul consuming to talk about a bunch of uninspiring Tier II or III Euro sides, even if they have a chance to go far because voodoo seeding magic. This will instead be an overview of the relevant teams and how they're looking so far. Lets get to it. ~~~ GROUP A: England, Czech Republic, Bulgaria, Montenegro, Kosovo ~To the shock of all 55 million of their cynical supporters, England came through big in the Nations League groups with a pair of crucial wins at the end to secure a Final 4 berth. England's reward for such endeavours will probably be a torching from Portugal and another easy group to qualify for a tournament in. Over the next year and a bit, England's goal will be to shore up the defense, figure out how to make a functional midfield out of their varying pieces, and hope that the English media decides not to de-person Raheem Sterling and Marcus Rashford. Gareth Southgate has done good in rallying the troops and clearly looks like the right man for the job........ which means he'll be sacked after a quarterfinal exit in Qatar because reasons. Hopefully Frank Lampard does a good enough job managing clubs to step right in. Either way England needs to retain someone who knows what went wrong with the "Golden Generation", instead of hiring a foreign mercenary who will fall into the same traps Sven and Capello fell into trying to bring the team together. A decisive and steady hand at the top who commands respect from the players and makes everyone know their role is what England needs to stabilize the Premiership egos. To be fair this team doesn't seem to have clashing personalities on the level of the 2000s, so maybe they can make this work. Maybe. ~As for the rest of this group...... eeeeech. I'm personally hoping Kosovo uses its credible league underdog upset powers to roll over everyone and finish second, but theres a lot of uninspiring dross here. The Czechs haven't been relevant since the early 2000s and need some generational talents to crop up to reach that peak again. Instead they get a midfield captain who plays in the MLS, I mean COME ON. At least get him somewhere more credible like the Championship with Sheffield Wednesday. Also Bulgaria's got nothing going on and Montenegro got the worst of the split from Serbia. England shouldn't blow this group, so lets hope for something positive from Kosovo and that a few players get jobs in the English leagues out of this. ~~~ GROUP B: Portugal, Ukraine, Serbia, Lithuania, Luxembourg ~So early in the preview we get the first reasonably tough group. Ukraine and Serbia may end up qualifying via Nations League anyways, but both teams should probably try to be safe rather than sorry. Serbia got refballed by the Swiss at the World Cup and there were rumours of FA interference in setting up the team. If their dumbass fans stay out of the teams way and don't dock them points though, they'll be a threat. The team looks flush with credible league players, especially in the midfield, and Aleksandar Mitrovic is a goal in 2 games striker up front for the NT. The main question mark is in goal if Vladimir Stojkovic retires soon, not to mention hes playing in a bad league and would be disqualified from future consideration anyways if Serbia had any depth at that position. Regardless, Serbia still looks like a sure bet to make it to Euros via either path but from there, who knows? ~As for Ukraine, things are........ a little more complicated. Shaktar Donetsk's weird Brazilian pipeline and finances gives their league a sexy surface gloss of credibility, but the NT and the country itself have seen big changes since the WC in 2010. The problem now is up front, where the options are veteran Turkish league journeymen, green youth, or hope the wingers Yarmolenko and Konoplyanka are around to do a thing. The latter one will work less due to Yarmolenko being out early on with an Achilles tear. If he comes back as a permanently lesser player things do not look good. The former national talisman in Andriy Shevchenko is doing the managing now, and needs to figure out a way to get this team some goals if the defense breaks down. There is some serious firepower in the other favourites, and Ukraine may struggle to keep pace. You also have a tough path for Nations League B with Edin Dzeko and Christian Eriksen lurking. Good luck. ~Portugal don't think we forgot about you! You still have FUCKING PEPE ON THE TEAMSHEET. AND HE WAS YOUR CAPTAIN AGAINST POLAND?!?! What was his locker room team talk like? Did he tell everyone to two foot the nearest player and then dive afterwards? You dropped Bruno Alves like a hot potato and even if Pepe somehow goes through some games without incidents, hes still 35. He won't be around for Qatar, and you need to start bringing in the younger players now to get them to gel. Also its worth noting that Ronaldo did not make a single appearance in the Nations League and is........ currently dealing with some messy sexual assault allegations...... hoo boy. You better hope Andre Silva keeps scoring at a 1 in 2 pace, otherwise you have no shot at a Euro repeat. ~~~ GROUP C: Netherlands, Germany, Northern Ireland, Estonia, Belarus ~Besides the Cleveland Cavaliers, did any team have a swifter fall from grace