Mike Holden thinks goals are the cards when Spain and Czech Republic clash on Monday afternoon.
Of the six group outsiders, only the Czech Republic play what you would describe as expansive football and this could be the perfect opener for Spain to shake off any rustiness accumulated during a ponderous qualifying campaign and show the continent what they’re capable of once again. Take the 14-5 available on this game producing over 3.5 goals.
An overs bet is preferred to backing Spain on the handicap out of respect for the Czechs and their free-spirited attitude. If you don’t buy a ticket, you don’t win the raffle, and we can rest assured that Pavel Vrba’s men will approach this game with attacking intent, so it’s not inconceivable they could keep the margin down by troubling the scoresheet themselves.
But ultimately you would expect the two-times defending champions to take advantage of the spaces on offer. The Czechs might give as good as they get in terms of territory and final third entries but they don’t possess much star quality at either end of the pitch. Spain simply have a much better class of player in every outfield position.
Indeed, it speaks volumes that the Czechs went 19 matches without a clean sheet until the recent 6-0 friendly win over Malta - quite a feat when you’ve got Petr Cech between the sticks. The sequence dated back to November 2013, since when they conceded twice in games against Norway, Finland, Austria, Kazakhstan, Iceland, Russia and South Korea.
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There’s no denying Spain could do with a convincing display after a ropey qualifying campaign that came on the back of a disastrous World Cup. La Roja won nine out of 10 matches it should be pointed out, but they seldom lived up to the high standards set over the previous six years, which is a concern in a country where performances tend to be valued more than results.
However, for punters, qualifying form should generally be consigned to the cutting room floor. For almost the entire Spanish first-choice 11, international breaks in September and October to play the likes of Luxembourg, Macedonia and Belarus are little more than an inconvenience in a hectic calendar that builds to a climax around April time and beyond.
Brazil 2014 was a bizarre aberration. Spain could have been home and hosed by half-time in their opening game against the Netherlands but instead fell to a traumatising 5-1 defeat, from which they never recovered in time for what was effectively an away game against Chile. The painful memory of that six-day nightmare only stresses the importance of a solid start here.
Opportunities to back fancy-priced correct scores might be few and far between at this tournament, so let’s also throw a dart at the 30-1 available on Spain to win 4-1. In the last two editions of this competition, La Roja netted four times against Russia, the Republic of Ireland and Italy, while the Czechs were defeated 4-1 in their opener against Russia four years ago.
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