Weblog: The football punter

Different shaped balls, same old story...

EURO 2016 football is back with a feel of the Rugby World Cup about it.

Huge games for Scotland, Ireland and Wales coming up but just a dead rubber for England. Different shaped balls, same old story.

More of England’s non-event against Estonia at another time.

First up, we’ve got the Scots trying to get something off Poland while Ireland try to do likewise against the Germans in their ding-dong, dull as ditchwater battle for third place in Group Whatever.

Who’s going to blink first in the battle to qualify for the right to play Ibiza in a playoff for next summer’s European Championship, a competition unique in that it has more places up for grabs than there are countries in the continent.

Yet still Scotland won’t make it. They reckon a point off the Poles will be good enough on the grounds that Ireland won’t beat either Germany or Poland in their last two games.

Part two of that scenario is probably true, but I reckon Poland will win at Hampden anyway and means the Scots, like fellow football powers Andorra, Gibraltar and the Isle of Sheppey, can have a well-earned summer off.

The other big game on the opening night of the Euros is Northern Ireland against Greece.

When you look at Leicester it’s hard to quite get your head around what Claudio Ranieri did in such a short space of time to turn the Greeks into one of Europe’s worst teams, but the Northern Irish lads will be hoping since his departure the 2004 champs haven’t gone and improved.

Since the only goal they’ve scored in their last eight internationals was a consolation goal away to the Faroes, I think it’s fair to say they haven’t. All aboard the Michael O’Neill express.

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Match in Focus

19:45 Th 8Oct SS5

N Ireland v Greece

Home Win Draw Away Win
Key stats
  • Northern Ireland are unbeaten at home in qualifying
Expert verdict
Northern Ireland host Greece at Windsor Park knowing that victory is enough to guarantee them a ticket to France. The hosts have got plenty of players missing through injury and suspension, but Greece are a pale imitation of the side who shocked Europe to win the 2004 Championship.