this year than the German NT? As if the brutal World Cup campaign and Mesut Ozil retiring to political posturing over Turkey wasn't bad enough, the team flamed out in the Nations League to a Dutch team deep in the rebuild, and still lack stability in the midfield and defense. Even with a soft group to likely qualify from, this team still needs to get its shit together to achieve anything in the coming tournaments. Like the Eagles, winning the big one may have been the worst thing to happen to the team for their short term future, and they may need the good ol' "culture change" to get back to normal contender status. I'm not sure we're ready for a footballing world with an underachieving German team, but it seems the rest of the countries who have been held back by the Germans are DEFINITELY ready for it. I don't have any grudge against Germany, but I will die laughing if this team drops points to Northern Ireland. Maybe THAT could get Joachim Low fired...... ~Netherlands I don't know what the hell to make of you. I wanted to revisit that case in a couple of years and see if the Dutch could get things together with a new wave of talent, but then you caught France on the hop and Germany on a sustained hangover. Now you probably have a high seed for future events, and a soft group to make it back to the Euros with. I'm just not sold on Virgil Van Dijk and Memphis Depay as the core players. Depay in particular has been rumoured to have some attitude problems and inconsistency. Even if they were magnified in the harsh spotlight of the Premier League, and even if hes turning things around for Lyon, do you really build an attack around him? You've had success in the past building around tempermental talent, but I doubt anyone thinks hes at the level of a Van Basten or a Robben, let alone Cryuff. Theres at least some promise behind with guys like De Ligt, Kluivert, and maybe Fosu-Mensah and Frenkie de Jong, but this does not seem like peak Dutch vintage. At least you're better off than you were from 2015 to 2017? ~Much as I'd like Northern Ireland to pull off some upsets, it probably isn't happening. They took a beating in Nations League B and clearly can't hold superior sides off using the old-school defensive British Isles tactics. The strike force is Championship journeymen and a beat-up Kyle Lafferty, with no notable youth getting pushed forward by the team. Hope you enjoyed your cup of coffee with success in 2016 lads, now its back to complaining about other Ireland stealing your players. ~~~ GROUP D: Switzerland, Denmark, Ireland, Georgia, Gibraltar ~Meh, nothing to get excited about here. Swiss optimism is no doubt high after the shocking thrashing of Belgium in the Nations League to win their group. The issue is that Hans Serefovic may have gotten that hat trick against a defense too old and broken down to give a fuck, and you're still reliant on the Great Value version of generational talents in your midfield. Denmark should be right there with them based on the World Cup unless the strike flares up again, or something happens to Christian Eriksen or Kasper Schmeichel. But Jesus Christ Denmark do SOMETHING about that strike force. ~One thing does need to be said in this group however: Ireland is looking godawful. They beat Wales to get into a playoff for WC qualification then got blown out 4-1 in the Nations League. This has led to managers Martin O'Neill and Roy Keane being marched to the guillotine. The roster looks completely cooked and the scoring cupboard is bare once you take out Shane Long and Johnathan Walters......not that either player was good anyways. Even if Ireland slogs out a couple draws with Denmark, they're more liable to drop points to Georgia (which did happen in WC qualifying). Hell, Ireland could somehow struggle to break down Gibraltar for all we know. ~The sad part is this weaker group could end up getting two Nations League winners in the Swiss and Georgia and three qualifiers to the Euros. Yikes. ~~~ GROUP E: Croatia, Wales, Slovakia, Hungary, Azerbaijan ~Wales and Croatia may top the group in seeding but both teams are staring into the edge of the abyss. Croatia has already lost Mandzukic and Subasic, and the rest of the core is aged 29 or older. They need to strike now before they get too old for the World Cup. The Euros may be the last chance for Croatia to win something before they have to restart with a new core under bigger expectations. Hopefully the fans can cling to the memories of that magical 2018 run....... ~As for Wales, they face the unpleasant prospect of wasting their second generational talent in Gareth Bale. The 2018 WC qualification campaign was an absolute DISASTER for the Welsh, as they blew a winnable group to Serbia and Ireland.......... after drawing half their games and dropping points to fucking Austria and Georgia. Wales had a chance of sneaking into the World Cup and even making it to the Round of 16 with the right draw, but had to sit at home instead and watch England achieve their best result in over 25 years. The time is now to win before Bale gets too old and too destroyed by the Madrid media. You've got some young diamonds in the rough that need to gain experience quickly, some veteranosity at the