Bosnia and Herzegovina v Republic of Ireland – Bilino Polje, Zenica at 19:45 live on Sky Sports 1
In terms of form, Bosnia come into this match on a 3 game winning streak. The home side finished 3rd in Group B, behind Belgium and Wales, with wins against Andorra, Wales and most recently a 3-2 victory Cyprus. The latter result enabled Bosnia to reach the play-offs and somewhat surprisingly, their good work was achieved without their star striker Eden Dzeko, who has missed most of the qualification campaign through injury. However, last week Dzeko returned from injury and entered Roma’s starting lineup and has already scored 2 goals in his last 2 matches.
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The Republic of Ireland on the other hand were tasked with beating Poland in their final qualification game, although this was always going to be a tough task. The game ultimately ended in defeat for O’Neill’s side, although getting to the play-off stages in such a tough group is a big achievement in itself. Ireland have done extremely well to finish in 3rd place behind Germany and Poland and most memorably, their Euro 2016 qualification campaign saw them victorious over World Champions Germany, by a single goal to nil. Other notable results included victories against Gibraltar and Georgia. Ireland will certainly come into this game full of confidence after several impressive performances, although unfortunately John O’Shea and Jon Walters are suspended for the 1st leg and only time will tell how costly their absence may be. Shane Long is also a doubt for the away side.
Interestingly, Bosnia have never made it through to the European finals before, although 2 years ago they made their debut in the World Cup in Rio. Their hopes of qualifying for Euro 2012 however were dashed when Portugal thrashed them 6-2. Ireland on the other hand featured in the play-offs in the run up to this previous European tournament and were successful, beating Estonia 5-1 over the 2 legs and progressing to the finals.
These two sides have only faced each other once before and on this occasion the Republic of Ireland came out 1-0 winners in a 2012 friendly. Despite this, Bosnia are the favourites to get the win in this 1st leg and taking into account their impressive run of results and the fact that they are at home, I would expect them to win this match. However, a low scoring draw could also be on the cards and as Bosnia Draw No Bet lacks value at 1.41, I recommend backing under 2.5 goals on the Asian Handicap betting market.
Asian Handicap Betting Recommendation: Under 2.5 goals @ 1.67 with Eastbridge Soccer Betting Broker
Prices correct at time of writing.