Group A: Turkey (14 points, 8 for playoffs table), Belgium (12 points, 9): Both teams play Germany, Turkey gets them at home, Belgium plays them away. Belgium plays Kazakhstan before their game with the Germans while Turkey plays Azerbaijan at home. The Azeris did beat Turkey at home earlier in qualifying and the Belgians will need a repeat of that to grab second because the Turks win the head-to-head tiebreaker (that‘s assuming the Germans beat both teams to complete a perfect qualifying campaign). Because Belgium plays the last place Kazakhs, they probably need to beat Germany to avoid being the bottom-placed runner-up. Turkey may need a point at home to Germany to be sure they get in.
Now to sort out the playoff picture for Euro 2012 qualification. Keep in mind that one runner-up out of the nine will not advance to the playoffs. Because most groups have six teams while others have five, to make it fair the second-place teams in a group of six have their points against the last-place teams subtracted from their points total. Again full standings here.
Group B: Russia (17, 14), Ireland (15, 12), Armenia (14, 8), Slovakia (14, 8): Russia‘s in pole position to win the group but they could be out altogether if Slovakia win their final two games (including a home match with the Russians) and Ireland win their final two matches. But the horse closing fast on the outside is Armenia, a Cinderella story coming out of Pot 5 of 6 at the start of qualifying. They held the Russians at home, but looked down out after a credible 3-1 defeat in St. Petersburg. The Armenians (a very young side mostly) then thumped Andorra and came up with a scarcely believable 4-0 win in Zilina over Kirsten Schlewitz’s Slovakia. The Armenians control their own destiny for second. They have Macedonia at home and a win their sets up a huge match with the Irish in Dublin. Keith Fahey scored the winner with 14 minutes to go in Yerevan at the very start of qualifying, but the Armenians have a lot of momentum behind them. The second place team here is almost certainly making the playoffs and even with all the Villains in their side, I’d love to see Armenia get there.
Group C: Serbia (14, 8), Estonia (13, 10), Slovenia (11, 5): It is Serbia’s to lose with two games to go even though one of those is Italy at home. The Serbians final game is Slovenia away and if they fail to win either game that could open the door for Estonia. Of course Estonia would already have the door open for them had they not lost 2-0 to the Faroe Islands in June. The Estonians have Northern Ireland away for their final fixture. In the last round of qualifying, Estonia hammered the Northern Irish 4-1 in Tallinn. If the Serbians manage to finish second without winning either of their final two group games then its likely that this will be the runner-up without a chair when the music stops.
Group D: France (17, 11), Bosnia-Herzegovina (16, 13): Assuming France beat Albania and Bosnia beat Luxembourg then both these teams will be playoff bound at the worst.
Group E: Sweden (18, 12), Hungary (18, 12): Hungary only have one game left, so they need Sweden to slip up against Finland in the Nordic derby and then hope that already qualified Netherlands can get a result against the Swedes in Solna. Hungary finish with Finland in Budapest. The Swedes beat Hungary 4-3 on aggregate in their two meetings so they get the tiebreaker and go through to the playoffs if they beat the Finns in Helsinki.
Group F: Croatia (19, 13), Greece (18, 12): Either team should be good to go to the playoffs no matter what happens.
Group G (5 teams): The other great story of Euro 2012 qualifying for me is tiny Montenegro (11 points and also out of Pot 5) who’ve topped this group most of the way. But a bad spell has put their chances of the playoffs in a bit of danger. The Montenegrans could still win the group if they win their final two matches, but England (17 points) at home is no small prospect and then there’s a trip to the famous St. Jakob Park to face Switzerland (8 points) in the final match. The Montenegrans did beat the Swiss, so a draw in Basel would be enough to get second and probably take their place in the playoff draw (goal difference could be a problem). Before the big match in Basel, Switzerland go to the Liberty Stadium in Swansea to play Wales who are coming off improved performances under Gary Speed in the last round of qualifying (beat Montenegro and lost undeservedly to England at Wembley Stadium). England are playoff bound at the minimum so I can’t help but root for the Montenegrans to recapture that early spirit and finish the fairy tale.
Group H (5 teams): Norway, Portugal, Denmark all have 13 points. Despite the fact that Portugal and Denmark play each other in the final game, they both have a game in hand on Norway who have almost no chance to grab the runner-up spot. The Norwegians lose the tiebreaker with Denmark. And because the Norwegians and the Portuguese tied 1-1 on aggregate in their two matches, the tiebreaker between them is goal difference (Portugal +8, Norway +1). So unless Portugal slips up against Iceland at home and at Denmark or the Danes slip up against Cyprus in Nicosia and at home to Portugal it will be the Danes and Portuguese headed for at least the playoffs.
Group I: Czech Republic (10 points), Scotland (8 points): Most likely the Czechs will finish second. They do play Spain at home to start this round while Scotland away to Lichtenstein. One problem for the Scots, they finish in Alicante against the all-conquering Spaniards. Even if the Spanish do them a favor in Prague, its hard to imagine the Scots getting anything in that game. If they don’t then all the Czechs would need is a draw in Kaunas against Lithuania (they have the tiebreaker over Scotland). Now the Lithuanians did defeat the Czechs in the second game of qualifying but its gone horribly wrong after that good start. Since that win the Lithuanians lost to the likes of Lichtenstein and their only point was a 0-0 draw at home with those same minnows.
Sadly the playoffs will be seeded so depending on the makeup of the playoff grouping it will still be a tough hill to climb in November for some of the smaller sides, but remember Slovenia did beat Russia in the playoffs two years ago, you never know.
My guess the playoff field is this: Turkey, Ireland, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Sweden, Greece, Montenegro, Portugal, Czech Republic (four seeded teams will be Turkey, Greece, Portugal, Sweden).