The Netherlands need three points in Belarus on Saturday to keep their 2018 World Cup qualification alive.
Dick Advocaat’s side are four points behind leaders France and three behind Sweden heading into their final two games. Such is the difficult spot that they are in, the nation that finished third three years ago are as long as 40/1 to win the tournament next summer.
Six points for the French against Bulgaria and Belarus would guarantee their place in Russia 2018.
Sweden host Luxembourg on Saturday in a game they will run out comfortable winners. So as long as things go according to plan for the top two, anything but three points for the Dutch will see them eliminated.
The Netherlands were comfortable 4-1 winners against Saturday’s opponents a year ago and with odds of 1/4 they are widely expected to get the job done in Eastern Europe too.
Belarus actually prop up the group having given up four points to Luxembourg.
Former-Tottenham striker Vincent Janssen is expected to lead the line in Minsk and is 11/4 to open the scoring with Sun Bets first goalscorer odds. Bayern Munich winger Arjen Robben has looked lively in qualifying and is the same price to open the scoring in this game.
Advocaat’s side got off to a quick start in their last qualifier when Davy Propper scored inside seven minutes in their 3-1 win over Bulgaria. You can expect them to take the game to Belarus as early as the first minute this weekend making odds of 8/11 to lead at half-time/full-time a valuable bet to consider.
Southampton’s Virgil van Dijk made the squad for this week’s game despite having only made his first start of the season in Saturday’s 2-1 loss at Stoke City. The centre-back looked a few yards off the pace which included the concession of a lazy penalty in a lazy defensive effort in the penalty area.
Club teammate Wesley Hoedt is also in the squad and could be the starting centre-back partnership in Belarus. Joel Veltman is also in the squad as are the inexperienced trio of Matthijs de Ligt, Nathan Ake and Karim Rekik.
In attack, Arjen Robben has more than twice as many caps as every outfield player in the current squad bar Daley Blind. He’s a goal threat in his own right but will have either Vincent Janssen or Bas Dost as the striker. Advocaat has other useful attacking weapons in Memphis Depay and Jurgen Locadia. Davy Propper scored a brace last time out and Georginio Wijnaldum is a decent threat from further back.
Provided Netherlands win in Belarus as expected then they will host Sweden on Tuesday in a game they would need to win to overtake the Scandinavians. A draw in Sweden last year means victory for the Oranje midweek win the head-to-head battle.
The Netherlands are currently 8/13 to beat Sweden on Tuesday 10 October. Sweden are in a much better position that many would have expected at the start of qualifying – one point off top spot. That was aided by a 2-1 win over France following a Hugo Lloris clanger. They were beaten in France and Bulgaria and only 1-0 winners in Luxembourg, suggesting their away performances are below bar.
Marcus Berg is their best striker but only has 14 goals in 49 appearances at senior international level. That’s three more than Ola Toivonen whom I am not a fan of. John Guidetti only has one international goal in his 19 games.
Emil Forsberg is the star in midfield and really the only one that offers a goal threat from open play. Sebastian Larsson should be looking to get closer to 100 caps in this game. As the Netherlands have not been defended well in qualification the visitors should see some sights on goal.
Sweden’s three goalkeepers are all in their late 20s but Robin Olsen is the most experienced with only 12 caps. 36-year-old Andreas Isaksson is currently out injured.
Manchester United’s Victor Lindelof is also in the squad having seen little action in England following his big summer move from Benfica.
Group A promises to be one of the most exciting groups in the final two rounds of games this weekend. Netherlands versus Sweden is likely to be the most important game out of all the fixtures.