As qualifying for Euro 2016 nears its conclusion, here we take a look at what each of the contenders need from the coming round of fixtures to take a step closer to next year’s tournament in France.
Iceland and the Czech Republic have already booked their flights to France next year after drawing against Kazakhstan and winning in Latvia respectively, but Turkey and Netherlands are set to fight it out for the coveted play-off berth. Turkey moved two points clear in third position after routing Netherlands on Sunday. Should Fatih Terim’s men win in the Czech Republic, and the Dutch fail to do so against Kazakhstan next month, Turkey will reach the play-offs.
A first major tournament since the 1958 World Cup remains on the cards for group leaders Wales. Automatic qualification was delayed by a goalless draw with Israel in Cardiff on Sunday but Wales need just two points from their last two matches – against Bosnia-Herzegovina or Andorra – to secure automatic qualification. Belgium are set to join the Welsh in France, with victory over Andorra next time out enough for Marc Wilmots and Co. to qualify following the nation’s 1-0 win away to Cyprus. Bosnia cannot finish in the top two but they can still leapfrog third-placed Israel, whose buffer has been cut to just two points heading into next month’s fixture against Cyprus.
Spain are in the box seat to finish top of the group courtesy of their 1-0 win at home to Macedonia on Tuesday. The reigning European champions are two points clear of Slovakia, who were held to a scoreless stalemate by Ukraine, but the pair will qualify for the tournament with wins over Luxembourg and Belarus in October. Ukraine are almost certain to finish third as a trip to Macedonia looms next month.
A trip to France is within touching distance for Germany after Monday’s memorable 3-2 triumph against Scotland in Glasgow. The Germans remain two points ahead of Poland, who humbled Gibraltar 8-1 and will qualify with a game to spare as long as they avoid defeat in Ireland. Though, Poland could advance if they upstage Scotland and Germany lose. Third-placed Republic of Ireland are four points clear of Scotland and will end the latter’s qualification hopes with a surprise victory at home to Joachim Low’s men.
England have raced away with the group, becoming the first team to qualify for the finals last week and they maintained their 100 per cent record with a 2-0 win over Switzerland at Wembley on Tuesday. All of the action is between the Swiss and Slovenia as they vie for the second automatic qualification spot. Slovenia, who edged Estonia 1-0, are three points behind the Swiss but hold a head-to-head advantage as the race for second goes down to the wire. Switzerland versus San Marino and Slovenia hosting Lithuania are fixtures next time out. Estonia are not out of contention, despite sitting two points adrift of Slovenia.
Northern Ireland are three points away from France 2016 after missing the chance to qualify against Hungary. Victory over either Greece or Finland would see the group leaders through. Romania sit a point behind and three clear of Hungary, who have a better head-to-head record if they can draw level on points with the former. Third spot is three points away for Finland after ending the Faroe Islands’ play-off hopes.
Austria have booked their place in France after wins over Moldova and Sweden. Russia are well-placed, sitting two points ahead of Sweden, who are one ahead of Montenegro with two matches to play. Sweden have winnable matches against Liechtenstein and Moldova to finish the group, while Russia meet Montenegro on October 12.
The top three are all battling for position heading into October. Italy top the group by two points from Norway, who benefitted from Croatia’s failures in Azerbaijan and Norway. Niko Kovac’s men meet Bulgaria and Malta to finish, while Norway still have a clash against Italy in Rome to come. Pending an appeal, Croatia may also be docked a point after racist behaviour against Italy in June.
Another group with three fighting at the top. Portugal hold a three-point lead and will qualify if they draw with Denmark on October 8. Denmark have played a game more than Portugal and third-placed Albania, who can seal a top-two spot if they beat Serbia and Denmark fail to win in Braga. Portugal and Albania are undoubtedly in best position.
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