Friends Arena in Solna, Sweden is the site of this Matchday 2 game between Russia and Sweden. This Group G match is more important to Sweden than it is to Russia with some tough odds.
Sweden vs. Russia, Thursday, (Fox Soccer Plus/Fox Soccer 2Go (USA)/Sky Go Extra/Sky Go/Sky Sports Red Button (UK), 20:45CET 2:45 p.m. ET/11:45 a.m. PT): This Group G Matchday 2 meeting in Solna, Sweden—a northern suburb of Stockholm voted The Best Place To Live in Sweden in a 2013 poll by Fokus magazine—will be much more important to the hosts Sweden (0-1-0, 1 point 0 GD) than it will for the visitors Russia (1-0-0, 3 points, +4 GD) as a loss here for the Blågult (The Blue-Yellow) would leave them sitting with just 1 point with 4 games to go in the qualifying phase of this UEFA Euro 2016 tournament in which 23 teams will join host France which has already automatically qualified for Euro 2016. Qualification ends next November (2015).
Oddsmakers have left no real opening for value in most of their numbers for this game, unless you’re interested in gambling that there will be (at least) a third goal and take the Total Goals Over 2½ +140 (bet365; Under -187) with the healthy plus and that seems somewhat wise until you remember most of these players are coming off of club play last weekend and 1) May only have so much strength in their legs right now, 2) May be playing at less than 100% knowing it’s a qualifier and that that injuring themselves in such a situation (Example England’s Daniel Sturridge) could ultimately hurt their bottoms lines and playing time(s) and 3) Some might not even be playing. So, all of this sheer ambivalence and absence is hard to work into a handicap, but at least the site (Solna) and the motivation will be in Sweden’s favor, so betting the Draw No Bet Sweden -129 (BetVictor; Russia +105) for the smallest of amounts seems like the most logical and safest way to go in a game that honestly isn’t the best type of fixture to try to make money on. Sweden (+140, bet365) is the obvious soccer odds Favorite here on Thursday, with Russia the Underdog at +210 and the Draw also priced at +210. And this is the type of game in which a Draw (0-0, 1-1, 2-2) is very, very possible (0-0 6/1 at BetVictor, 1-1 is 7/1 and 2-2 is 20/1; Correct Score prop). And, the Both Teams To Score prop is priced at Yes +105, No -142 at William Hill.
The Blågult (FIFA ranking #32) gutted out a 1-1 tie against Austria in Vienna in their Group G Matchday 1 opener so Sweden manager Erik Hamrén knows this a huge match in terms of not falling too far behind in the group so defenders Mikael Lustig and Erik Johansson and midfielder alexander Kacaniklic have all been called up for both this fixture as well as Matchday 3 against Liechtenstein here again in Solna (Oct. 12). This is a national team that does, and should expect to qualify from this group. But beating Russia here won’t be easy. Forward and team captain Zlatan Ibrahimovic will be the one big name in this game most will be watching and the Swedes will look to the big man (6’5”) and Paris Saint-Germain star to set the tone up top against the Russian defense which will be put to a test here after getting walkover Liechtenstein in its first game. Besides Ibrahimovic, Sweden will need Kim Källström (FC Spartak Moscow), Johan Elmander (Brøndby IF), Kim Källström (FC Spartak Moskva), Jimmy Durmaz (Olympiacos FC) and Erkan Zengin (Eskisehirspor)—who scored Sweden’s lone goal at Austria on Matchday 1—to all contribute on the attack. In goal, Sweden went with Andreas Isaksson (Kasimpasa SK) against Austria.
Russia (FIFA rank 23) and manager Fabio Capello won its first game 4-0 over Liechtenstein in Moscow on Matchday 1 but benefitted from two own goals in jumping to the top of Group G. Midfielder Dmitri Kombarov and forward Artem Dzyuba scored for the Russians and with guys like Aleksandr Kerzhakov and Alan Dzagoev, the Both Teams To Score prop and the Total Goals Over 2½ look enticing and two potential decent plays here in this qualifier. But are they really worth a bet or bets here? The teams have met five times if the UEFA age-group competitions with Russia holding a 3-1-1 edge while in 16 total UEFA competitions, the Russians hold an impressive 9-3-4 edge. The last time they met was in UEFA Euro 2008, where goals by Roman Pavlyuchenko and Andrey Arshavin launched Russia into the Knockout Phase of the tournament with a 2-0 win and sent Sweden home. Russia will depend on CSKA Moscow club teammates Igor Akinfeev (goalkeeper) and Vasili Berezutski (defender) in the back to stifle Sweden’s talented attackers on offense, especially Ibrahimovic, if he’s in there.
With a majority of players on both national squads here coming off club play in the last four or five days in a World Cup year, it’s just too hard to suggest backing the Total Goals Over 2½ despite the perceived value (in the juice at +140, bet365) and even the Both Teams To Score prop could be affected by this potential lack of stamina, although then possibly second- and third-string players would come in and try to do their things. And in such a potentially low- and maybe no-scoring game—especially a qualifier—taking a shot on an Anytime Goalscorer also seems like an exercise in futility and a probable waste of money. Instead, either staying completely away from the game or maybe making a small soccer pick on the Draw No Bet Sweden -129 (BetVictor) is the way to go with Sweden at home, having to at least not lose (in theory) and providing a reality where the gambler/punter wouldn’t lose should this match end in a Draw (+210, bet365) a real possibility.
Free Soccer Pick: Draw No Bet Sweden -129 at Bet365