WITH MOST OF our attention focused on what’s happening in Group C, it can be easy to forget what’s going on in the rest of Europe as the race for Brazil 2014 heats up.
Some, like Group D, look to have a certain winner (the Netherlands) but there’s still a battle for second place to wage while others, like Group E, could go right down to the wire.
Here, we take you through five key games that could go a long way to deciding who’ll be on the plane to Rio and who’ll be joining Ireland, watching from the sofa.
Group B: Armenia v Denmark
With Bulgaria (10 pts) almost certain to beat Malta and the Czech Republic (9 pts) facing group leaders Italy (17 pts), a win is crucial for both these teams if they are to have any hope of claiming the runner-up spot in Group B.
Both are currently on nine points but Armenia, who beat Demark 4-0 in Copenhagen in June, will be slight favourites.
With a home game against Bulgaria to follow in October, the Armenians have given themselves a great chance of qualifying but will know that nothing less than three points will do.
Group D: Romania v Turkey
Umut Bulut will be looking to add to his hat-trick last time out.
Image: Armando Franca/AP/Press Association Images
With the Netherlands (19 pts) almost certain to qualify as group winners, Turkey (10 pts), Hungary (11 pts) and Romania (13 pts) will scrap it out for the coveted runner-up spot in Group D.
With Faith Terim back in for his third stint as national coach, Turkey have picked up seven points in three games and will be looking for revenge over a Romanian outfit who beat them 1-0 at home last October.
Romania will be full of confidence following a comfortable 3-0 win away to Hungary last Friday and Victor Pițurcă’s men know a win virtually guarantees second place in the group.
Group E: Iceland v Albania
Much like Group B, three teams are separated by just one point in Group E. Switzerland top the group on 15 points but Norway (11 pts), Albania (10 pts), Iceland (10 pts) and even Slovenia (9 pts) can still qualify.
Iceland came from 4-1 down after 54 minutes last Friday to grab a 4-4 draw with Switzerland thanks to a Jóhann Berg Guðmundsson hat-trick and they’ll hope to carry that momentum into tonight’s game against and create some daylight between themselves the Albanians.
For their part, Gianni De Biasi’s men will look to bounce back from a 1-0 defeat to Slovenia, a result that means they’ve only picked up one point from the last six available. A draw suits both Switzerland and Norway.
Group G: Slovakia v Bosnia & Herzegovina
Can Edin Džeko add to his five goals in four appearances for Bosnia this year?
Image: Amel Emric/AP/Press Association Images
A 1-0 win away to the same opposition five days ago has kept Slovakia in the hunt in Group F. However, with just three games remaining and four points behind both Bosnia and Greece, they almost certainly need nine points from nine.
It’s some turnaround for the Slovakians as their 1-1 draw with Liechtenstein in June looked to have put paid to their qualification hopes but the unexpected win in Bosnia has given them a sliver of hope.
For the Bosnians, three points keeps them in pole position in the group, especially with games with Liechtenstein and Lithuania to come.
Group H: Ukraine v England
England (15 pts) virtually guarantee themselves qualification with a win in Ukraine (14 pts) tonight but may be tempted to adopt a defensive strategy as they are woefully short of attacking options due to injury and suspension.
Both teams come into the game on the back of comprehensive wins, England running out 4-0 winners over Moldova while Ukraine put nine past the hapless San Marino.
Montenegro, who currently sit second in the group on goal difference, don’t play tonight but will probably be hoping for a draw to keep alive their own automatic qualification hopes.