Northern Ireland v San Marino – Windsor Park at 19:45 live on Sky Sports 5
To be honest, this is not the most exciting match I have written an Asian Handicap betting preview for. However, I will do my best to take home some profit as Northern Ireland host whipping boys San Marino at Windsor Park on Saturday night in Group C.
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Well, it is fair to say we all remember what a summer Northern Ireland had in France for Euro 2016. Beating all expectations in their group and qualifying for the knockout stages, Michael O’Neil gave this squad confidence and belief that they could go all the way. Much like Chris Coleman with Wales. I would honestly say, they were better than England.
To kick off this qualifying road to Russia in 2018, O’Neil’s side grabbed a solid point off Czech Republic when they drew 0-0 at the Generali Arena in Prague. Come to think of it that is a great draw considering the only other real threat in this group is Germany, who they will be playing next.
Now, the sad news. Unfortunately, Will Grigg didn’t make the squad for these two matches, but top goal scorer Kyle Lafferty did, including two uncapped players in Trevor Carson and Tom Flanangan.
O’Neil isn’t usually one to differentiate, as the classic 4-5-1 formation has been working well. While leading up to this match, Northern Ireland has only lost three of their last 15 in all competitions, while only losing two of their last ten at home.
San Marino. A Nation I actually feel sorry for, mainly because they are literally the group whipping boys in any group they fall into. Much like Andorra or Gibraltar. They will always be lucky to score a goal in a game, or even get a point.
I mean, look at their last match. At home against Azerbaijan, the only side you could possibly see them doing anything against, they lost 1-0 at home.
San Marino manager Pierangelo Manzaroli must literally be looking at his 23-man squad and be thinking what he can do. For those who are thinking it cannot be that bad, let’s put it into perspective. The 201st ranked nation has not won a game since 2004, and since then they have gained one point in qualifying matches having drawn 0-0 with Estonia in November 2014.
One positive is that all-time top goal scorer Andy Selva will be fit for this match, as the 40-year-old has scored eight goals in 73 caps for his country.
I’m not expecting much from San Marino, but then again I am not expecting them to just roll over and take a thrashing, as they normally line-up as a 5-4-1 making it difficult for nations to break the down.
In hindsight, it will be interesting to see whether Michael O’Neil changes up the formation as he knows goals will be important heading into future games, and a couple here could really help their chances in a play-off spot for November next year. Furthermore, these two nations have only played each other twice before, and Northern Ireland won on both occasions 4-0 and 3-0.
I expect Northern Ireland to win here, but the question is will they score more than three goals? A part of me thinks they will, but then again there attacking options are not great. On the other hand, we are talking about San Marino here. If Mazaroli wants to park the bus, I don’t think it will be long until the doors open and the driver gives way.
Asian Handicap Betting Recommendation: Northern Ireland -3.5 @ 1.93 with Pinnacle
Prices correct at time of writing.