So yesterday was a surprise, there is no other way to say it. Hungary went to Norway and escaped with a 1:0 victory, which puts them in the pole position to reach France next summer.
Norway was the better side over the 90 minutes but were not able to crack a stout Hungary defense (as mentioned here yesterday) and now have to travel to Budapest with a large task in front of them. Norway are still good enough to progress but Hungary is now clearly the favorite to progress to Euro 2016.
Tonight, in my opinion, the most intriguing matchup of the playoff round will see Bosnia square off against Ireland. Bosnia is coming off two exciting back-to-back victories against Wales and Cyprus to barely secure a playoff spot, while Ireland won against world champions Germany in Dublin in their second to last match and put themselves on the brink of booking their ticket to France. The Irish lost all hope of qualifying, however, on the last match day as they fought till the end but lost in a nail bitter to Poland in Warsaw. That saw Germany and Poland qualify automatically and left Ireland with yet another playoff spot, the 4th time they’ve gone to such lengths – more than any other nation.
I’m not sure that there is a favorite in this matchup. Bosnia has a more talented squad but you can never count out the Irish fighting spirit, while they boast some quality individuals of their own. The biggest decider in this tie may come tonight, a game where the Irish will be without four of their starters including Jonathan Walters and John O’Shea (both serving bans) while Shane Long and goalkeeper Shay Given are both nursing injuries. What should have been a very tight affair could be determined by the amount of healthy bodies that both sides can field out there.
Bosnia comes into the game with much fewer injury problems, Everton’s Muhamed Besic being the only absentee of note. Add to that the fact that Edin Dzeko has returned to full health and is shaping into form alongside Miralem Pjanic and the Bosnians have a reason to be confident. They usually play very well in Zenica and will hope that trend continues tonight.
What originally should have been a very tough game to call has turned into the favor of the Balkan nation due to the Irish injury woes. I think that the Irish will fight till the end and hope to squeeze out 0:0 or even 0:1 deficit with them to Dublin, I’m just not sure if they have enough quality out there tonight to achieve that goal. Initially this was a 1:0 or 2:1 result for me in favor of the Bosnians but considering the circumstances I see the small nation prevailing by a two goal margin.
Prediction: Bosnia 2 – Ireland 0