|By PAUL GOUGH
Australia might be facing a desperately tight struggle in their bid to qualify for a third-successive World Cup but the Socceroos are good value at odds to upset Romania on neutral territory in their international friendly in Spain on Wednesday [Thursday morning Australian time].
It will be the Socceroos' first appearance since beating a host of minnows of Asian football to qualify for the East Asian Cup finals in December, and is the team's key warm-up game ahead of the resumption of World Cup qualifiers in late March.
The Socceroos - second in Group B of AFC 2014 World Cup qualifying - are just goal difference ahead of Iraq and Oman, the latter of who they will meet next in Sydney on March 26.
However, there are signs Australia are on the improve as evidenced by their impressive 2-1 away win in a friendly against AFC heavyweights South Korea in mid-November.
Romania are sitting third in Group D in European qualifying for the 2014 World Cup but have not reached the World Cup finals since 1998, while they were soundly beaten 4-1 in a friendly by Poland last Sunday.
And with neither side having home advantage, given this match will be played in Malaga, Australia look good value as the underdogs paying $2.65 at the TAB, $2.90 at sportsbet.com.au and best value of $3.05 at Betfair.
|Australia to keep clean sheet v Romania at $3.65 at Betfair
||Australia to win 1-0 v Romania at $10 at Betfair|
Romania are priced at $2.40 at sportsbet.com.au, $2.50 at the TAB and again best odds of $2.58 with Betfair, while the draw is paying $3.20 at the TAB and a tempting $3.30 at both sportsbet.com.au and Betfair.
But there has been good early support for the Socceroos at Betfair, where they have so far attracted about 75 percent of money.
The bulk of Romania's squad plays in the country's domestic league and their attack looks particularly weak given their most prolific striker in former Chelsea star Adrian Mutu is not playing.
However, their defence remains strong given the presence of experienced trio Razvan Rat, Gabriel Tomas and Dorin Goian, who play their club football in the much stronger leagues of Ukraine, England and Italy respectively.
But while the draw does look the most likely result in this one, the Socceroos are well worth a bet in the draw/no bet markets, where punters accept lower odds on an Australian win but get their money back if the game ends in a draw.
* Note prices subject to change