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World Cup Qualification Preview

Ukraine vs France

After a summer of major international tournaments, including the Euros and the Copa America, the national teams are back in action for the first time this season. The September international break sees teams across the globe taking place in World Cup qualifiers ahead of the finals in Qatar in 2022. The UEFA Nations League finals will also take place next week, with Italy vs Spain and Belgium vs France in the semi-finals.

Amongst the European World Cup qualifiers, there are several big fixtures, with teams looking to qualify for next year’s competition. Current holders France face two potentially tricky matches against Bosnia and Herzegovina at home before traveling to face Euros quarter-finalists Ukraine. Euro 2020 winners Italy will hope to continue their extensive unbeaten run against Bulgaria and Switzerland. There is also a big head-to-head between Belgium and the Czech Republic, who both reached the knockout stages of Euro 2020.

All odds are from bet365 and subject to change.


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Slovakia vs Croatia

Slovakia began their Euro 2020 campaign with an impressive 2-1 win against Poland, before losing consecutive matches against Sweden (1-0) and Spain (5-0). The back to back losses marked first defeats for Slovakia in six international matches. Slovakia have been in good form at home in recent matches, losing just four of their last 11 at the National Football Stadium.

Croatia have struggled for consistent form over the last year, winning just five of their last 17. But, Zlatko Dalic’s side were hard to beat at Euro 2020, drawing two of their matches and beating Scotland to reach the last 16. Croatia were eventually eliminated by Spain after coming back twice to draw 3-3 before an eventually 5-3 loss. Away form in Europe has been a constant issue for Croatia recently. They have lost their last four and won just two of their last 16 away.

Juraj Kucka (leg), Martin Dubravka (foot) and Jan Gregus (ankle) are ruled out for Slovakia. Croatia captain Luka Modric is unavailable with an abductor injury.

Slovakia and Croatia showed moments of brilliance at Euro 2020. However, they are both in patchy long-term form and a draw is likely in this fixture.

Slovakia – 11/4

Croatia – 1/1

Draw – 23/10

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Ukraine vs France

Ukraine were considered one of the dark horses leading up to Euro 2020. They appeared to hit form at the right time and entered the tournament on the back of a six-match unbeaten run, which included a 1-1 draw away against France. One win in five Euros matches saw Ukraine tentative progress to the quarter-finals before a 4-0 loss against England. Home form has been a real strength for Ukraine recently and they have lost once in their last 18.

France were unable to repeat their Euro 2016 run, where they reached the final. They were stunned by Switzerland on penalties in the final 16. Coming into the Euros, France had lost just one of their last 23 matches, winning 17 of these fixtures. Didier Deschamps’ side have been hard to beat away, winning eight of their last 10 on the road.

Mykola Shaparenko is suspended for Ukraine. France will be without N’Golo Kante (ankle) and Dayot Upamecano (ankle).

France are favourites to win against Ukraine, and Les Blues are in good overall form. They should bounce back with a victory in this Group D.

Ukraine – 9/2

France – 4/6

Draw – 5/2

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Belgium vs the Czech Republic

Belgium entered Euro 2020 as one of the favourites to win the tournament, but they were eliminated by eventual winners Italy in the quarter-finals. The Red Devils have been one of the most in-form teams in Europe in recent years and their defeat against Italy was their first in 14 matches. Roberto Martinez’s side have not been beaten at home for five years, winning 23 of their last 29 at Stade Rou Baudoin.

The Czech Republic have been in inconsistent form for years, only managing to win more than two games in a row once since 2014. Petr Rada’s side, however, reached the final 16 of the European Championships, losing 2-1 in a close encounter against Denmark. Consistency away from home has also been an issue for the Czechs as they have lost four of their last five on the road.

Belgium defender Hannes Delcroix is out with a knee injury. Ondrej Kolar and Ondrej Kudela are ruled out for the Czech Republic.

With the Czech Republic out of form, there should be one-way traffic for Belgium in this Group E qualifier.

Belgium – 4/11

Czech Republic – 7/1

Draw – 15/4

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Switzerland vs Italy

Switzerland have been in impressive form recently, reaching the quarter-finals or Euro 2020 and losing just once in their last ten (not including extra time). The Swiss stunned France and took Spain to penalties in their Euros knockout matches, but their only loss in the tournament was against Italy in the group stages (3-0). Switzerland have been in good home form recently, winning their last five and losing one of their last 10 at St Jakob Park.

Italy returns to action in Group C after their Euro 2020 victory. The Azzuri went unbeaten in the tournament, which extended their overall unbeaten run to 34 matches in international matches and includes 12 wins in their last 15. One more win or draw would level the Italians with Spain and Brazil for the longest-ever unbeaten run in international football (35).

Switzerland have a full squad available. Italy will be without Andrea Belotti (tendon injury) and Domenico Berardi (knock).

Italy should continue their impressive unbeaten run with a victory against Switzerland. But a tight scoreline could separate these two sides.

Switzerland – 3/1

Italy – 10/11

Draw – 12/5

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