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Monday, 17 December, 2018

World Cup seeding crucial for Belgium

Red Devils can ruin Bosnia's hopes

Belgium's Kevin De Bruyne
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ITV from 5pm Saturday

It's the penultimate round of matches in three European World Cup qualifying groups and ITV are focusing on hapless Holland as the Dutch head to Belarus desperate to keep their dreams alive.

Holland, who also missed out on Euro 2016, not only need to beat Belarus but they must also try to improve their goal difference as playoff rivals Sweden are hosting Luxembourg before the nations meet in the final set of fixtures.

The Swedes hold a three-point buffer on Holland and their goal difference is six better, although Group A table-toppers France head to Bulgaria with work still to do if they are to avoid being dragged into the playoff mix.

There are plenty of mismatches around but a worthwhile bet comes in Group H where Belgium are fancied to beat desperate Bosnia despite having already secured a passage to Russia thanks to last month's win in Greece.

It would be wrong to assume the Red Devils have nothing to play for as victories in their final two matches (or possibly four points) will be enough to secure a crucial top seeding in Russia next summer.

Saturday football columns

Didi Hamann

Mark Langdon

Dan Childs

That is why Roberto Martinez named his strongest available squad with the exception of Radja Nainggolan, who continues to be bizarrely overlooked by the former Everton and Wigan boss.

Romelu Lukaku, Mousa Dembele, Christian Benteke and Vincent Kompany are among those injured but this is a squad packed full of outstanding talent and they should be focused on earning an easier path to the knockout stages next summer.

Thibaut Courtois is a world-class keeper and the Jan Vertonghen-Toby Alderweireld defensive combination works well for club and country, while Kevin De Bruyne, Eden Hazard and Dries Mertens add the creativity Bosnia can only dream about.

The hosts are desperate for the points to make the playoffs but will take to the field in Sarajevo minus a few key players, none more so than injured playmaker Miralem Pjanic.

Without Pjanic, Edin Dzeko could be starved of the service he requires to make an impact and should Bosnia fail to win it would open the playoff door for Cyprus or Greece - the neighbours meet in Nicosia. 

Costa Rica's Concacaf World Cup qualifier against Honduras which was scheduled for Friday night has been moved back 24 hours due to substantial rain in the country.

1pt 13-8 bet365

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Without Pjanic, Edin Dzeko could be starved of the service he requires to make an impact
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