Belfast Telegraph

The Punter: Don’t bet on Northern Ireland making 2014 World Cup

So what chance have our boys of qualifying for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil?

Old glory: Billy Bingham led NI to World Cups in 1982 and ‘86

The fact that they haven't reached the final stages since 1992, tells its own story and after getting the likes of Portugal, Russia and Israel in their group, the chances are as likely as wonder horse Frankel being beaten over a mile.

Yes, we can clutch at straws and think back to 1981 when Northern Ireland beat both Portugal and Israel under Billy Bingham to make that never-to-be-forgotten trip to Spain. History can repeat itself, will be the optimistic cry and there's nothing wrong with that. Better to be positive than taking a defeatist attitude before a ball is kicked in the campaign.

However, Bingham's team was a tough, resilient and talented one whereas the limitations of today's squad are all too clear.

Northern Ireland are 40-1 (Boyloesports and Ladbrokes) to win the group and takers are likely to be few. Some might be interested in Hill's option of 33-1 to qualify as at least if finishing runners-up, there's a second window of opportunity through the play-offs.

Realistically, unless Northern Ireland's away record improves, sadly it will be curtains. And visits to, so-called minnows, Luxembourg and Azerbaijan can never be regarded as ‘gimmes' and hence a price of 1-100 not to qualify.

For a start, Northern Ireland must take maximum points, or very close to it, in all matches at Windsor Park.

Not impossible, but a mighty big ask.

The Republic have Germany and Sweden to contend with in Group C and with the Germans having lost only two of their last 74 qualifiers, they look certainties at 2-7 to emerge top.

Sweden are 9-2, the Republic 15-2, Austria 25-1 and the Faroe Islands and Kazakhstan out with the washing at 1000-1 each.

The hype has already begun for England but there is no value in them at 1-2 to take Group H which sees them up against Ukraine, Poland and Montenegro, plus no-hopers Moldova and San Marino.

Scotland and Wales will make for interesting battles in Group A but both will be hard-pressed to make in-roads against Croatia, Serbia and Belgium and Macedonia. The Scots are 14-1 to to the group and 8-1 to be on the plane to Brazil while Welsh supporters can have 150-1 and 50-1.

Odds of 10-1 about none of the British or Irish teams making it to South America, is worth taking with a saver at 8-11 on only one, as England have the best chance.

Group F betting: Portugal 4-7; Russia 2-1; Israel 8-1; Northern Ireland 33-1; Azerbaijan 500-1; Luxembourg 5000-1.

Number of British and Irish teams to qualify: 10-1 none; 8-11 one; 5-4 two; 12-1 three or more.

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