Betting: Final World Cup places at stake as teams get ready for play-offs

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Our tipster takes a look at the six play-off ties taking place around the globe as 12 teams do battle in a bid to reach Russia for the 2018 tournament

The World Cup qualification play-offs have thrown up some fascinating fixtures, and all 12 teams involved will feel that they retain a realistic hope of qualifying for next summer's showpiece in Russia.

Northern Ireland lost both of their final two qualifiers in Group C, but Michael O'Neill's men had already done much of the heavy lifting earlier in the campaign and the boys from Belfast, fresh from their debut appearance at the European Championships last summer, are dreaming of participating in their first World Cup in more than 30 years.

Switzerland will certainly provide stiff opposition and, indeed, Vladimir Petkovic's side are 20/59 (1.34) favourites with SportPesa to progress, but Northern Ireland are buoyant and the 9/4 (3.25) quote for them to qualify could represent good value for punters.

James McClean Republic of Ireland

Republic of Ireland required a play-off victory to reach the European Championships last summer and Martin O'Neill's men have set their sights on repeating the feat this time around; the Boys in Green are a 23/20 (2.15) shot to dump Denmark out and take their place in Russia.

Age Hareide's side suffered the agony of defeat at the hands of Sweden in the European Championships play-offs, but SportPesa offer 5/7 (1.71) that Danish despair turns to delight on this occasion; this looks likely to be a closely contested tie and it would be no real surprise if both legs of this contest are tight, tense affairs.

Croatia were beaten to top spot in Group I by Iceland and, as such, Zlatko Dalic's men will have to come through the play-offs if they are to take their place at the World Cup in Russia; on paper, the draw has been kind to Dalic's men and the Croatians are chalked up as 20/67 (1.30) favourites to qualify.

2018 World Cup playoffs graphic

Greece, though, have a happy knack of providing shocks in international football; they were, of course, crowned as champions of Europe in 2004 and, despite a dreadful showing in the qualification campaign for the 2016 European Championships, the Greeks have bounced back to put themselves in contention for a place at the World Cup. Michael Skibbe's men can be backed at 5/2 (3.50) to qualify and Greece will need to defy their doubters once again if they are to reach Russia.

Four-time World Cup winners Italy go face a showdown with Sweden in what promises to be a intriguing tie; the Azzurri claimed a 1-0 win against the Swedes in the group stages at the European Championships last summer and this looks certain to be a close call.

Giampiero Ventura's team, who finished second behind Spain in Group G, are a 20/57 (1.35) chance to qualify, while Sweden, who were beaten to top spot in Group A by France, are priced at 11/5 (3.20) to qualify for next summer's showpiece.

Gianluigi Buffon Italy

It is not just in Europe that play-offs are taking place - Australia go head-to-head with Honduras, with Ange Postecoglou's side, who squeezed past Syria in a play-off last month, chalked up as a 4/5 (1.80) chance to qualify, while Honduras are available at 10/11 (1.91) to qualify for a third successive World Cup, having reached the finals in both 2010 and 2014.

Peru are seeking to qualify for the finals for the first time in 36 years and the South Americans are red hot 1/10 (1.10) favourites with SportPesa to progress to the finals at the expense of New Zealand, while the same firm go 19/4 (5.75) that it is the All Whites who qualify.

The play-offs are sure to produce plenty of drama and excitement as the aforementioned teams do battle for those coveted final spots at World Cup 2018.

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