backline, support in Aaron Ramsey, and a reasonably steady keeper in Wayne Hennessey. DON'T FUCK IT UP! Gareth Bale does NOT deserve to have the same international career as Ryan Giggs. (And yes Giggs did not deserve that either) ~But hey surely those Slovakia guys will steal a spot from you. Just look at all that talent! Marek Hamsik! Marek Hamsik! Marek Hamsik! Did we mention Marek Hamsik? And look at that awesome support he has........AN MLS MIDFIELDER AND A PAIR OF CYPRUS LEAGUE STRIKERS?!?! BAHAHAHAHAHAHA! (Cue Simpsons you're stupid guy laughing) (Did I forget about Hungary? I hope so.) ~~~ GROUP F: Spain, Sweden, Norway, Romania, Faroe Islands, Malta ~Meh, nothing much to get excited about here. Some Reddit pundits think theres a chance for Norway and Romania but I'm not buying it. Sweden has gotten a lot of credible wins over the past year and are also a bet to make it in via Nations League after a hiccup against Turkey to start. Emil Forsberg has not panned out for them and Marcus Berg may be lynched if he misses another sitter, but at least 20 fringe countries would kill to have Sweden's recent results. The steady Robin Olsen and the 8 men behind the ball troll tactics you had at the World Cup should see you through to the Euros and a Round of 16 elimination. Enjoy. ~As for Spain, they had a rough showing against Morocco and Russia in the World Cup and got bounced out by England in the Nations League, but things should pick up soon. That World Cup was a wash for Spain anyways due to all the managerial shenanigans and a poor tournament from David De Gea. Spain should be at least a fringe contender for another few years if this new core doesn't fall off a cliff.......... and if the FA and Spanish political landscape don't interfere with Luis Enrique doing his job. Good luck Luis. Don't let this second hot seat burn you to death. ~Hey by the way how did that Julen Lopetegui move to Real Madrid that got him fired from Spain work out anyways? (Julen gets canned after 6 losses in 14 games) OH GOD. Hope you had fun being burned at the stake Julen! Should've looked that gift horse in the mouth............. ~Also I'll sign off this group with a message to Romania: FUCK OFF WITH THE ULTRAS. You went down the racist Serbian route and had a few Nations League matches played behind closed doors with Carolina Hurricanes-level attendance. Keep this up and UEFA may take you for a spin on the wheel of discipline, and dock your dumb asses some points. Also do yourselves a favour and discover the next Gheorghie Hagi so you can rebuild your league and your national team already, that'll work too. ~~~ GROUP G: Poland, Austria, Israel, Slovenia, Macedonia, Latvia ~Wait, this can't be the actual group right? This is some seriously fake news. Lemme double check this...... refreshes Euro page ARE YOU SHITTING ME!? YOU CALL THIS A GROUP!? What the FUCK!? Poland and Austria don't deserve their placement in the current pots, and they get gifted a sham group that will continue to inflate their rankings? Serbia is possibly better than BOTH these teams and they sit in Pot 3 with some no hopers and fringe contenders. I don't have any special dislike towards either country but COME ON! Israel, Slovenia, and maybe Macedonia, I don't care about you guys either, but just to normalize the seeding a little I hope you take some points from these guys, and show the world what a farce these qualification draws can be. ~Oh you want a preview? Fine, here it is: Lewandowski tries to create goal scoring opportunities with questionable support, and Austria coasts off maybe three relevant players to a Euro group stage drowning. Now lets move onto some actual contenders. ~~~ GROUP H: France, Iceland, Turkey, Albania, Moldova, Andorra ~..........Ok, this is better for talking points at least. This group is an interesting one for France, because it gives us a chance to see how bad the World Cup hangover really is. France has been on a rollercoaster of sorts since the heyday of Michel Platini, with some really great performances, followed by some really awful performances, followed by a rebound, then another crash, then a rebound again. France could've headed downhill after a decent showing in 2014 and 2016, but instead took the big step forward and won the World Cup. The Nations League could've been a second tournament win in as many years, but they bowed out in the group stages to the Dutch, of all teams. Now comes the test of their consistency against some middling competition. If the French keep an even keel through qualifying and play strongly at the Euros, then they've turned a corner. If they drop serious points and flame out.......well, imagine the shrill bitching Pogba and Griezmann recieve in the media when they do anything, then multiply it by the entire team. For those who don't want complacency or collapses you better pray that Kylian Mbappe keeps developing. (Also have fun with those PSG leaks.) ~Iceland, I have some bad news. That mild optimism I had in the Nations League preview? Yeah, turns out I wasn't informed that your new manager Erik Hamren is a total gas can who shouldn't have the job. Iceland's Golden Generation may be forcibly rusted, so I hope those passionate supporters