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New Era for English Football in World Cup Qualifier

YET another new era in English football starts at Wembley on Saturday when Gareth Southgate takes charge of the England national team for the first time against the minnows of Malta in their World Cup Qualifier clash on Saturday.

As introductions to international football go, well this is about as easy as it can get for the former Middlesbrough boss with England the heavy 1.03 to get the new boss off to a winning start.

Malta are the 101.0 rank outsiders to produce ‘the’ biggest shock in international football and on the evidence of their 5-1 drubbing at home to Scotland in their Group F opener a £10 bet on Malta at 101.0 will see you lose a tenner.

I don’t think this will be as convincing as many expect though.

The Scotland defeat was the first time that Malta have conceded more than three goals in their last 11 competitive internationals and the visitors look set to park the Maltese bus in front of their goal at Wembley and hope to frustrate their more illustrious opponents.

The “Three Lions” have taken a time to break down resolute defensives at Wembley in recent matches with San Marino, but once they do get the opening goal others will follow very quickly.

The bookies have 4-0 the most likely England win at 6.50, but I prefer the 3-0 success at 7.50 with Paddy Power as I expect a whole host of substitutes in the second half, once victory is guaranteed, to disrupt the tempo of the game.

Scotland v Lithuania

SCOTLAND will be looking to continue their fine World Cup winning start to Group F on Saturday when they host Lithuania at Hampden Park.

The Scots hammered England’s opponents Malta 5-1 in their group opener, and now that they are back on home turf they will be far too strong for a Lithuania side that have only won once in their last eight internationals.

Hampden Park has become a fortress for the Scottish national side; it is a venue they’ve only lost at twice (against Germany and England) in three years on their own patch, and I can’t see Lithuania troubling the Tartan Army.

Gordon Strachan’s side are at general 1.50 for the win, and that looks a banker bet and will feature in my weekend accumulator.

These two nations are no strangers to each other having faced-off eight times previously in qualification with Lithuania winning just once way back in 2003.

In the most recent meeting at Hampden Park Scotland edged it 1-0 in 2011; in the last two meetings between the two nations Lithuania have failed to score, so I can’t see them scoring in this latest renewal, and a Scotland win to nil at a general 2.10 looks another very nice bet.

Northern Ireland v San Marino

Northern Ireland host San Marino at Windsor Park in the final match on Saturday night in another very one-sided qualifier.

The Northern Irish would never have been as short as 1.03 to win a World Cup qualifier, and that is the tiny odds on offer for Michael O’Neil’s side at the weekend to beat a side rated 211 on the current FIFA World rankings.

The two things that are certain in this match is Northern Ireland will win and San Marino won’t score.

San Marino have only managed TWO goals in their last 20 international matches so an Ireland win to nil at 1.22 with Coral is a certainty, but again offers no value to small staking players.

The pair have met twice previously in World Cup qualifying in 2008 and 2009, and at Windsor Park the Irish came out 4-0 winners and that is the joint favourite score-line again at 6.0 with Paddy Power alongside 3-0 which is the same price; of the two, a 3-0 Irish win would be my preference.

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