Scotland’s Euro 2016 chances greatly enhanced after slugfest

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It was a mixed bag for the home nations in Friday night’s crop of Euro 2016 qualifying matches, as Scotland’s joy at beating big Group D rivals Republic of Ireland was tempered by Northern Ireland’s defeat to Romania in Group F.

Meanwhile, the other headline makers for all the wrong reasons were 2004 European champions and recent World Cup knock-out stage participants Greece.

Their hopes of making French soil in 2016 were left in ruins following a humiliating loss at home to hugely unfancied Faroe Islands, ensuring the Greeks are now rooted to the foot of Group F with a solitary point to show from four games.

But there’s no doubting the most compelling fixture of the night took place at Celtic Park, where Shaun Maloney’s exquisite curler proved the difference in a gruelling contest between Scotland and Ireland.

Having secured a vital victory from what Scotland boss Gordon Strachan described as a “heavyweight boxing contest” his side drew level with Martin O’Neill’s Ireland on seven points, but climbed above them into third in the group thanks to their current head-to-head record.

Scotland are now priced at 5/4 to qualify from Group D.

World champions Germany also moved onto seven points after brushing aside Gibraltar and stay in second, while a very impressive Poland side thrashed Georgia 4-0 to maintain a three-point gap at the summit.

With two such strong sides ahead of them and third spot equalling a play-off place in the reformed qualifying system for the finals, the magnitude of Scotland’s win over Ireland is put into context, though a trip across the Irish Sea still awaits for Strachan’s men of course.

Northern Ireland’s unexpectedly perfect start to their Group F campaign was given a reality check by Romania, who beat them 2-0 in Bucharest to wrestle top spot from them by a point after four games.

Michael O’Neill’s side are still 11/8 shots to qualify from the group though.

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

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Christian Crowther

Give Christian a sport with anything remotely spherical in it and he’ll happily while away the hours watching it on the box. However, he’d much prefer writing about, playing or betting on golf, football, cricket, tennis, snooker.... you get the picture.