Wales, Slovakia and Iceland. Three teams who have never graced the European Championship Final stage, and whose experience of a main footballing event in the summer is in short supply. Iceland have never made a major international tournament, while Slovakia and Wales have made one each – Slovakia in 2010, and Wales back in 1958 when the Everly Brothers were top of the charts with ‘All I Have To Do Is Dream‘.
And we’re dreaming of pocketing a few quid on Friday by backing all three teams to win (or at least avoid defeat) in their friendly matches. A sterling qualifying campaign by all three sides has guaranteed Wales, Slovakia and Iceland a place at Euro 2016, as they lost just five games from a combined 30 – defeats that came against Bosnia, Belarus, Spain, Turkey and Czech Republic. A place in France next June awaits and each team will be looking to build momentum and confidence as they roll towards an unfamiliar major competition.
That’s enough for us to back them in a ‘Draw No Bet’ treble on Friday.
Before we get into why we fancy each side, it’s worth taking a minute to explain the bet. Rather than a £10 treble on all three teams to win, the ‘Draw No Bet’ treble allows your selection an element of leeway. If one of the matches finishes in a draw, your bet is still live and rolls onto the remaining games. Thus as long as all three get through Friday without losing, you should be pocketing some cash. If all three draw you get your stake back and can bank that 90 minutes of thrill for free.
So there’s just short of £180 up for grabs off our tenner if all three teams can sneak a friendly victory. Here’s why we fancy Wales, Slovakia and Iceland to go unbeaten on Friday night.
Wales v Holland, Friday 7.45pm
This is more of a reflection on just how bad Holland have become, rather than how much Wales have approved. Since their third-place finish in the World Cup, Holland’s record reads played 14, won five, drawn one, lost eight. Danny Blind’s side crashed and burned in Euro 2016 qualifying – losing home and away to Czech Republic and Iceland, as well as getting hammered 3-0 in Turkey. The Oranje have conceded 12 goals in their last six games, and travel to Cardiff off the back of a calamitous must-win game against Czech Republic where they went 3-0 behind after 65 minutes. Their last 15 months has been more dramatic than all 146 episodes of Keeping Up With The Kardashians. And that show involved a sex change, so it was pretty up there in the dramatic stakes.
Wales’ form is the complete opposite. They’ve lost just one of the last 10 internationals and are unbeaten in eight at home – winning five and drawing three. Even without star men Gareth Bale and Aaron Ramsey, the Welsh look like they have enough about them to further upset a shambolic Dutch side at Draw No Bet.
Slovakia v Switzerland, Friday 7.45pm
Slovakia were the only side to prevent Spain registering a 100 per cent record during qualifying – a 2-1 win in Zilina the only time the Spanish tasted defeat in a competitive fixture since the World Cup. That win came during a seven-game winning run that Slovakia had at home, before a hard-fought draw with Ukraine in September and a 1-0 defeat to Belarus last month.
Vice-Captain Marek Hamsik (above) who plays his club football at Napoli has six goals in his last 10 games for Slovakia, and can lead by example again against a decent Switzerland side. On the bare face of it the Swiss form looks pretty good. Their only loss in the last 11 games came against England at Wembley, however you can pick more holes in that form than a slice of Swiss cheese.
In their last five games they’ve needed a last-minute own goal to beat Estonia, an 84th minute winner to beat Lithuania, and three goals in the last 10 minutes to come back from 2-0 down to win 3-2 against Slovenia.
Slovakia have kept five clean sheets in their last nine home games, and Bosnia are the only side to score more than one goal in Slovakia since September 2011. It’ll be tight, and Slovakia can edge it at Draw No Bet.
Poland v Iceland, Friday 7.45pm
The Poles beat World Champions Germany 2-0 during Euro 2016 qualifying and made a potentially trappy group including Ireland and Scotland look reasonably straightforward. However Iceland’s story is even more remarkable…
Over the last 13 years massive investment from the country (around $2m) meant that there were seven full-size indoor pitches, four half-sized indoor pitches, 22 outdoor turf fields and 111 smaller pitches built, allowing players of all ages to take to the field three or four times a week regardless of the freezing conditions. The results? A nation of just 330k people has climbed 89 places in FIFA’s rankings, produced a very technically gifted Under 21 team in 2011, and the majority of that team helped Iceland qualify for Euro 2016, beating Spain home and away en route.
Football is now a major player in Iceland’s sporting resume, and the likes of Gylfi Sigurdsson and Aron Gunnarsson have benefitted greatly with Premier League experience.
We’re boarding the Icelandic hype train and hoping they can take at least a point out of Warsaw at Draw No Bet.