International Soccer Odds & Picks: Qualifying Projections & Analysis

International Soccer Odds & Picks: Qualifying Projections & Analysis article feature image

Robbie Jay Barratt/Getty. Pictured: Jordan Pickford.

Did you miss international soccer? Well it's back and better than ever as we have important qualifiers for the European Championships, Africa Cup of Nations and World Cup Qualifiers in South America.

For those who are unaware, I created the Action Network's International Soccer Power Rankings for all 209 countries. Those rankings help me project lines for any given matchup across the world.

Both the rankings and projections are based on four critical factors I believe are essential when trying to handicap international soccer. Let's get into those and the picks for the matches.

1)Expected Goals Results

I am a big believer that expected goals (xG) are a better indicator of a nation's performance than what the final score winds up being.

Expected Goals measure the quality of a chance by calculating the likelihood it will be scored from a particular position on the pitch during a particular phase of play. This value is based on several factors from before the shot was taken. xG is measured on a scale between zero and one, where zero means it is impossible to score and one being a chance in which a player would be expected to score every time.

I have gone through and logged every country's xG results, but only from competitive competitions, meaning no results from friendlies or Nations League competitions were included.

2) Transfer Value Adjustment

I use Michael Caley’s method of using a team's overall transfer value to account for the talent level of each country.

3) FIFA Coefficients

Similar to the idea of UEFA Coefficients, which help determine how many teams each country can get into the Champions League, Europa League and Europa Conference League, I wanted to put a coefficient on each continent.

UEFA Coefficients are determined by how well the club teams from each country do in European competitions.

So, I applied that same method to FIFA Coefficients by going back through the past five World Cup competitions. I gave out point values (based on the criteria below), along with a weight for the average transfer value by continent, to get to a value that can be added to each country's rating based on what continent it resides in.

FIFA Coefficient Points: 

  1. Two points: For all wins in the group and knockout stages
  2. One point: For all draws in the group stage
  3. Two points: Bonus for finishing second in the group
  4. Four points: Bonus for winning the group
  5. One point: Bonus for each round reach from the Round 16 onward

After some calculations, here are the following "FIFA Coefficients" that are added to each country's xG differential plus transfer value adjustment:

4) Strength of Schedule 

Strength of schedule needs to be taken into account when determining rankings like this:

Inside Continent

First, there is a strength-of-schedule adjustment at the intra-continent level, which starts by ranking each team based on its xG differential plus transfer value adjustment. Then, from the average strength of schedule for that specific continent, divided by each team's average rank played, you get the "percentage above/below the average strength of schedule."


Even though FIFA coefficients can give us a good weight for each continent's true level of play, another strength of schedule at the world level is necessary to properly rate each country.

So, there's a "final ranking before strength of schedule adjustment," which is the final rating after taking into account xGDiff plus transfer value adjustment in addition to the intra-continent strength of schedule adjustment.

After that, the same method mentioned above at the intra-continent level is applied at the world level, taking the average strength of schedule of the World Cup teams divided by the average rank of opponents faced minus 100%.

After all of that, let's get to the projections & best bets.

Euro Qualifiers (September 7-9)


Cyprus vs Scotland

Cyprus Odds+1000
Scotland Odds-350
Over/Under2.5 (-125 / +100)
Day | TimeFriday | 2:45 p.m. ET
How To WatchFubo
Odds via bet365. Get up-to-the-minute Soccer odds here.

Things have gone perfectly for Scotland in their opening four matches of qualifying. They've won all four matches, including upsets over both Norway and Spain. However, when you dig into their underlying metrics they paint a different story. In those four wins, Scotland have a +0.01 xGD. The reason for that is because they have been running ridiculously hot defensively. They've only conceded one goal but have conceded 4.95 xG.

In their previous match against Cyprus that was in Scotland they won 3-0, but the xG battle was just 1.55 to 0.69.

I am not sure if Scotland are is deserving of a number like this one the road. Yes, they are loaded at the wingback position with Andrew Robertson, Kieran Tierney, Aaron Hickey and Nathan Patterson, but they are weak at center back and at times have had to slot Scott McTominay into that role.

They have good ball controlling midfielders in John McGinn and Billy Gilmour, but there really isn't much in their attack. It's basically just Che Adams, who had consistently been around a 0.30 xG per minute striker for Southampton when they were in the Premier League.

Cyprus don't have much talent on their roster and their underlying metrics haven't been great to begin qualifying, but they did just hire a new manager in Temur Ketsbaia who has had a lot of success managing Cypriot club Anorthosis over the past three seasons. He is familiar with a lot of the players who are playing domestically in Cyprus. He is a more defensive-minded coach, which is the style of play that will give them the best chance of success in this match.

The market has gotten far too high on Scotland. I only have their spread projected at -0.59, so I like the value on Cyprus +1.5.

Pick: Cyprus +1.5 (-103)

Ukraine vs England

Ukraine Odds+800
England Odds-250
Over/Under2.5 (-118 / -106)
Day | TimeSaturday | 12 p.m. ET
How To WatchFS2
Odds via bet365. Get up-to-the-minute Soccer odds here.

This will be the third meeting between these two countries in a little over a two-year time span. England won the first meeting in the European Championship round of 16 4-0 and then in March 2-0 at Wembley.

If there's one thing that is abundantly clear about Gareth Southgate's side it's that they value game control over anything else. Southgate is very conservative with his approach, wanting England to play out through the back, typically with Declan Rice dropping deep to receive the ball, allowing him to dictate the tempo of the match depending on the opponent they are facing.

