It’s crunch time for a whole clutch of teams across the continent as the first set of Euro 2020 play-offs begin this week.
16 teams must be whittled down to four ahead of next summer’s tournament, but which eight nations will live to fight another day and advance to the final play-off games in November?
We’re back with our latest Euro 2020 betting tips…
Euro 2020 Qualifiers Betting Preview | Thursday 8th October
Georgia vs Belarus, 17:00
With Path D arguably providing all four play-off sides with the least complicated route to securing a Euro 2020 spot, Georgia look to be in the box-seat here given the bonus of home advantage in Tbilisi. The Georgians cruised to victory in League D Group 1 to secure their play-off berth, remaining undefeated and winning five of their six games.
Vladimír Weiss’s charges also proved no pushovers in narrow defeats to Switzerland and Croatia towards the end of last year, but will need to be on guard against a Belarus side currently in the winning habit on the road after a hat-trick of wins against Uzbekistan, Bulgaria and Kazakhstan.
Bosnia and Herzegovina vs Northern Ireland, 19:45
Talk about a tough inheritance. If new Northern Ireland boss Ian Baraclough wasn’t aware of the dauting task confronting him after replacing the legendary Michael O’Neill, the sobering 5-1 home defeat to Norway in their last outing will have been a brutal reality check. Northern Ireland will need to be back to their battling best to stand any chance of extending their Euro 2020 dreams into November.
However, the Green and White Army will at least arrive in Zenica in the knowledge that the home side have been in patchy form over the last year, winning just one of their last five outings. It could all swing on how much success Baraclough has had on the training ground in tightening up his uncharacteristically leaky defence. If he hasn’t, the evergreen Edin Džeko could quickly break Northern Irish hearts.
Bulgaria vs Hungary, 19:45
Improving Hungary will be looking to overpower shot-shy Bulgaria in Sofia with the winner of this tie set to fight it out with Iceland or Romania in November’s final.
The home side will be hoping to turn this game into a war of attrition after notching just one international win since October 2018 and scoring just twice in their last seven outings.
A lack of consistency ultimately cost Hungary an automatic spot at Euro 2020 as they won four and lost four in the group stages, but they caught the eye last month with an impressive 1-0 win in Turkey in the Nations League.
Iceland vs Romania, 19:45
Can Iceland manager Erik Hamrén extract one last heave from his ageing golden generation? While the gloss of Euro 2016 is steadily fading into the distance, Iceland’s stubborn performance in the 1-0 defeat to England was a reminder that this side can still acquit themselves admirably against the continent’s elite.
A play-off clash against a Romania side vying to be the ‘next Iceland’ themselves could be the last stand for Hamrén’s ageing squad. Defeats to experienced campaigners Sweden and Spain aside, Romania have been on a something of a roll since the start of 2018, losing just four of 22 outings.
This could be their moment.
North Macedonia vs Kosovo, 19:45
Two of this year’s play-off minnows could move within 90 minutes of a first major international tournament as they go head-to-head in Skopje on Thursday night. This looks a relatively even contest on paper, with both sides showing they have the capacity to punch above their weight en-route to this play-off meeting.
Kosovo beat the Czech Republic and gave England an almighty scare in securing a credible third in Group A of the qualifiers, while North Macedonia arguably overperformed in edging out Slovenia and Israel to secure third in Group G.
The home side are currently in better form, however, and that could tilt the tie in their favour.
Norway vs Serbia, 19:45
Away from the Home Nations, this looks to be the play-off tie of the round for watching neutrals.
With the electric Erling Braut Haaland leading the line, and the hugely experienced Lars Lagerbäck at the helm, this really could be the year Norway can finally end over 20 years of hurt in international football, having failed to reach any major tournament since Euro 2000. This will be a stern examination of whether they merit their long-awaited return to the big stage.
Serbia have yet to qualify for the Euros since making their bow as an independent nation, but tend to be wily operators on the road, forcing both Germany and Portugal to settle draws and losing just twice in 11 games on their travels.
Scotland vs Israel, 19:45
Steve Clarke is a man under some pressure with Scotland following an underwhelming return to action for the Tartan Army since the resumption of football. Can he restore some confidence by sending the Scots into touching distance of a first major tournament since Euro ’98?
Belief in their chances was hardly boosted by their inability to see off a significantly understrength Czech Republic in their warm-up for this fixture, while their last meeting with Israel only a month ago ended in an underwhelming 1-1 draw.
Fortunately for Clarke, Israel’s form is hardly anything to write home about either, with the away side picking up just one win in nine outings. It’ll likely to be a tense evening that leaves Scotland fans watching from behind the sofa, but they should have just enough to squeak through.
Slovakia vs Republic of Ireland, 19:45
The play-off action is brought to a head in Bratislava, with Ireland boss Stephen Kenny eyeing up his first win just when it really matters.
The Irish are bidding to reach the European Championships for a third tournament in a row, but have been handed a sticky play-off semi-final to navigate against Slovakia, who missed out an automatic spot by just a single point in a nip-and-tuck Group E.
A lack of goals throughout the side remains ROI’s major Achilles’ heel. Their chances of progression could rest on keeping things tight and catching a lucky break here.
Odds correct at time of writing but may be subject to change.