Italy and Netherlands book places at 2014 World Cup while other nations close in
The UEFA race for a place at the FIFA 2014 World Cup looks to be a little clearer following the penultimate round of matches at the beginning of September. Two sides have been confirmed as group winners, with Italy winning their group thanks to a 2-1 win over the Czech Republic, and the Netherlands also booking their spot in Brazil and Robin van Persie scored a brace to take a win over Andorra.
Up in Group A, Belgium continue to stay in pole position with a five point lead over second placed Croatia. The top two spots will be between them, but Belgium look to be so strong and creative and they could be one of the big dark horses of the tournament next summer in Brazil.
The Group B winners are Italy, with a seven point advantage over second placed Bulgaria. However, second spot is still a long way from being settled with two games remaining for everyone. Bulgaria have a one point lead over Denmark, but with the Czech Republic and Armenia also in with a narrow shot, it could be an exciting conclusion.
Germany look pretty assured of top spot in Group C, but it just hasn’t been confirmed yet. They hold a five point lead over second placed Sweden. But Austria are still in the hunt for second place, three points back of the Swedes and the two still having to go head to head on October 11th in a massive match.
Top spot in Group D has been settled with the Netherlands predictably firing their way to the top without breaking a sweat. The Dutch dropped just two points from their first eight qualification matches to give themselves an unassailable lead. The race for second spot is fierce though, with just a point separating second placed Hungary from Turkey and Romania.
Group E should be won by Switzerland as they hold a five point lead at the top of the pile with two games to go. No-one is guaranteed anything though, because they could still be caught by Iceland who hold second place. But the advantage that the Swiss do have is unlikely to be overhauled. Slovenia, Norway and Albania are all in with a shot for second place though in a tight group.
The fascinating 2014 World Cup qualification group that has been Group F could still go down to the wire in the race for top spot. It has been a ding-dong battle between Russia and Portugal, but with two games remaining, the Russians hold a point advantage over the Portuguese, so Fabio Capello’s men have their fate in their own hands. Russia’s last two games are away, but against the bottom two sides in the group. Israel could yet have a say in the chase for a runners up spot.
Group G is a straight shot between Bosnia and Herzegovina along with Greece for top spot. They both sit on 19 points with two games to go, and the only thing to be settled is in what order they finish. The advantage does look to be with Bosnia and Herzegovina though with a massive goal difference advantage over the low scoring Greeks.
Group H sees England in control of their own destiny. A battling 0-0 draw in the Ukraine saw Roy Hodgson’s men sitting on top of the pile, with a point advantage over the Ukrainians. Both of England’s remaining matches are at home, so they are in control. Montenegro and Poland though are still in the race, with Montenegro having to play England still, and Poland having to play both England and Poland in their final two matches.
Down in Group I, the short group of qualification with only five nations in it, Spain and France have made this such a predictable group. They both sit on 14 points, but Spain have a game in hand over the French and with their last two games at home, they should be in pole position to book automatic qualification.