By the end of the weekend, we’ll probably have a much better idea of who will joining the countries who have already qualified for South Africa, who will be in the play offs and which (if any) of the major footballing powersÂ will be watching England on TV. Here’s a quick guide to the various scenarios that will be played out around the world today:
Group 1: wide open. Denmark have a three point lead at the time of writing this, but they play second place Sweden this evening; Portugal
play Hungary so this situation is very fluidÂ could all change by tomorrow morning.
Group 2: See Group 1. Leaders Switzerland have an easy looking game in Luxembourg, but the key game today is probably Greece v Latvia. If that finishes in a draw and Israel beat bottom place Moldova then there’s a three way tie for second place going into Wednesday’s games.
Group 3: Slovakia have a five point lead, if they draw today they go through but their game is against second place Slovenia, who will be desperate to hang on for a point. Northern Ireland don’t have
a game today but will be keeping a close eye on the Czech Republic v Poland game.
Group 4: either Germany or Russia, they play each other today in Moscow. In an ideal world this one would be the one I’d be watching.
Group 5: Spain are already through, so thisÂ is a race for second between Bosnia & Turkey. Bosnia – away in Estonia – Â have a four point advantage going into the last two games; Turkey have a tricky looking game inÂ Belgium.
Group 6: Croatia look likely to go to the Play offs as Ukraine must beat England to stand any chance of coming second
Group 7: Serbia are guaranteed a play off place and will win the group if they beat Romania; France could still theoretically win the group,
they’ve got the Faroe Islands this evening in one of those games that France will probably win 1-0 with a goal in the tenth minute of injury time!
Group 8: Italy are already guaranteed aÂ play offÂ place, so Ireland need a
win to stand any chance of autoqualification. If Ireland lose in Dublin and Bulgaria beat Cyprusthen the battle for second place would go to Wednesday night. Breaking news yesterday was Fabio Cannavaro failing a drugs test having taken some kind of cortisone shot for a bee sting; he’s travelled to Dublin with the Italian squad but won’t be allowed to play tonight.
Two automatic places and a play off place left. Chile and Ecuador are currently in the automatic places with Argentina in the play off spot. That’s the simple part: Chile should be able to tie up one of the automatic places although they may have to wait until next week (they play
in Colombia this evening), but there are only three points difference between Ecuador (currently fourth) and Colombia (currently eighth), which means that the Colombia/Chile and Ecuador/Uruguay games are likely to have a bigger impact on the remaining automatic places than Argentina v Peru, which is a game that Argentina must (and probably will) win.
Outside Europe and South America…
The Ivory Coast canÂ qualify with a win in Malawi …the first leg of Bahrain/New Zealand qualifier takes place today…if El Salvador beat Mexico tonight and the United States win in Honduras tomorrow morning, the USA will qualify.
In case you’re having trouble keeping track of the important stuff, here’s the timeline we’ll be following so we can attempt (and ‘attempt’ is a very important concept!) to bring you updates on Twitter – all times GMT:
13:00 Malawi v Ivory Coast
15:45 Switzerland v Luxembourg
16:00 Russia v Germany
17:00 Estonia v Bosnia & Herzegovina
17:15 Ukraine v England
18:00 Bulgaria v Cyprus
19:00 Denmark v Sweden
19:30 Serbia v Romania
19:45 Belgium v Turkey
20:00 Israel v Moldova, France v Faroe Islands, Ireland v Italy
20:45 Portugal v Hungary
23:00 Colombia v Chile, Ecuador v Uruguay, Argentina v Brazil, El Salvador v Mexico
It’s a shame that not everyone will be able to watch our game today, but it’s a chance to appreciate our early qualification, to enjoy an exciting day of international football and to look forward to the prospect of South Africa 2010.