of yours will be happy living off past upset glories. Best to turn your attention to the future and developing youth, because the present does not look good under current management. ~Turkey is in a weird state to me. It seems their national league has a similar sexy surface gloss of credibility like Ukraine, along with the same sort of issues underneath that gloss. Theres even turmoil within the country as a distraction, albeit of a slightly different kind to Ukraine's ongoing mess with Russia. Turkey hasn't really done a lot since the 3rd place in Euro 2008, and they don't seem to have a ton of new youth to lead the renaissance aside from maybe Cengiz Under, Zeki Celik, and probably some youngster in a Turkish league who'll need to transfer to progress his career. The current veterans don't seem to have that spark to propel the team further, and it showed a bit in the Nations League despite a mild upset over Sweden early on. Lets revisit this one in a few years. ~......What, you want me to talk about Albania cause of the credible league factor? Sorry, but any team who loses 4-0 to Scotland in a semi-serious contest isn't worth more than 3 sentences in a recap. Have fun getting more players poached due to nationality rules! ~~~ GROUP I: Belgium, Russia, Scotland, Cyprus, Kazakhstan, San Marino ~Hey Belgium, thanks for that nice 5-2 loss to the Swiss that jinxed my Nations League predictions! Now I have to try to care about Switzerland in the Nations League Haters Guide. Really looking forward to that! I can sorta forgive a loss in the face of injuries to de Bruyne, Lukaku, and half the starting defense, that makes sense. But you beat these guys 2-1 at home and had a 2-0 lead in the first 20 minutes? How can you let yourselves down in a competition like this? HOW!? For the love of god, can you quit choking on the pre-game waffle brunch and DO SOMETHING with this core? Do you really want to supplement this awesome attack with Boyata and the other Lukaku holding the fort behind them in a few years? Just blow this group out and win the damn Euros already. ~Russia could have a chance to play spoiler again here. Russia fell a bit short against Sweden in the Nations League, but they have a certain grit and quality to the team as of late that makes them hard to pass on as an upset pick. If they keep a healthy midfield, find a replacement for Igor Akinfeev, and magic bullshit goals out of Artem Dzyuba and whoever the hell Russia's putting in the attack these days, they could make some noise in the Euros. ~Scotland may be getting a Legacy of Failure post if I ever find anyone to fact-check my ranting, and a blown qualification effort here followed by a loss of the Nations League could write yet another chapter in it. You have two goalkeepers over 35 and a sprinkling of Premiership players to complement the substandard domestic league offerings. You also have Johnny Russell getting 9 caps because.........I don't fucking know. Get him out of there and replace him with literally anyone else please. We have narratives to maintain, and we need as few people in the MLS as possible tarnishing this pristine stage of international football. ~~~ GROUP H: Italy, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Finland, Greece, Armenia, Liechtenstein ~And here at the end we have one of the toughest groups in qualification. Thats tough for the viewer AND the teams involved. Italy vs Greece twice? Better plan your sleep patterns around that shit. Italy is in tough in this group, as the Mario Balotelli experiment may have been aborted early in the Nations League. For all the identity Italy has around defence, the fact \remains that they have never won things without high-end threat of some variety in the final third. Are you going to seriously trot out guys like Immobile and Insigne and call them your international standard attackers? They're like the guys you tack on a roster in FIFA Ultimate Team for the chemistry bonus. Still, even though you drew some of the stronger teams in each pot, you might come out of this ok. Luckily, you did avoid sides like Denmark and Sweden that have a higher chance of playing along with a 0-0 and forcing you to drop points. If you can retool in time for 2020 you may once again reach default contender status. ~Meanwhile, Bosnia is on one of the better runs of success in the history of their nation, taking advantage of a soft group draw in the Nations League to run wild and secure a place in the final 4. Austria and Northern Ireland are nothing special, but you at least got a platform for your generational talent Edin Dzeko to shine on, as he approaches his well-earned 100th cap. If you get the goalkeeper Begovic and the crucial midfield piece Miralem Pjanic back from injuries, you've got a solid shot at keeping form and getting a ticket to the Euros. Good luck against the Italians. May you be free from the permanent hell that is Slavic team inconsistency. ~Finland is being hyped up as having the best team they've had since the heyday or Jari Litmanen and Sami Hyppia. Looking at the roster though, I'm not buying it. Theres a couple useful pieces, and you've got a rock solid keeper in Lukas Hradecky, but I'm questioning the lack of players in