Euro 2008 - The (last) 'Need to Know'...
So this is it: we're about to embark on the Euro 2008 qualifying 'endgame'. This Saturday sees the first half of the final double-header of games that will confirm the final list of fourteen countries heading for Austria and Switzerland next year.
England are already heading for Austria of course, but sadly that's just to play a friendly match tomorrow. Yes folks, things have got so desperate for Steve McLaren's men that this might be the only chance they'll get to see an Alpine country before next Summer.
Anyway, before this Saturday's games and the crashing finalé that follows next Wednesday, here's our ever-handy guide to what you need to know regarding who could qualify, who already has
qualified and who might fail *COUGHENGLAND*...Saturday:
Finland v Azerbaijan; Poland v Belgium; Serbia v Kazakhstan; Portugal v Armenia;Wednesday:
Portugal v Finland; Serbia v Poland
If Poland beat Belgium at the weekend, Poland are through to the Finals. A draw will mean Serbia and Finland will have to win both their remaining games to overhaul the Poles, and even then they'll still have Portugal to contend with. A defeat for Poland will mean they have to travel to Serbia on Wednesday and possibly pick up three points then. Sooner them than us...
A defeat for Serbia or Finland on Saturday would effectively end their chances of qualification, so we think the key match to look out for will be Portugal's home game against Armenia. A win for Portugal could seal their qualification and potentially see Poland through as well. Lots of permutations with this one, but the Poles and Portuguese are undoubtedly in the box seat as things stand.Saturday:
Scotland v ItalyWednesday:
Italy v Faroe Islands; France v Ukraine
If Scotland beat Italy on Saturday, party on! If Scotland lose, they're out. That's just about all you need to know, really.
Oh yeah, I suppose it could be a draw, technically speaking. If that's the case, Ukraine will need to beat France next week to see the Scots through. That said, a win for the Faeroes against Italy would also help. (I know - why did we even mention that?)Saturday:
Norway v TurkeyWednesday:
Malta v Norway; Turkey v Bosnia-Herzegovina
Since last we spoke, Bosnia-Herzegovina's chances have ended and Greece have qualified, so that leaves a straight head-to-head battle between Norway (now second in the group) and Turkey (third). As you'll see, the two teams play this weekend, and a win for the Norwegians will earn them qualification. A draw will almost certainly be insufficient for Turkey who will have to hope that Norway lose to Turkey next week. Unlikely, we think.
As you can see, the Czech Republic have joined Germany as qualifiers from Group D, so there's nothing more to add here, except to say that Wales play the Republic of Ireland this Saturday.
It'll be just like the old days of the British Championship again! (except England, Scotland and Northern Ireland won't be involved.) Ahem...Saturday:
Macedonia v Croatia; Israel v RussiaWednesday:
England v Croatia; Andorra v Russia
What more do we need to say? A win for Russia against Israel on Saturday and all us Anglophiles will have to look forward to next Summer will be a resurrection of the old England v Scotland fixture. Even then, it will only happen if (a) anyone can be bothered to arrange the fixture and (b) Scotland don't qualify for Euro 2008 either. Oh the misery of it all...Saturday:
Northern Ireland v Denmark; Spain v SwedenWednesday:
Spain v Northern Ireland; Denmark v Iceland; Sweden v Latvia
Good news! Northern Ireland can still qualify! All they need to do is beat Denmark and Spain, then hope Spain lose against Sweden - what could be easier! Shame on all you doubters...
A draw between the top two on Saturday will ensure qualification for them both if Northern Ireland and Denmark draw or slip up next week while the Danes have a better chance of qualifying if they win both their remaining games, but that'll still depend on Spain slipping up. It has been known, as Lawrie Sanchez will tell you...Saturday:
Bulgaria v Romania; Netherlands v LuxembourgWednesday:
Slovenia v Bulgaria; Belarus v Netherlands
Romania are home and dry, so it's between the Netherlands and Bulgaria to grab the final qualifying spot in the group, but don't worry - it's all been sorted out. A win for the Dutch against Luxembourg at the weekend will snuff out Bulgaria's chances. We dare you to bet against it...
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