September 3rd 2010
After the good showing at this year’s World Cup, Slovenia players are brimming with confidence and they aim to start the campaign with a resounding win. Northern Ireland are one of the worst travelers in Europe and they haven’t got much to hope for at the start of the Euro 2012 qualifying campaign.
The soccer betting experts ranked Slovenia as outsiders in their World Cup qualifying Group and not only did they reach the play-offs but Matjaz Kek’s side also shocked Russia and managed to qualify for the final tournament. The team missed out on the last 16 stage after USA scored in injury time against Algeria but their showing at the biggest stage will instill further confidence into the side before the push for the place at Euro 2012. Slovenia’s home form leaves nothing to be desired, and after beating teams like Russia, Poland and Slovakia, they have to be considered hot favorites in this match, especially after beating Northern Ireland 2:0 some two years ago. Boss Matjaz Kek has some injury concerns over centre-back Marko Suler, but all other players are fit to play. Slovenia beat Australia 2:0 in their final warm-up game for the competition and that will keep them in good stead before facing Northern Ireland.
Northern Ireland were placed in the same group as their next opponents in the World Cup qualifying and they have been in the running for one of the first two berths, at least for a while. The team finished the campaign in 4th place with 15 points, but they only brought five points from the travels, including the win over minnows San Marino. Boss Nigel Worthington used the friendlies against Serbia, Albania, Turkey, Chile and Montenegro to test some of the new players, but those were hardly a success seeing Northern Ireland lost all the games, failing to score even once. Considering their latest performances away from home and the quality of the players, most of whom are not even first team regulars, the visitors clearly have nothing to hope for before the trip to Slovenia and should be happy to avoid a heavy defeat.
Slovenia have made a big progress over the last few years, as witnessed by their World Cup showing, and their home form have been nothing short of impressive. Northern Ireland, on the other hand, are still struggling to match teams like Slovenia, especially away from home, and they look set to extend the five-match losing run.
Verdict: Home win Slovenia (1)
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