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ROI ‘Dream Team’ can kick off with comfy win

| 14.11.2013

There’s no World Cup on the horizon for the Republic of Ireland, Scotland, Northern Ireland or Wales, but that doesn’t mean there’s nothing to play for in their friendly internationals this weekend.

For those countries who haven’t qualified for Brazil, thoughts have already turned to Euro 2016 and with 24 places up for grabs (up from 16) there is additional belief that they can make it to France instead..

The ROI camp, in particular, is bathed in optimism at the moment following the appointment of the ‘Dream Team’ – Martin O’Neill and Roy Keane.

One fan said this week: “Martin is Martin and Roy is Roy. I’ll give it two months!” But even the cynics will be celebrating if this unlikely marriage can not only survive but thrive to bring the good times back to a team which brings so much colour to the big tournaments when they manage to get there.

Certainly, the feel-good factor should last beyond a home encounter with Latvia, a team ranked 117th in the world after finishing fifth in Group G. Robbie Keane and Shane Long (both evens to score with Coral, 4/1 first or last) will be hoping to fill their boots and in what should be something of a party atmosphere, ROI might win with something to spare, perhaps 2-0 (5/1) or 3-0 (15/2).

There’s also something in the air in Scotland as Gordon Strachan continues in his quest to fly the Saltire again at a major tournament for the first time since 1998.

The USA, ranked 13th in the world, 22 places above their hosts, thrashed Scotland 5-1 in Florida last year, but it may well be a different story this time. Roared on by their own fans and fresh from victories away in Macedonia and at home against Croatia, the home side will have their tails up and might just nick it. Coral go 17/10 Scotland and 15/2 a 1-0 scoreline.

Wales would seem to have more work to do than ROI or Scotland if they’re going to make it to Euro 2016, but in Gareth Bale and Aaron Ramsey they have two world class performers and whoever is in charge after Saturday, while those two are fit and firing there will always be something to cling on to.

They should prove too strong for Finland (ranked 19 places below them) in Cardiff on Saturday night and reward those who take Coral’s 23/20.

Turkey are not the force they were a few years ago and in-and-out Northern Ireland are not without a chance of getting something out of their trip to Adana. despite being at far from full strength. Coral go 8/1 an away win and, more realistically, 7/2 the draw.




Jon Freeman