The World Cup
has reached the playoffs stage with Northern Ireland and the Republic two games away from the finals in Russia next summer. The other home nations face fascinating friendlies against high-profile opposition and once again I've previewed the games.
Northern Ireland v Switzerland
Only England (8) kept more clean sheets in qualification than Northern Ireland (7). I don’t expect to see many goals in Belfast although the Swiss impressed in qualification, picking up 27 points - enough to top five of the other European groups.
This is the first time the Green and White Army have been in the playoffs for a major tournament. They qualified automatically for the World Cups in 1958, 1982 and 1986 and Euro 2016.
Northern Ireland would love to take a lead into the second leg in Basel on Sunday evening. However, a 0-0 draw would not be a bad result. I expect to see a close, tight game with chances at a premium.
Under 1.5 goals
Denmark v Republic of Ireland
This is the eighth time Ireland have reached the playoffs for a major tournament and they have qualified for the Finals on three previous occasions. Martin O’Neill’s side will have to pay particular attention to Spurs’ playmaker Christian Eriksen who scored more goals in qualification (8) than any other midfielder.
The Boys In Green knew what they had to do in Cardiff last month
and duly got the job done. A draw in Copenhagen on Saturday will set up a winner takes all game in Dublin on Tuesday. I think Ireland will get a result.
Game to finish in a draw
Scotland v Netherlands
Both nations missed out on Russia despite having some good results of late. The Scots are unbeaten in their last seven internationals and Holland have won six of their last seven.
It promises to be a cracker at Pittodrie on Friday as both sides turn their attention towards Euro 2020. The Scots have scored in their last 15 internationals at home and I expect to see goals in Aberdeen.
Both Teams To Score
England v Germany
Gareth Southgate must do without Harry Kane, Dele Alli, Raheem Sterling and Jordan Henderson for the visit of Germany on Friday. Many will suggest their absence renders the international meaningless. However, I would rather suggest it is a good opportunity for others to stake a claim for the squad for Russia next summer.
Something has to give on Friday as Germany go into the game having won their last seven internationals, while Gareth Southgate’s England have won four on the spin and the Three Lions are unbeaten in their last seven at Wembley.
I expect to see an exciting open game with a number of chances and goals.
Over 2.5 goals
France v Wales
Ian Rush scored the only goal of the game when Wales last played France back in Toulouse in June 1982. However, Chris Coleman’s side face a difficult task against a talented French squad in Paris on Friday.
Wales are unbeaten in their last five on the road but they must still be smarting from missing out on the playoffs when beaten at home by the Republic Of Ireland last month.
At the time of writing, it is unsure whether Gareth Bale will play any part in the Stade De France. His return would be a huge boost for the Welsh even if it were only off the bench.
France to win to nil