*Editor’s Note (8.00am, Thursday October 8)
Since publication, it has been announced that Wayne Rooney will miss both of England’s qualifiers with an ankle injury. The double on Lewandowski and Ibrahimovic to score first pays out at 15/1.
The international break has arrived, and it’s the final chance to gain automatic qualification to Euro 2016, and an over-priced trip to Paris to watch England inevitably crash out on penalties in the quarter-finals.
With some countries already guaranteed a qualifying spot, others guaranteed diddly-squat, and a handful fighting tooth and nail to squeak into the top three, it’s proving difficult to build a winning accumulator. A lot like a relegation battle during the last few weekends of the Premier League, it’s a minefield of favourites who might not be going full guns, while outsiders battling for a qualifying spots go hell for leather.
So instead we’ve pulled out three strikers in form who we fancy to dazzle on the international stage. A Patent costing £7 returns £138 if they all bag first, while if you fancy the ambitious treble, it’s 70/1 that Robert Lewandowski, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Wayne Rooney all find the onion bag first in their respective games.
Robert Lewandowski –
Scotland v Poland, Thursday 7.45pm (Sky Sports 1)
Group D’s leading goalscorer Robert Lewandowski has 10 goals in eight qualifiers in this campaign, and found the onion bag 11 times in Poland’s last 11 games. While those numbers look promising on the face of it, you have to remember that nine of those goals came in three games against Gibraltar (twice) and Georgia. And while Scotland are considerably better than Gibraltar, it’s still worth backing Lewandowski while he’s in red-hot form.
For Bayern Munich this season he has 16 goals in just 11 appearances, at an average of a goal every 52 minutes. He’s also posted a conversion rate this season of 33 per cent – meaning for every three shots he takes, one is going to find the back of the net. Poland have found the net in every qualifying game this year, while Scotland have conceded in six of their eight games.
Lewandowski has played 13 matches for club and country since August 1, and got on the scoresheet in 10 of them. If you’re a kilt-wearing, haggis-munching, bagpipe-playing Scotsman, you’ve got every right to be worried of him at .
Zlatan Ibrahimovic –
Liechtenstein v Sweden, Friday 7.45pm (Sky Sports Red Button)
Sweden’s all-time leading goalscorer may have turned 34 last week, but that isn’t stopping Zlatan Ibrahimovic finding the net. He has 57 goals in 107 games for Sweden – the most memorable being that bicycle kick against England – and Zlatan has already bagged six in the Euro 2016 qualifiers. Of all of Sweden’s goals in 2015, Ibrahimovic has scored 55 per cent of them, while he’s banged in four in his last three Ligue 1 matches for PSG.
Just two points separate Sweden and Russia in Group G for that all important qualifying spot, so you can expect Ibrahimovic and co to come out all guns blazing. While Sweden have hardly been prolific in qualifying (11 goals in eight games), Liechtenstein have been as sturdy as soggy cornflakes at the back. They lost 5-0 to Austria and 7-0 to Russia at their home ground in Vaduz during this campaign, and in their 28 games in the last three years they’ve kept just three clean sheets – against San Marino, Moldova and Montenegro.
Sweden should be far too strong for Liechtenstein and the in-form Ibrahimovic can start the route on Friday night at odds of .
Wayne Rooney –
England v Estonia, Friday 7.45pm (ITV)
Wayne Rooney might not be able to hit a barn door for Manchester United – a record of one league goal since April 4 speaks for itself – but when he pulls on an England jersey it’s a different tale. Rooney has seven goals in Euro 2016 qualifying – but more impressively he’s scored in seven of England’s eight matches in this campaign, including the only goal in the win against Estonia a year ago.
In England’s last 10 matches in all competitions Rooney has nine goals to his name, and the Three Lions captain appears to thrive in his role in the England set-up.
Estonia have been stringent in defence, conceding just six goals in eight games through qualifying, but England have been ruthless at Wembley. In front of their home fans England have scored 14 goals in four matches – an average of 3.5 a game. Roy Hodgson’s men have a 100 per cent win rate in Group E, and there won’t be any let up this week as they eye up the perfect qualifying campaign. Rooney can lead from the front at to break the deadlock.
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