Pre-tournament friendlies aren’t always the easiest to generate excitement for, with supporters itching for the competitive action to begin, but Martin O’Neill has thought of a unique workaround for that problem.
The Republic of Ireland boss has decided to wait until the immediate aftermath of his side’s Tuesday night friendly with Belarus in Cork to confirm his 23-man squad for Euro 2016, breaking the news to all the players being cut in the short interlude between the final whistle and the deadline.
So there is no doubting how seriously the hosts will be taking the fixture and it is consequently no surprise that they are billed as 4/7 favourites for the victory, with the draw 13/5 and the visitors 11/2.
Belarus shouldn’t provide the most formidable opposition. Though they performed to their seeding in Euro 2016 qualifying, finishing fourth in Group C with 11 points from ten matches, they are in poor form, going four games without a goal and laying down 3-0 for Northern Ireland at Windsor Park on Friday.
By contrast, the Boys in Green are unbeaten in five since the start of November and have lost just once in 13. O’Neill’s men have also led at the interval in three of their past four fixtures, only being denied by a 45th-minute Paul McShane own goal in the other, so 6/4 on them being ahead at half time and full time will appeal to many.
Goals are not expected to flow too freely, with under 2.5 a 4/7 shot, and it is easy to understand why. As mentioned, Belarus haven’t netted in four outings, with their latest five delivering a mere four goals in total.
Republic of Ireland haven’t been shut out in ten contests, yet they haven’t scored more than two in the eight since they were last paired with Gibraltar, firing once on six occasions and twice on two.
Therefore, a more attractive option than simply backing unders at odds-on is to nibble on the 1-0 home win at 4/1 and the 2-0 at 5/1.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.