Group B: Without a doubt the must fun group but more for the race for second place (more on that in another post). Russia’s last game is at home to Andorra and barring a cataclysm, they will win that game to finish on a minimum of 20 points. Before they play the Andorrans in Moscow they face a tough trip to Zilina to face Slovakia (official national team of 7500toholte‘s Kirsten Schlewitz). The Russians may need something in that game because if Slovakia were to win and then win at Macedonia, the Repre would be level on points with the Russians and own the head-to-head tiebreaker. Ireland too will be rooting for Slovakia to win. The Irish lose the head-to-head tiebreaker with Russia and could only win the group with victories over Andorra (away) and Armenia (at home) and a Russia defeat in Zilina.
We have reached the denouement of the qualification for the 2012 European Championships. The next 4 days will see the hopes of nations of fans fulfilled or crash. The full standings for each group are here. In part one I will take a look at who will win each group and book their places in next summer’s tournament.
Lets get the easy part out of the way, here are the teams that are already qualified.
Germany (perfect in Group A), Italy (only dropped 2 points in Group C), Netherlands (perfect in Group E) and Spain (perfect in Group I).
Now for the rest of the groups!
Group D: This group is likely going to the last match. France plays host to Albania and Bosnia-Herzegovina does the same with Luxembourg. Both should (and will) win setting up the biggest match in Bosnia’s young sporting history, a trip to the Stade de France. If Bosnia win they book their place in Euro 2012. Any other result means its France. And in case you think a Bosnia win incomprehensible any one remember this.
Group F: While in Group D the decider is the last match of qualifying, the penultimate match will likely settle things here. Greece (18 points) is at home to Croatia (19 points). Their first meeting was a 0-0 snoozer in Zagreb. It is hard to imagine Croatia not getting the maximum at home in their final match with Latvia so the Greeks have to win. A victory for Greece would mean that even a draw in Georgia would be enough for them to win the group (because a win would give the Greeks the head-to-head tiebreaker). And the last match for the Greeks is trickier than you think. Georgia opened qualifying with a 1-1 draw in Piraeus and their only defeat in Tblisi in qualifying was a surprising reverse to Latvia.
Group G: For England its real simple, a draw against Montenegro in Podgorica will suffice to win the group. The Montenegrans did get a deserved point at Wembley Stadium earlier in qualifying but there form was much better then. Since then they only managed one point against Bulgaria and Wales (even losing to them) and sacked their manager. Even if Montenegro knocks off England they would still have to win in Switzerland to complete their fairy-tale story and advance to Euro 2012.
Group H: Another potential winner-take-all climax in this group. Denmark, Portugal and Norway are all on 13 points. Norway only has 1 game left so their chances are virtually nil. Portgual had a terrible start to the campaign but have turned things around and should beat Iceland at home (the Portuguese did draw 4-4 with Cyprus at home after all, but that was under Carlos Quieroz who thankfully for them is sacked!). Denmark has the tougher assignment on paper with an away visit to the Cypriots. But Cyprus have been dire at home (1 point from 3 matches). Wins for the Danes and the Portuguese mean everything will be settled Tuesday in Copenhagen. Portugal would win the group with a draw because of their 3-1 win over Denmark earlier in the campaign.
My predictions for the group winners are these. Group B: Russia. Group D: France. Group F: Greece. Group G: England. Group H: Denmark
That’s part one, part two will focus on the race for the eight playoff berths (remember one group runner-up will not advance).