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’s victory over Netherlands leaves them needing only a draw against Kazakhstan to qualify, while Danny Blind’s men are in desperate need of a win. Thursday’s defeat left them six points adrift of second place with three games to go, and failure to beat Turkey on Sunday would open the door for Czech Republic to clinch a top-two finish with three points from their clash with Latvia. Netherlands’ trip to Turkey could also prove pivotal in the race for third, which would ensure at least a play-off berth.
Wales look destined to reach their first major tournament since the 1958 World Cup and a win against Israel in Cardiff on Sunday would see them achieve just that. Cyprus must beat second-placed Belgium to keep their slim hopes of automatic qualification alive, while Bosnia-Herzegovina could propel themselves back into qualifying contention when they host the already-eliminated Andorra. Even if Belgium do beat Cyprus, they will not be assured of their place in France.
Despite a 2-0 defeat to Spain on Saturday, Slovakia will be guaranteed a spot in France if they overcome Ukraine at home on Tuesday. European champions Spain travel to Macedonia unable to rubber-stamp progression, though victory and a Slovakia win will leave them needing just a point from two games to do so. Slovakia, Spain and Ukraine are each guaranteed to finish third if their tilt at the top two is unsuccessful.
Germany moved top of Group D with a 3-1 victory over Poland on Friday and a win against Scotland – playing catch-up following a defeat to Georgia – on Monday could be enough to see them through. Joachim Low’s side can only qualify if Georgia triumph over the Republic of Ireland, who will be keen to leapfrog Poland into second. However, with Adam Nawalka’s Poles hosting Gibraltar next, it seems unlikely that they will be letting go of their automatic spot any time soon.
England made it seven wins from seven Group E games in San Marino on Saturday to become the first team to qualify for France 2016. Switzerland will join them in midweek if Estonia and Slovenia draw and they go on to win at Wembley. The Swiss will be riding high after three goals in the last 10 minutes saw off Slovenia 3-2 in Basel. Lithuania may also be hoping for a stalemate in Slovenia as they face San Marino, desperate to make up a current four-point deficit to third place.
Victory for Northern Ireland at Windsor Park on Monday would give them an insurmountable seven-point advantage over third-placed opponents Hungary and would also hand Romania the chance to all but seal their qualification with a win against rock-bottom Greece. For Finland and the Faroe Islands, who meet in Helsinki, the focus will be on challenging for third – the teams currently sitting five and six points adrift of Hungary respectively.
Austria have dominated Group G, and a spot in just their second European Championships – after they co-hosted in 2008 – will be confirmed with a point in Sweden. Russia may well be hoping Austria leave Solna with a positive result as they sit a point behind Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Co. ahead of Tuesday’s trip to Liechtenstein. Montenegro – who head to rock-bottom Moldova – are a further three points off the Russians, but will hope they can keep pace with Leonid Slutsky’s side as a final-matchday showdown in St Petersburg awaits.
Croatia and Italy are tied on 15 points at the top of Group H, two points ahead of Norway. While no nation can seal their progression on Sunday, fourth-placed Bulgaria will be out of the running for automatic qualification if they fail to pick up a win in Italy. Norway will jump into the top two if they beat Croatia, while Malta and Azerbaijan are playing for pride, despite the latter holding the slimmest of chances of sneaking into third. The order at the top could hinge on Croatia’s appeal against a one-point deduction, which will be heard later this month.
Portugal, Denmark and Albania are already certain of a top-three finish, with only the order left to be resolved. Portugal – one point ahead of their rivals – visit Albania on Monday, while Denmark head to Armenia. With Group I currently second in the race for the best third-placed team – Ukraine in Group C are leading – all three could be destined for France come the end of the campaign.
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