After all the hullaballoo surrounding transfer deadline day its refreshing to look forward to a week of football,which leads up to the worlds biggest sporting event World Cup 2014. Footballs most hallowed stage is within touching distance and the actors (nations) are rehearsing through their final round of auditions the world cup qualifiers. The next two-three months will determine the final 32 teams of the competing six FIFA confederations. The UEFA confederation boasts of the maximum (13) qualifying spots. 53 nations affiliated with UEFA take part in the qualification process and are divided into eight groups of six teams and a single group of five teams. The nine group winners qualify while the eight best runners-up enter into a play-off. Given the current standings,the major plot lines in the offing include:
Group A Belgium,an exciting young talented team,square off against Scotland in Glasgow. They beat the Scots 2-0 last time around and should they win this weekend they would be all but assured of an automatic spot. Croatia,who sit three points adrift face a tough away fixture to Serbia. However,should Belgium slip up and Croatia win,both teams will face each other on October 11th in what will definitely be the decider.
Group C Germany sit pretty on 16 points after winning five of their six games,but what makes this group exciting is the battle for second. Austria,Sweden and Ireland are all level on 11 points. The two big games in the group are Republic of Ireland vs. Sweden in Dublin on Friday and Austria vs. Republic of Ireland in Vienna on Tuesday. Austria presently leads the trio due to a superior goal difference but all this could change after this round of fixtures.
Group F This is an interesting one in which three points separate Portugal,Russia,and Israel. Portugal who currently top the group has played an extra game and they boot up against Northern Ireland in what may not be an easy fixture for Ronaldo and Co. Portugal drew against Northern Ireland the last time these sides met and the journey to Belfast may not be as rosy as one would assume. Russia should walk over Luxembourg on Friday but it is the game in hand against Israel on Tuesday that will have a significant bearing on the group.
Group H An eagerly contested group in which three points separate Montenegro,England,and Ukraine. In what could be a tricky fixture,Montenegro face Poland,a team they drew against at home. England and Ukraine both have an easier first round on Friday as they face off against Moldova and San Marino respectively. With injuries to Rooney and Sturridge,Hodgson may choose to start with Lambert upfront supported by Welbeck and Walcott on the flanks. On Tuesday,England travel to Kyiv to face Ukraine in what is sure to be a feisty encounter. The last time these sides met in London it ended 1-1. Both sides need a win if they are to actualize their world cup ambitions.
Group I The final group profiles two heavyweights in Spain and France who are separated by a point. Both side have already faced each other twice so it is up to Finland to play spoiler. The way things stands,Spain leads the group but a trip to Helsinki over the weekend is not going to be easy especially since their last meeting ended 1-1.
The other mentions include Italy,Netherlands,and Switzerland all of whom are leading their respective groups comfortably and should go through.