Saturday 20 January 2018

group-by-group round-up

Qualified: Germany; Play-off contenders: Turkey, Belgium.

HAVING lost 3-1 at home to the rampant Germans on Friday, Turkey will be praying Joachim Loew's men don't let up in their pursuit of a perfect qualification record tonight as they host the Belgians. The Turks trail by a point, but they'll be confident a home win over the struggling Azerbaijanis will be enough if, as expected, Belgium come up short in Dusseldorf.

Tonight: Germany v Belgium, Turkey v Azjerbaijan.

Group C

Qualified: Italy; Play-off contenders: Estonia, Serbia.

ESTONIA, who don't play tonight, lead Serbia by a point and have a better head-to-head than the Serbs -- who need to win in Maribor to secure their qualification. They drew 1-1 against Slovenia at home, but will be hoping that the home side's exit means they might not be up for the return.

Tonight: Italy v Northern Ireland, Slovenia v Serbia.

Group D

Qualified: None, Contenders: France, Bosnia and Herzegovina.

A STRAIGHT shootout at the Stade de France sees Laurent Blanc's men needing at least a point to book their place. Bosnia have nothing to lose, making the trip in full knowledge that, no matter what, they have a play-off place secured.

Tonight: France v Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Group E

Qualified: Holland, Play-off: Sweden.

SWEDEN's head-to-head with Hungary means they can't be caught for a play-off place regardless of this evening's game against Holland.

Group F

Qualified: None; Contenders: Croatia, Greece.

GREECE'S 2-0 win over Croatia on Friday means the 2004 champions can qualify with a point away to Georgia tonight. Slaven Bilic's men know they missed an opportunity and look likely to head down the play-off route, regardless of how they do against Latvia.

Tonight: Georgia v Greece,

Croatia v Latvia.

Group G

Qualified: England; Play-offs: Montenegro

SWITZERLAND's defeat to Wales ended their interest so it will be a comfortable night for the Montenegrans in Basel as their play-off place behind England is safe.

Group H

Qualified: None; Contenders: Portugal, Denmark, Norway.

WINS for Portugal and Denmark on Friday mean that a draw between them tonight would kill off Norway's challenge, put the Portuguese through and send the Danes into the play-offs.

A Danish win would put them through and, if Norway beat Cyprus at home, goal difference would come into the equation as both games between the Norwegians and Portugal ended 1-0 to the home side. The Portuguese look safe, however, with a nine-goal swing between the teams going into tonight's game.

Tonight: Denmark v Portugal, Norway v Cyprus.

Group I

Qualified: Spain; Play-off contenders: Czech Republic, Scotland

SCOTLAND could only manage one goal against Liechtenstein on Friday, so a trip to Alicante to face the undefeated World and European champions needing a win to ensure their play-off place appears beyond them.

The Czechs trail Craig Levein's men by a point, with a superior head-to-head and if they beat Lithuania they will expect to go through, unless the Scots can produce a historic result.

Tonight: Lithuania v Czech Republic, Spain v Scotland.

ruaidhri o'connor

Irish Independent

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