San Marino v Northern Ireland
Friday 1 September, 19:45
Live on Sky Sports Mix

Lambs to the slaughter

San Marino have lost their six matches in Group C by an aggregate of 30 goals to one, including a 4-0 defeat in the reverse fixture in Belfast last October. According to the Fifa rankings, Gibraltar are the only worse team in Europe.

Visitors in solid second place

Northern Ireland have built on last summer's Euro Championships appearance with another impressive qualifying campaign under Michael O'Neill. Their only dropped points have been away to their strongest opponents - Czech Republic (0-0) and Germany (2-0) - and group leaders Germany are the only side to have scored against them.

With the Czech Republic at home to Germany on the same night, three points for Northern Ireland here would consolidate their hold on second place before their home clash with the Czechs (currently third) on Monday night.

A question of how many

Anything other than a Northern Ireland win is unthinkable, with San Marino having taken just a solitary point from 51 qualifiers in the past decade (that was a home 0-0 against Estonia three years ago).

So it's more a question of what shape an away win will take and one of the options to consider is Northern Ireland to win by a margin of four-plus goals or to win off -3.5 on the Asian handicap, which amounts to the same bet.

Sixty per cent of San Marino's defeats in qualifiers in the past decade have been by four goals or more and it is notable that only three teams who failed to beat them by that distance went on to qualify for the finals tournament.

Northern Ireland are in a good position in Group C, though admittedly still a long way from qualification, and may have the class nowadays to win by a big margin, as they did in the reverse fixture.

The caveat is that the score was only 1-0 before the 79th minute in that match even though San Marino had been playing with 10 men for half an hour by then.

It should also be noted that Northern Ireland's biggest away win under O'Neill was 3-1 in the Faroe Islands (and that was 1-1 until the home side went down to 10 men midway through the second half).

Over 3.5 goals worth considering

Northern Ireland have a good chance of stepping up to over 3.5 goals at 1.80 against such weak opponents, although only four of their 10 wins in this qualifying campaign and the last one (where their improvement really kicked in) have gone that high.

Bet on late goals

The goals-related bet that appeals most is for the second half to have more goals than the first. As noted already, that happened in the reverse fixture against San Marino and against the Faroes a couple of years ago. On both occasions Northern Ireland were slow to get going and did not open a big margin until they had a one-man advantage in the second half.

San Marino nearly always concede in the last quarter of their matches as they begin to tire, with almost 40% of their goals conceded coming in that period in the last two qualifying campaigns.

Combination Bet

Betfair Sportsbook have an interesting bet that combines Over 2.5 Goals, Over 2.5 Cards and Over 8.5 Corners at 7/4. We know the goals is likely to come off, and so is the corners as San Marino's last eight qualifiers have had nine or more.

San Marino's disciplinary record is poor too, with at least three cards in five of their six matches in this campaign, so that does not look a bad bet at all.

Recommended Bet
Back Over 2.5 Goals, Over 2.5 Cards and Over 8.5 Corners at 7/4 with Betfair Sportsbook

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