We move forward with our Group E preview. Thus far, the only thing determined in this group is that Cyprus has been eliminated. Switzerland sits atop the group on 18 points while Iceland is a distant 2nd on 13 points. Slovenia, Albania, and Norway are all still very much alive in this thing. It’s still amazing that the Pot 1 team in this group is in 5th place. FIFA RANKING MATTERS!! You have to be rooting for dark horse Iceland here, and our simulator xCRO gives them over a 77% chance of finishing in 2nd place. They need to go out and take care of business.
Albania v. Switzerland – Tirana, Albania
Albania needs some points out of this one to stay alive in Qualification. Failing to hold a lead back in June against Norway may have sealed Albania’s fate as they are in a really tough spot here. Switzerland still is in our top 10, and with the motivation of officially clinching a spot in Brazil, it’s a tall task. But you can be sure there will be road flares in Tirana. No word yet from our friends at The Football Factory whether there will be 150 Albanians sectioned off to root for their side. We’ll be there and will report back. Unfortunately, we think Switzerland spoils the party and locks up a spot in Brazil, eliminating Albania in the process.
Prediction: Switzerland by 2… to Brazil
Iceland v. Cyprus – Reykjavik, Iceland
This is a MUST win for Iceland if they want to have any chance of reaching Brazil. Shockingly, they lost at Cyprus in the reverse fixture so there’s certainly extra motivation there. The fact that they lost to Cyprus is actually good news for Iceland as that loss gets wiped out from the 2nd place standings. We think Iceland comes out motivated against a squad that has nothing to play for. They need to score goals, and we think they do.
Prediction: Iceland by 3
Slovenia v. Norway – Maribor, Slovenia
This is probably your match with the most implications in Group E. If Iceland is able to defeat Cyprus at home, it guarantees that one of these two teams will be eliminated in this match. Considering Slovenia was in South Africa and Norway came from Pot 1, this is pretty shocking. We had Slovenia counted out and left for dead, but they’ve fought back to put themselves into consideration for a top 2 spot. Their road win at Iceland was certainly what turned the tide for them. Norway looks like a defeated team to us. They’ll put up a fight here, but ultimately we think they’ll succumb to the Slovenians and be eliminated from contention.
Prediction: Slovenia by 1
If things do go down as we expect, Switzerland will be through to Brazil and Norway and Albania will pack their bags and hope for Russia 2018. 2nd place should come down to the final matchday where Iceland holds a narrow 1 point lead over Slovenia.
Cyprus v. Albania – Nicosia, Cyprus
At this point, this game should have absolutely no meaning at all. Cyprus will be locked into last and Albania will be eliminated. Who knows what to expect here. Our predictor fancies Albania.
Prediction: Albania by 1
Norway v. Iceland – Oslo, Norway
Now we’re talking. If you’re looking to take a nice Fall trip somewhere, may I recommend Oslo. While this is a tall task for Iceland, they know a few things. Norway should be out at this point. Slovenia must go to Switzerland and get points. Even if they come up short here, it may not matter. If you’re Iceland, you want to take care of business yourself, get a couple points, and ensure you’re not left out of the play-off. Perhaps Norway is kind to their Scandinavian brethren and sends out a clown squad. This is one to watch, and it will certainly be an exciting match. We think Iceland will have to play the waiting game.
Prediction: Norway by 1
Switzerland v. Slovenia – Berne, Switzerland
This task for Slovenia is far more difficult than what Iceland faces. But the one thing they will have going for them is Switzerland should be through at this point, so they may not send out their top squad. Switzerland won 2-0 away to Slovenia all the way back on the first day of qualifying to set the tone for their campaign. I can almost guarantee our predictor overestimates this one, but we still think Switzerland ends up ahead in the end and sends Slovenia home sad.
Prediction: Switzerland by 3
We believe that Iceland, from Pot 6, will emerge as the 2nd place finisher in Group E. Their goal differential is not great, but if they pick up any points at Norway, they’re going to be in the play-off. When Group E concludes, we expect the standings to look like this:
Our other UEFA group previews can be seen below. Thanks for reading!
Group A Preview (Belgium, Croatia, Serbia, FYR Macedonia, Scotland, Wales)
Group B Preview (Italy, Bulgaria, Denmark, Czech Republic, Armenia, Malta)
Group C Preview (Germany, Sweden, Austria, Republic of Ireland, Kazakhstan, Faroe Islands)
Group D Preview (Netherlands, Romania, Hungary, Turkey, Estonia, Andorra)
Group F Preview (Russia, Portugal, Israel, Azerbaijan, Northern Ireland, Luxembourg)
Group G Preview (Bosnia-Herzegovina, Greece, Slovakia, Lithuania, Latvia, Liechtenstein)
Group H Preview (England, Ukraine, Montenegro, Poland, Moldova, San Marino)
Group I Preview (Spain, France, Finland, Georgia, Belarus)