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A decisive day in World Cup qualification


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A decisive day in World Cup qualification

England play Poland in a decisive World Cup Group H qualifier at Wembley on Tuesday.

A win for Roy Hodgson’s side will guarantee them a place at next year’s finals in Brazil but anything else will open up a path for Ukraine to win the group if they beat bottom side San Marino.

Hodgson is taking nothing for granted against a team who have nothing to play for but 18 000 supporters in the stands.

“Playing at Wembley in front of 90,000 people with, with a big support from your own crowd as well, will be very inspiring and it gives you nothing to lose.”

Reigning World Cup champions Spain will fancy their chances of booking an automatic spot in Brazil when they entertain Georgia.

Vicente Del Bosque’s men need only a point to qualify after labouring to a 2-1 home win over Belarus on Friday.

They are three points clear of closest rivals France and unless there is a major upset in Albacete, Didier Dechamp’s side will take second place in the group and will need to come through a playoff to seal their berth at the finals.

France have written off their chances of topping Group I and ahead of his team’s final match against out-of-contention Finland, captain Hugo Lloris said: “Spain have done the job on Friday (by beating Belarus 2-1) and we don’t expect them to fail (against Georgia).”

Bosnia-Herzegovina will hope to reach their first major tournament as an independent nation with a good result in their final Group G qualifier in Lithuania.

Bosnia are level on points with Greece but have a vastly superior goal difference to the 2004 European champions who take on bottom of the group Liechtenstein.

Bosnia coach Safet Susic said: “I have nothing to hide. I have no reason to change the team. We will play very offensively, but we have to be prepared for anything, even to concede a goal, even the first one.”

With the Netherlands clear winners of Group D it’s a three horse race for second.

Turkey are currently in that spot and host the Dutch needing a win to assure themselves a playoff berth – unless Romania beat Estonia by at least six more goals than Turkey’s winning margin.

Third places Hungary could also grab second place if Turkey and Romania lose and they beat Andorra.

Elsewhere Belgium, who have qualified for the finals for the
first time since 2002, finish up with a group A match against Wales.

Croatia will finish second and should gain enough points to make the playoffs which will be between the eight best runners-up from the nine European groups.

In group B Italy have already qualified but Bulgaria, Denmark, the Czech Republic and Armenia all have a chance of finishing second.

Denmark play minnows Malta while Bulgaria host the Czechs while Armenia would need a major upset to win in Italy.

A playoff spot however is not for certain out of this group as points gained against bottom club Malta do not count and the runners-up in Group B could end up with the lowest points total of the nine runners-up – only eight runners up go through to the playoffs.

Group C is already done and dusted with Germany qualifying as group winners and Sweden the runners-up.

The pair lock horns in Stockholm on Tuesday in their final game.

Switzerland have already won Group E and either Iceland or Slovenia will finish second.

Iceland have the better odds to reach the playoffs as they travel to Norway and Slovenia make the trip to on-form Switzerland.

Leaders Russia are favourites to earn direct qualification out of Group F with an away match at Azerbaijan on Tuesday, but should they lose, Portugal – who are three points behind and with an inferior goal difference – could sneak the top spot if they thrash Luxembourg with a ridiculous amount of goals.

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