Soccer Europe Qualification Matches 24 March 2023
Bosnia & Herzegovina vs Iceland - Match Preview
Bosnia and Herzegovina are gearing up for their first piece of competitive action since September when they were humbled 4-1 by Romania in the UEFA Nations League. That loss mustn’t detract from the fact a six-match unbeaten run preceded it (W4, D2), hinting that there’s more fighting spirit in this Bosnian camp than their most recent outing suggests.
That’s something that should boost new manager Faruk Hadžibegić’s belief, having been appointed at the beginning of 2023 and handed one clear assignment, to get Bosnia to their first-ever European Championship finals. His new side has won each of their last four matches on home turf, and securing a fifth in succession here would certainly get their campaign off to the perfect start, although it should be noted that they’re already assured at least a qualification play-off spot based on their Nations League ranking.
Having reached the Euro finals in 2016, it’s been a bitterly disappointing spell in terms of tournament qualification for Iceland who failed to secure a spot at the delayed Euro 2020 and missed out on a place in the 2022 World Cup after that. Form goes some way to explaining why they’re not necessarily fancied to change that this time around with just two 90-minute wins since the beginning of last year (D9, L5).
While there’s not much improvement on that record when you focus just on Iceland’s away form considering they’re without a 90-minute win in their last six away outings, it’s certainly worth noting that they’ve secured victories in their opening travelling games in each of their last two qualifying cycles - 2-0 vs Andorra in 2019 and 3-0 vs Latvia in 2014.
📋 Players to watch: All-time top Bosnian scorer Edin Džeko (G64) has managed just two club goals in 2023, but has netted three goals across his last three international matches. Iceland will hope midfielder Jóhann Berg Guðmundsson can bring with him some of the creative prowess that has seen him register five club assists in 2023 for Burnley.
⚡ Hot stat: Four of Bosnia’s last five home matches finished by the same 1-0 scoreline (W3, L1).
Denmark vs Finland - Match Preview
Boss Kasper Hjulmand hopes his Denmark side can put a disappointing FIFA World Cup behind them as their Euro 2024 qualifying campaign gets underway. The manager admits his side’s performance at Qatar 2022 was “not good enough” as they failed to win a single game (D1, L2), despite being well-fancied to go deep into the tournament after an impressive UEFA Nations League campaign.
Their hopes of returning to winning ways are hindered by injuries to two key players, the talismanic Christian Eriksen and key marksman Andreas Skov Olsen, but Rasmus Kristensen, originally omitted due to his lack of first-team football for Leeds, has been selected in his place and notably scored in a Premier League win over Wolves on Saturday. He will aim to help the Red and Whites extend their superb record against Scandinavian rivals Finland, to whom they have lost just twice since 1966 (W16, D8)!
Despite that poor H2H record, the Finns have fond memories of playing Denmark, as they registered their first-ever victory at a major tournament against them (1-0 at Euro 2020). Manager Markku Kanerva seems to think a repeat result is unlikely, however, after describing the Danes as “the early favourites” to win the group.
The Eagle-owls’ recent form would back up that sentiment, as they have picked up just two victories across their last 13 outings (D5, L6), both of which were against Montenegro. They also have a worrying poor away record in away European Championship qualifiers, with their six victories in 21 matches since mid-2006 all coming against teams outside of FIFA’s top 30 in the rankings (D6, L9) - Denmark is currently ranked in 18th place.
📋 Key battle: Denmark captain Simon Kjær has only lost one of his previous 13 home European Championship qualifiers (W9, D3). He will be hoping to keep Finland star Teemu Pukki quiet as the striker looks to add to his ten goals in his last eight European Championship qualifiers (W5, L3).
⚡ Hot streak: Only one of Denmark’s last eight home games has seen both teams score.
Italy vs England - Match Preview
Rewind a little under two years and it was Italy and England playing out the delayed Euro 2020 final. Still, with Euro 2024 rapidly approaching, they’ve been drawn alongside each other at the qualification stage. The two are widely tipped to take Group C’s top-two spots, but with the psychological advantage of a six-game unbeaten run against England (W3, D3), Italy may fancy they can stamp some early authority on top-spot.
Giacomo Raspadori scored the winning goal for Italy in the last H2H, a 1-0 win in the Nations League, and incredibly he wasn’t even born when Italy last lost at home in a European qualifier! That defeat came to Denmark in 1999, and the Italian’s strong qualifying affiliation is further highlighted by the fact you’d have to go back to 2006 for the last time Italy tasted defeat in a Euro qualifier anywhere (W34, D6), winning the last 14 of those.
Despite lamenting the number of players he has to choose from, England boss Gareth Southgate was still able to select a 25-man squad of players who play week in and week out at the highest level. Some might say that Southgate is getting his excuses in early after a disappointing Nations League relegation and World Cup quarter-final exit left a portion of the England fan base questioning whether he’s the man for the job.
The pressure is truly on to deliver a major European trophy to England for the first time since 1966, but Southgate has proved he can rise to pressure and is now just one win away from becoming the third manager to win 50 games in charge of England. But he appears to have his work cut out to secure that feat here, with England’s last away win against Italy coming back in 1961 - a 3-2 friendly victory decided by a late Jimmy Greaves goal.
📋 Players to watch: Vincenzo Grifo was involved in all three of Italy’s goals scored in the November 2022 international break and he averages a goal involvement every 61 minutes for Italy. Equally as prolific, Harry Kane needs one more goal to overtake Wayne Rooney (53 goals) as England’s all-time leading scorer.
⚡ Hot stat: Italy have scored exactly once in four of the last five H2Hs.
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