Southgate also wants his full backs and wingers to stay wide in attack and for the other midfielders (Jude Bellingham and James Maddison) to play in between the lines to be able to receive passes from out wide.

Because they've had so much game control, their defensive numbers are off the charts. At the World Cup, England conceded just 4.3 xG in their five matches and through four Euro Qualifying matches they have conceded just one goal and 1.50 xG.

Ukraine have gone through a lot of change in terms of their management. Andriy Shevchenko had been at the helm for six years before leaving in 2021 to take the job at Genoa. Then Oleksandr Petrakov was in charge until they lost the World Cup Qualifying playoff to Wales. Now Serhiy Rebrov is in charge after managing in Dubai over the last two years. He oversaw their last two matches, which resulted in wins over North Macedonia and Malta. They won the match against North Macedonia 3-2, but lost on xG 0.92 to 1.21.

Tactically, Rebrov has taken a lot of principles from Jurgen Klopp's Liverpool when they are playing against smaller sides. When they are playing bigger teams, he'll set his teams up in a 4-4-2 and look to play on the counter, which is what you will see in this game.

England have not allowed Ukraine to create anything over their two meetings, allowing just nine shots at 0.48 xG, and I don't see that changing in this match.

Therefore, I like the value on both teams to score – no.

Pick: Both Teams to Score – No (-130 via bet365)

CONMEBOL World Cup Qualifiers (September 7-12)

Argentina vs Ecuador

Argentina Odds-275
Ecuador Odds+850
Over/Under2.5 (-118 / -106)
Day | TimeThursday | 8 p.m. ET
How To WatchFanatiz
Odds via bet365. Get up-to-the-minute Soccer odds here.

The World Cup Qualifying journey begins in South America as Lionel Messi and Argentina take on Moises Caicedo and Ecuador.

Argentina are your reigning World Cup champions, but there were a lot of performances leading up to the World Cup and even a couple matches at the World Cup that were a bit concerning.

Through many matches they didn't have a midfielder that could link the play from the defense up to the front line. Argentina were obsessed with overloading the last line of defense and creating overloads in wide areas to free up space for Messi, so there was nobody in the middle of the pitch to pass the ball to.

Messi was forced to be the creator coming out to receive the ball 30 yards from the goal, which is not what you want your main goal scoring threat to do. Argentina resolved this issue by playing Alexis Mac Allister and Enzo Fernandez, but outside of those two there really isn't much else in the Argentina midfield.

While Messi deservingly gets all of the shine, the Argentinian defense with Lisandro Martinez and Christian Romero was incredibly solid at the World Cup. If you do not count all of the matches that went to extra time, Argentina only allowed a total of 3.68 xG in their seven matches. Even throughout the last round of World Cup Qualifying, Argentina only allowed 1.10 xG per 90 minutes.

This will be the first competitive match for Ecuador under new manager Félix Sánchez, who previously managed Qatar at the World Cup. He had that Qatar team set up in a 5-3-2 playing extremely direct. In the four friendlies he's been in charge, he's tried out four different formations, but in his last one against Costa Rica he settled into a 3-5-2, which will allow Ecuador to have a lot of defensive solidity.

It's going to be very difficult for Argentina to play through the middle of the pitch in this match with one of the best pressing and ball winning midfielders in Moises Caicedo roaming around. Plus, at the World Cup, Ecuador held the Netherlands to just 0.07 xG during the group stage.

The last time these two met in the final round of World Cup Qualifiers it ended in a 0-0 draw with only 2.3 xG created.

I only have 1.90 goals projected for this match, so I like the value on the under.

Pick: Under 2.5 (-106 via bet365)

AFCON Qualifiers (September 7-12)

NOTE: Most of the AFCON spots are set, so a lot of teams have nothing to play for. Take that into account before placing a bet based on these projections. 

Ghana vs Central Africa Republic

Ghana Odds-400
Central Africa Republic Odds+1000
Over/Under2.5 (+135 / -175)
Day | TimeThursday | 12 p.m. ET
How To WatchbeIN Sports
Odds via bet365. Get up-to-the-minute Soccer odds here.

There aren't many matches in the final round of AFCON qualifiers that have some stakes and this is one of them. Ghana are currently leading the group with nine points, but because the tiebreaker is head to head record, there is a chance if Central Africa Republic wins this match and Angola beat Madagascar, then Ghana won't be playing in the Africa Cup of Nations.

The first match between these two sides was a bit of a stalemate. Ghana found it very difficult to break through Central Africa Republic's low block and were only able to create 1.39 xG. They only got off 10 shots despite holding 70% possession.

Ghana are going through a bit of a transition period as Otto Addo resigned after the World Cup. They brought in former Brighton manager Chris Hughton, who was not successful at the club.

His first match with Ghana was less than encouraging as they drew Madagascar 0-0 with xG being 1.30 to 1.03. The Ghanaian National Team's underlying metrics over the past two years haven't been impressive either. This is now their third manager since the Africa Cup of Nations in 2021 and they only have a +1.85 xGD in 21 matches. That's bad when you consider they have the fourth highest total squad transfer value in Africa, per

Ghana only need a draw and they are through to the Africa Cup of Nations. Winning their group would be ideal for the draw, so even if they go ahead, they'll likely shut it down and try to see out the match.

I only have Ghana's spread projected at -0.84, so I like the value on Central Africa Republic +1.5 at -145.

Pick: Central Africa Republic +1.5 (-145 via BetMGM)

BJ Cunningham's Entire Card

How would you rate this article?

This site contains commercial content. We may be compensated for the links provided on this page. The content on this page is for informational purposes only. Action Network makes no representation or warranty as to the accuracy of the information given or the outcome of any game or event.