The international break is here. Sigh. But wait. As the Euro 2016 qualifiers return to our schedules there should be a genuine interest in upcoming results, especially for fans of British football.
The five Home Nations – England, Republic of Ireland, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales – have never all qualified for the same major tournament before.
Yet as they strap their socks up for another dose of international football all five are in strong positions to book a place in France.
Here’s how they’ve fared so far and what lies ahead:
Expected wins over Andorra and Cyprus were backed up with credible draws over the group’s two favourites, Bosnia and Belgium, to leave Chris Coleman’s boys one point off top spot.
They have a trip to group-leading Israel next, priced up at 10/3 for victory for Ladbrokes, but will eye the home game against Belgium in June and October’s trip to Bosnia as the pivotal outings as far as their qualification is concerned.
An over-reliance on Gareth Bale, who has scored half of their four goals, is a worry though.
Both Scotland and Republic of Ireland are, along with Germany, locked on seven points in what is the most intriguing battle of the qualifiers.
Competition rules dictates that points gained between teams that are tied is the first divider, so Germany’s 2-1 win over Gordon Strachan’s side puts them in second, while the Scots’ slim victory over the Irish gives them the advantage.
As it stands, Martin O’Neill’s men will miss out on France, with Scotland advancing as the best third-place team.
A six-point gap at the top, thanks to four wins in four, gives Roy Hodgson’s England a rosy outlook as they return to Euro action.
Having already travelled to Switzerland, their toughest assignment is already in the books and the Three Lions host Lithuania next as 1/8 favourites.
A first competitive away win since 2010 gave Northern Ireland a dream start to proceedings. Another road win, against Greece, sandwiched the triumph over the Faroe Islands to leave Michael O’Neill’s men second in the table, one point behind Romania.
They are 6/4 for a fourth victory, against Finland, next.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.
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