credible leagues. Perhaps the roster adds up to more than the sum of its parts, perhaps there are players here who just haven't gotten the break, but am I really supposed to be inspired by your best striker being from Norwich City? Will Joel Pohjanpalo ever come back form that injury? Also why did you give 74 caps to players in that damn MLS again? Regardless, against a potentially toothless Italy you have a chance of scraping a couple draws, which means that the fixtures against Bosnia will likely determine the fate of this new wave team. Good luck. ~Greece is in a real state of flux at the moment. Last Euro qualification was a cataclyzmic failure that saw losses to the Faroe Islands and Claudio Ranieri being ran out of the country like a common pygmy. He then went on to win a Premiership title with Leicester City in one of the best moments in the history of sports just because. Greece has struggled over this past year with losses to Saudi Arabia, Estonia, and Hungary, not to mention a loss against their group rival Finland. The defense is still as obstinate as ever, but when it cracks Greece seems to struggle at chasing the game unless they get a good set piece or Kostas Mitroglou does a thing. 2004 Euros look like a wet dream that won't be seen again, but Greece does have the chance of stealing points against Italy and disrupting the table. ~Armenia has a discount generational talent in Henrikh Mkhitaryan......and no one else. You blew a major shot at success in the Nations League, so you need to hope the countries ahead of you shit the bed to improve your seeding for the World Cup. Have fun being near the cellar. ~~~ Thus ends this wall of text and another year of European footy! Now open wide and watch UEFA laugh in your faces!
My record is available here - https://fansunite.com/profile/TMussolani Hey guys, pretty exhausted as the last two days have been very long for me. Excuse the lack of writeups today, and I'll try and get something useful for you for the weekend. I'm just going to provide some very quick thoughts on these ones but will have the more comprehensive and detailed previews for saturday. Netherlands Erste Divisie: Almere City vs. Emmen Almere have lost five straight Erste Divisie games, so that shows how well they are playing. Generally I'd stay away from this game regardless as these teams are actually somewhat similar quality wise, but Emmen is playing well as evidenced by their great away draw with contenders NAC Breda. They also get Danso and Kolder back for this match, both of which are great attackers at this level. The most important piece of this bet, to me, is that Almere City are missing two important midfielders in Oost and Kip. My Pick of The Day is Emmen Draw No Bet (PK, AH 0.0) @ 2.03 Denmark Superliga: Nordsjaelland vs. Odense Odense are a pretty big mess right now, which is a shame for a team that used to be one of the constant contenders in Denmark. I thought about backing Nordsjaelland here as they've been playing well, but the major issue I have is that they are naturally a side that likes to control the ball and limit the opportunities of the other side, but they are missing two relatively important forwards in John and Moberg-Karlsson. I wouldn't go crazy on this game as Odense have a habit of trading chances, but I think Nordsjaelland will get to dictate their playing style tonight. I'm going to take Under 2.5 Goals @ 1.83 Croatia 1. HNL: Lokomotiva Zagreb vs. Slaven Belupo One day I'll get into the interestingness that is Lokomotiva Zagreb. They have a very unique relationship with Dinamo Zagreb and some other clubs like Osijek, but the crux of the matter is that, quality wise, they have one of the top teams in Croatia. Slaven are just one of those sides that are relentless, but ultimately struggle away from home. I'm taking Lokomotiva Zagreb to win @ 2.14
Denmark won 5-1 at the Aviva 11 months ago to qualify for the World Cup and another victory for them in this fixture is 31/20 (2.55). A draw, meanwhile, can be found at 41/20 (3.05) . Team News Netherlands to win and over 2.5 goals is 3/1. Sweden to win and over 2.5 goals is 9/2. Either team to win a penalty shootout is 5/1. Netherlands to make the final is 4/6; Sweden are 11/10 to progress. Northern Ireland v Netherlands preview, prediction and odds By Harry Kettle on November 13, just challenging for qualification is a big goal. If you want to bet on Northern Ireland vs the Netherlands, visit the betting page. Other options are ready and available on the soccer predictions page. Read our prediction for Germany vs Netherlands below. This preview was written by a sport journalist who is specialised in betting tips and predictions. Use our betting tips for the match between Germany vs Netherlands and you can increase your winnings!. Germany vs Netherlands Prediction & Betting tips Netherlands vs Denmark preview Sörensen gets back after injuries according to Ronni Hartvig who hopes for a Danish up-set in the first match against Netherlands. Denmark pays 2.05 in odds to go through from their group, and 151 times the money if they win the World Cup. Hawk-Eye statement on the goal line incident during Aston Villa v
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