Northern Ireland will go looking for their first win in Group F of the 2014 World Cup qualifying when they take on Azerbaijan on Wednesday night. The Irish have managed to pick up just two points so far in a disappointing campaign. However, they will be able to take some confidence away from a great night out in Portugal where they produced a tremendous defensive effort to earn a 1-1 draw in their last match. However, Northern Ireland have selection problems ahead of the game, with a clutch of players withdrawing because of injury. Grant McCann will join Jonny Evans, Andrew Little and Alex Bruce on the sidelines for this big match.
The Irish are in a spot of bother in their group and are five points behind second placed Israel and Portugal. however, this is their game in hand and need the win just to pull within two points and keep their qualification hopes alive. This is a must win with home advantage on their side as well. This actually kicks off a run of four home qualification matches for Northern Ireland and they need to muster up something. So far in the group they lost in Russia and earned draws against Luxembourg and Portugal. While the displays against Russia and Portugal showed a lot of fight, their last home match against lowly Luxembourg was a big disappointment. Northern Ireland just failed to raise their game and finish off their opponents.
The issue here is that Azerbaijan are better than Luxembourg. Although Azerbaijan have managed just one point (and one goal) so far in their three matches, pretty much the same stakes are on offer here for them, keeping their faint qualification hopes alive. Azerbaijan have recorded some decent wins in their last dozen games and are a side which are growing and demanding more respect.
The two sides have met just twice before in the 2006 World Cup qualifiers. Northern Ireland ran up a 2-0 home win on that occasion, following a 0-0 draw out in Baku.
Recommended Bet: You would expect something of a spirited performance here, but Azerbaijan will take some breaking down. It may require a little patience and persistence from the home side and therefore a Draw/Northern Ireland Half Time/Full Time bet for a price of 3/1 at online bookmaker Bet365 looks a decent option.
Northern Ireland v Azerbaijan Betting Odds at online bookmaker Bet365
Northern Ireland 7/10, Draw 11/4, Azerbaijan 4/1
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