Chris O (follow on Twitter: @COakleyFtbl)
Wed 12 September 2007

Euro 2008 Qualifiers - quick guide

And so the Euro 2008 bandwagon rolls into town again, just four days since the last set of fixtures were played. The finishing line now looks not so far away and things are starting to get really serious. If you're unsure of where we stand in each of the groups, here's our quick guide to help you get a better understanding of those crucial games later on today.

Group A sees about as strong a four-horse-race as you can expect to find. Poland have 20 points in the bag at the top of the group but are without a win in two. They'll therefore be looking for a change of form as they travel to second-placed Finland this evening.

Portugal have also drawn their previous two games and they face their nearest opponents Serbia at home. Both teams have a game in hand over the leading two, and a draw would easy the pressure on Poland while having the opposite effect on Finland.

Arguably the biggest game of the evening sees Scotland take on France in Paris in Group B. Scotland incredibly find themselves in one of the two qualifying places with world champions Italy just a point behind in third.

If Alex McLeish's men can repeat their famous victory over the French back in October 2006, they'd have to consider themselves a racing certainty to reach the finals in Austria and Switzerland next year. After the goalless draw between France and Italy at the weekend, there's surely all to play for...

If Scotland lose, they'll be looking over their shoulder to see how Italy get on in their fixture against Ukraine. The Italians won the first encounter 2-0 at home and unfortunately for the Scots Ukraine struggled to even beat lowly Georgia at the weekend.

If any Scotland fans out there fancy a continued spell of nail-biting, pray for a draw in both matches...

Defending champions Greece seem to have found form again but tonight's away match against Norway could give us an indication of whether they mean business as they defend their title.

Elsewhere the chasing pack will be looking to put pressure on the top two as Turkey play hosts to fifth-placed Hungary while Bosnia-Herzegovina take on winless Moldova, currently bottom of the group. A slip up for either of those two could spell the end of their hopes as the campaign nears its end.

Germany are as good as qualified now after a slightly unconvincing 2-0 defeat of Wales at the weekend. They take a well-earned rest this evening while the Czech Republic and Ireland battle it out for the second qualifying spot in the group.

Defeat for the Irish tonight would virtually end their hopes of qualifying and a repeat of their 1-1 draw last October would be of little use either. If they're looking for positives to cling onto, they can turn to the Czechs under-exuberant performance against San Marino at the weekend, but the Irish struggled to contain Slovakia too, so the writing might be on the wall for Steve Staunton's men tonight.

Without question tonight's big game is the crunch match between England and Russia at Wembley. England are making up for lost time but are hitting form at just the right moment with three successive 3-0 wins. A repeat tonight would be a great achievement, but the Russians are still unbeaten in the group so a draw might be a more realistic target.

Croatia should continue their fine run with an away tie against Andorra, while Israel miss out on the action having seen their chances of qualifying all but diminish following Saturday's match against England.

Denmark have a game in hand tonight and they'll need to win it to stay even remotely in touch with the Group F leaders. They're at home to Liechtenstein, so a morale boosting victory could be the order of the day for them.

Spain's disastrous qualifying campaign could also regain some momentum at home to Latvia, but they'll be wary of what their visitors did to Northern Ireland at the weekend, and with Xabi Alonso sitting out the game with a suspension, all may not be as straight-forward as they'd like.

Northern Ireland, meanwhile, could make their second-placed position in the group more secure as they travel to sixth-placed Iceland. Three points for them would be most welcome, especially as they face group leaders Sweden in the next round of games a month from now.

Bulgaria can get their qualifying campaign back on track tonight as they play Luxembourg at home but the crunch match for them will be the home fixture against Romania in November. Any defeat from now on will mean curtains for the Bulgarians.

With Romania sitting out tonight's fixtures, the Netherlands have the chance to go top of the group if they can win by at least four goals away to fourth-placed Albania. It'll be a tough ask, especially as the Dutch only just scraped a 2-1 win at home back in October last year, but a similar score tonight will make sure Bulgaria stay in third place in the group until at least next month.

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