This week saw the start of the 2018 World Cup qualifying campaign across Europe, with four times winners Germany among those to claim an opening victory in their respective group. Bayern man Thomas Muller found the net twice for Joachim Low’s side during a comfortable 3-0 win over Norway, with fellow Group C contenders the Czech Republic and Northern Ireland playing out a goalless Prague.
As the reigning World Cup holders, Germany are unsurprisingly the Betser freebet to finish at the top of the group, securing an automatic passage to the finals in Russia, with Euro 2016 participants Northern Ireland hoping to earn a second successive spot at a major tournament. Elsewhere in the group, Azerbaijan claimed an opening victory over minnows San Marino, with Pierangelo Manzaroli’s men having lost 13-0 to Germany back in 2006.
Meanwhile, in Group E, Denmark narrowly saw off Armenia thanks to single goal from Tottenhams’s Christian Eriksen, while there was late drama in Kazakhstan. Despite holding a two goal half-time advantage, thanks to goals from Robert Lewandowski and Leicester City’s Bartosz Kapustka, Poland conceded two goals during the second period to allow the home side to claim a famous point. Elsewhere in the group, Romania and Montenegro both found the back of the net in the closing stages to secure what could be a valuable point. Former Manchester City man StevanJovetic cancelled out Adrian Popa’s striker, with NicolaeStanciu dramatically missing a penalty for the hosts in the seventh minute of added time. If the first round of fixtures is anything to go by, Group E looks set to be one of the most competitive in Europe.
Group F was certainly not short of drama also, with a 95th minute Adam Lallana goal ensuring that Sam Allardyce got his England tenor off to a winning start in Slovakia. It had looked like being a frustrating evening for England, despite former Liverpool man Martin Skrtel receiving a deserved red card in the second half, however Lallana scored his first goal at international level to secure all three points. England will certainly be favourites to qualify for the finals with Betser, with only Scotland likely to cause any real problems for the Three Lions.
Elsewhere in the group, Lithuania threw away a two goal lead against Slovenia, with former West Bromwich Albion loanee Bostjan Cesar equalising for the visitors in the final seconds. Gordon Strachan was delighted with his Scotland side’s performance against a potentially tricky Malta outfit, with Hull City’s Robert Snodgrass scoring a hat-trick in a comfortable 5-1 win. The home side finished the game with nine men following two second half sending’s off. Scotland will see this as a good opportunity to qualify for their first major tournament since the World Cup in 1998.