Scotland set to stifle fellow improvers Northern Ireland

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If the Nations Cup, the supposed biennial tournament involving Scotland, Republic of Ireland, Wales and Northern Ireland that was discontinued after one edition due to small attendances, were held today, it’s conceivable that the competition would prove a far greater hit with supporters.

The improvement of all four of those sides since the one and only running of that event, won by the Republic of Ireland with a perfect winning record, is evidenced by their strong showings in the ongoing Euro 2016 qualifying campaign.

Before Scotland and Northern Ireland can turn their attentions onto booking a place in France, the pair must square off in an international friendly at Hampden Park.

Gordan Strachan’s hosts put a five-game, 34-year unbeaten run against Michael O’Neill’s men on the line, although that trend doesn’t quite hold weight when it’s considered that their last meeting came in the now defunct Nations Cup.

Ladbrokes make Scotland the 4/5 favourites for victory, with Northern Ireland an 18/5 poke and the draw available at 12/5. Based on current form, those prices are completely fair.

The Green and White Army are holding their own in Group F of the Euro 2016 qualifiers, winning three times in four outings. However, those games are the only victories they have gained in their last 12 matches.

Away from home their record stands at two wins in the last 20, with 13 losses. Conversely, Scotland have only lost once in their last five.

That one loss came in a friendly last time out, against an England side that Strachan said surprised the Scots with their intensity.

The spiky manager insisted his side won’t repeat that underestimation again. Considering the Three Lions are the only team to score at Hampden Park in that five-game run, 13/20 on under 2.5 match goals looks a strong play.

All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.

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Matt Wiggins

No idyllic sound comes close to leather on willow for Matt, whose previous experience includes stints with Spin Magazine and Surrey County Cricket Club. It's not just cricket that interests him though, with football, golf, tennis and any American sport not played on ice all high on his list of favourites.