It’s a table topping clash in Group H of the Euro 2012 Qualifiers as surprise group leaders Norway take on second place Portugal, on Saturday night. Portugal have the star studded squad and will be keen to show they can play.
As it stands; Norway top Group H with 10 points from four games (three wins and a draw) and Portugal are close behind on seven points (two wins a draw and a loss). The difference between them is the 1-0 victory that Norway inflicted on the Portuguese last September. That night in Oslo was one of the oddities of football as the Portuguese side peppered the Norwegian goal with shots (14 in total) but couldn’t find a way through. By comparison the Norwegians only managed three shots, one on target, yet scored a goal, utterly against the run of play and won the game. 

For a team as impressive (on paper) as Portugal, things have not gone as they should in this campaign. However the bookmakers have decided that enough is enough and it should be goals galore for Portugal from here on, and I for one agree with them. In this match Bodog have a Portugal win at -275 and a Norway win at +800 in the soccer odds

Cometh the hour; cometh the underdogs?

Tempting as +800 is I can’t see Norway beating Portugal again, especially with their home advantage and the importance this fixture has for qualification to Euro 2012. If your soccer betting morals will not allow you to back Portugal or you can’t stand short odds, go for the draw at +333.

Portugal welcomes back a couple of big names that should smooth their route to victory. Firstly there’s 30-year-old Málaga CF midfielder Duda, who should bring a bit of maturity and calm to the Portuguese midfield, plus Cristiano Ronaldo is also back after missing the last two Portuguese games (both just friendlies) played in March this year.

Goals galore?

The smart money, and the worst odds are on a comfortable Portugal win, Paddy Power have a home win at 1/3, while bet365 have it at 4/11.

As for the winning marginm, 888sport have there being one or less goals at +240, 2 or 3 at -110 and what might just tempt you is their offer of four of more goals at +225. Looking beyond that defeat to Norway, Portugal have scored four goals once (a 4-4 draw against Cyprus) and three goals twice (3-1 both times) against Spain and Iceland, in these Qualifiers. With the aforementioned home advantage we could well see three or four goals scored. 

Portugal will want to restore a bit of order to their Qualifying campaign, and a win in this six-pointer would be just the tonic. Norway should be over awed by their success as they haven’t made it past the Qualifiers since UEFA EURO 2000, but with Egil Olsen back in charge they have risen in the FIFA rankings from 59th in 2009 to 11th at time of press and they justifiably sit atop the Group H Table, having conceded just a single goal (so far).  

Olsen won’t be resting on his laurels and he appreciates the task that lies ahead of his players, "In my opinion, Portugal are the world's best national team at the moment," he said. "The best evidence to back that up is the way they beat Spain 4-0. The team is vastly improved from when we beat them." 

It’s second time around for Olsen as; he took a controversial hiatus his nation’s squad and managed the Iraqi National team in 2007. It was an unusual and farcical appointment in the end as despite a three year contract Olsen was ignobly sacked after less than a year.  It was good news for Norway, as he returned to manage the squad in January 2009, and the team has blossomed under his supervision. First time round Olsen guided Norway to their first FIFA World Cup, and he continues to build a strong team. Their victories against Iceland, Portugal and Cyprus, plus a hard-fought draw with Denmark, have put them where they are today, but that doesn’t mean they’ll best Portugal (twice). All good things must come to an end, and I fear that Portugal will prove too much for Norway and take the match. If you want to get creative you can go for Portugal winning both halves at just +100 or a draw at half time with the game ending with a Portugal win at a more profitable +333.

There’s an additional incentive for the Portuguese ahead of Saturday’s match in Lisbon, as (third place) Denmark, – who are level with Portugal on points (yet 2 goals worse off), will be taking on bottom-placed Iceland, and will be expected to win (by at least 2 goals). There are a number of Euro 2012 Qualifiers going on this week with England vs. Switzerland and Germany vs. Austria some of the picks and a USA vs. Spain friendly to enjoy as well.

Prediction: Portugal win 3-0