UEFA Euro 2020 qualification begins Thursday, and there will be first round games all the way through Saturday
Thursday is a day that everyone has been waiting for, as teams from all over start the process to figure out which team will be left standing at the top of the mountain.
I am told that it is also the opening day of the NCAA basketball tournament, which I guess may be a big deal as well.
UEFA Euro 2020 qualification begins Thursday, and there will be first round games all the way through Saturday. The second round of games will take place Sunday through Tuesday, before players head back to their club sides for the end of their domestic campaigns.
There are five games worth looking at Thursday, and all the home teams are heavy favorites, so you have to find some value where you can.
Croatia went to the 2018 World Cup Final, and starts its qualification against Azerbaijan. Croatia is currently ranked number four in the FIFA world rankings, while Azerbaijan is ranked 108. That should tell you all you need to know; the last time Croatia hosted Azerbaijan in 2014, it was 6-0.
Belgium is the top ranked team in the world, and is coming in off a run to the 2018 World Cup semifinal in Russia, where it lost 1-0 to eventual champion France. Roberto Martinez’s side will take on 50th ranked Russia, which overachieve as the host nation last summer.
Netherlands is ranked 14th, but trending upwards, after a tough few years. The Dutch team will take on 78th ranked Belarus, and expect there to be goals. When the two sides met in 2017, the Netherlands went on the road and got a 3-1 result.
Northern Ireland and North Macedonia are also heavy favorites at home against teams 60 places below them in the rankings.
There will be many matchups like this during each international break. The trick is to find the bets that will give you the best value.
All matches 3:45 p.m. EST
Belgium (-250) vs. Russia (+750), draw (+375)
Belgium ML (-250)
Belgium to win the first half (-118)
Eden Hazard to score and Belgium to win (+225)
Croatia (-900) vs. Azerbaijan (+1300), draw (+185)
The Pick: Croatia -1 first half (+180)
North Macedonia (-275) vs. Latvia (+750), draw (+290)
The Pick: North Macedonia ML (-275)
Netherlands (-700) vs. Belarus (+2200), draw (+700)
Netherlands first half -1 (+180)
Netherlands over 2.5 goals (-150)
Northern Ireland (-225) vs. Estonia (+900), draw (+300)
Northern Ireland ML (-225)
Northern Ireland win to nil Yes (-120)
Five team parlay, Belgium ML, Croatia ML, Netherlands ML, Macedonia ML, Northern Ireland ML, pays +250
The inaugural Nations League Final will take place this June in Northern Portugal, with Guimaraes and Porto sated to host the semifinals, third place contest, and the final. Portugal will play Switzerland on June 5 at the Estadio do Dragao in Porto, while England and the Netherlands will tangle the following night at the Estadio do Afonso Henriques in Guimaraes.
The two losers will play the early match on Sunday, June 9, with the two winners set to battle it out for the first Nations League title that night in Porto.
The tournament is stopped to give the European teams something to play for in the odds years that do not have either the UEFA Euro tournament or the World Cup.
Which team will come away with the trophy? Right now, the early money has flooded in on England, which was a semifinalist at the 2018 World Cup and has a roster full of exciting players entering their prime. At +200, the Three Lions may be a good buy at this point. If they beat Netherlands in the semifinal, expect those odds to drop dramatically before the final.
ODDS TO WIN NATIONS LEAGUE TOURNAMENT
(Odds provided by us-bookies.com)
Portugal (hosts) 2/1