2010 World Cup qualifiers in Europe
Betting on which countries will qualify for the FIFA football World Cup in South Africa in 2010 is well underway, with the first round of European qualifying matches set to kick off in just a few weeks.
Most European countries, including the home nations of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, and the Republic of Ireland, start their World Cup campaigns on 6 September 2008. The qualification campaign actually begins with a match between Kazakhstan and Andorra on 20 August.
UEFA’s member nations have been divided into eight groups of six teams and one group of five, with the nine group winners qualifying and the next-best eight teams facing two-leg play-offs to ensure qualification.
England are favourites to go through from the home nations, with punters betting on England to qualify at odds of 1/4. The Three Lions are 11/4 not to make it to World Cup 2010.
England will be looking for revenge over Croatia, who knocked them out of Euro 2008, and will expect to win all their home games against Belarus, Andorra, Ukraine and Kazakhstan.
The journeys into the former Soviet Union could all be tough, but it will be a major upset if Fabio Capello’s men don't qualify for the final stages of internatonal football's biggest tournament.
Scotland are odds of 7/4 to qualify for the World Cup (2/5 not to qualify), while there are odds of 12/1 about Wales making the trip to South Africa.
Wales will not be expected to get much from football matches against Russia and Germany, although their fans will see their games against Finland, Azerbaijan and Liechtenstein as winnable. Scotland are in the five-team group along with Macedonia, the Netherlands, Iceland and Norway.
Northern Ireland, who were so unlucky in Euro 2008 qualifying having beaten the eventual European champions Spain early in the tournament, are 11/2 to qualify, and 1/10 not to qualify. Northern Ireland will face tough games against Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Slovenia as well as a slightly easier brace of matches against the minnows of San Marino.
Spain are the leading European nation in the 2010 World Cup outright betting, currently trading at odds of 13/2. World Champions Italy are 10/1 along with the redoubtable Germans.
Holland are odds of 11/1, as are England, while 1998 World Cup winners France are 16/1. Cristiano Ronaldo’s Portugal are 18/1, and Russia are 25/1. The other European nations are 40/1 bar.
Scotland and the Republic of Ireland are both 250/1 while Wales and Northern Ireland are 1,000/1 in the outright betting.