World Cup qualifiers: Saturday match analysis and picks

World Cup qualifiers: Saturday match analysis and picks

World Cup qualifiers: Saturday match analysis and picks
By SHAWN YOUNG

Qualifier matches for next year's World Cup in South Africa continue this weekend all over the world. We turned to a former oddsmaker for European soccer to help us break down some of the key matches and give us his picks. 

Kazakhstan (+2.5) vs. England
(Forecast: 90 degrees, partly cloudy)

England enters this one with five wins from five games in qualifying so far while Kazakhstan has done nothing to inspire confidence. That said, 2.5 goals is too much to give away on the road at a very hostile stadium in hot weather.

England could win it 8-0 but this is the type of gambling situation where bettors have to either walk away or grab the dog. Rio Ferdinand is unavailable for England, so Kazakhstan might even score, but the real angle here is hoping the visitors wilt in the heat or find card trouble and satisfy themselves by winning 1-0 or 2-0.

Correct score junkies might just want to play those numbers, but the sharp money will likely take the Kazakhs and try not to watch the game with their own eyes. England will have most of the possession and 90 percent of the chances.

Prediction: Kazakhstan 0, England 2.

Sweden (-0.5, +115) vs. Denmark, 2.5 goals (under -155)
(Forecast: 55 degrees, cloudy)

Two unbeaten teams square off here but the desperation level is where you’ll see these sides differ. Denmark has taken the chainsaw to weaker teams and beaten Portugal 3-2 away. Sweden has only two goals from four matches and seen three games end 0-0.

Under goals looks to be the play here as Denmark will satisfy themselves with a draw on the road and Sweden matches should probably be played “under” until the team shows it can score against a quality opponent.

The odds on who’ll win offer relatively little value. If you desperately need action, the home team is usually the better bet in International play but given Sweden’s record of not scoring, try to find them at pk-200 or some such.

Prediction: Sweden 0, Denmark 0

Azerbaijan (+.5, -145) vs. Wales
(Forecast: 82 degrees, humid)

This could be the bet of the day in Europe with injuries piling up for Wales. Jack Collison, Gareth Bale, Ched Evans, and Sam Ricketts are all out, leaving only 16 outfielders and three goalkeepers to make the trip.

Wales qualification hopes are already in tatters with four losses, the two most recent of which were 2-0 home defeats to Finland and Germany. Azerbaijan is nothing special, but should rise to the occasion here.

Wales are not a deep team at the best of times and these are not the best of times.

Plus-250 is available on an outright Azeri win, but let’s not get greedy - grab the half-goal for safety.

Prediction: Azerbaijan 1, Wales 1 

USA (-1) vs. Honduras
(Forecast: 75 degrees, cloudy)

The USA was beaten 3-1 late Wednesday night in Costa Rica, suffering their first loss in the stage. Costa Rica are one of the region’s best sides, so it’s no cause for panic but it’ll be hard to pick the Americans to bounce back against a Honduras team that’s had all week to prepare.

Honduras is one of those infuriating teams to bet on because you never know what you’re going to get. Well almost. At least we know we’re getting a full goal for our money.

Honduras beat Mexico 3-1 April 2, so that’ll have to do. Warm weather in Chicago will suit the visitors and with an increasing number of full time pros playing outside their own country week-in, week out the Hondurans won’t be intimidated by the occasion.

Honduras is the play.

Prediction: USA 1, Honduras 1.

Bolivia (-1) vs. Venezuela
(Forecast: 63 degrees, cloudy)

We conclude with a sneaky little angle on a South American qualifying game. Neither of these teams should make it to next year’s big dance, but there’s money to be made in the mean time.

This game is being played in La Paz, elevation 11,900 feet. Bolivia have lost only once in six home games and most recently thrashed Argentina 6-1 on April Fool’s Day. (Yes, you read that right.)

Venezuela will offer little resistance as visitors after scoring only two goals away from home in six games so far.

Don’t panic if it’s 0-0 at half time. Venezuela will fold in the second half. If this game was at sea level, it could be a different story.

Prediction: Bolivia 3, Venezuela 0.

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