Northern Ireland will be playing for mere pride when they travel to take on Finland in their Euro 2024 qualifier on Friday evening.
With just six points mustered from their eight games to date, and sitting fifth in Group H, Northern Ireland saw their hopes of reaching the showpiece tournament in Germany next summer, evaporate quickly.
Finland, however, has a play-off spot in the bag, but they will want to avoid any unnecessary slip-ups in their final two games.
Michael O’Neill has had to contend with a decimated squad, which saw Jonny Evans and Paul Smyth withdraw earlier this week, while Conor Hazard is expected to fill in for Bailey Peacock-Farrell between the posts.
While there appears to be little riding on the outcome of the match for Northern Ireland, they won’t want to go down with barely a whimper.
Ahead of kick-off, I have rummaged through the markets and handpicked a couple of betting tips.
Finland to add to Northern Ireland’s woes
After a dispiriting run of three defeats on the trot for Finland, which included a 3-0 defeat at the hands of Slovenia, they will be desperate to make amends.
The downturn in form, which saw them concede six goals during that period, quashed any chances of Finland qualifying for the Euros automatically.
Meanwhile, it has been a chastening Group H campaign for Northern Ireland, and only San Marino (-25) have a worse goal difference than O’Neill’s charges (-2).
In the previous encounter, Finland left Windsor Park with a 1-0 victory, and the head-to-head record is split with four wins apiece and two draws from 10 encounters.
Finland should have enough to record a qualifying double over Northern Ireland, and for my first pick, I have plumped for Finland to win & BTTS which is paying out at inviting 7/2 with Paddy Power.
Teemu Pukki to provide timely reminder of his class
While you may be forgiven for not knowing many of Markku Kanerva’s Finland team, one player that will jump out is Teemu Pukki.
The former Norwich hitman is now lighting things up in the MLS with Minnesota United, netting 10 times in 13 appearances this term.
Although he has weighed in with his fair share of goals for Finland over the past decade, he has only struck once during the current qualifying campaign.
Nevertheless, Pukki is Finland’s record goalscorer with 38 goals from 116 appearances, and he will fancy adding to his tally against Northern Ireland.
He may well relish the chance to exploit any gaps in the visitors’ defence, and he could be among the goals.
To round things off, I have gone with Pukki to grab a double, and he’s been backed as a 15/2 chance by bet365.