Some of Europe’s leading nations can clinch qualification for the 2014 World Cup finals in a double-header of fixtures over the next week, starting on Friday.
Wins against Bulgaria and Czech Republic will be enough to confirm qualification for Cesare Prandelli’s Italy, who will
miss several players due to injury or suspension, including Mario Balotelli.
The Netherlands’ unbeaten run appears unlikely to end, even with Rafael Van der Vaart out injured. Wins against Estonia on Friday and Andorra next week will see them qualify.
Germany need other results to go their way. They face Austria in Munich’s Allianz Arena on Friday, and wins there and in the Faroe Islands on Tuesday will be enough if Ireland and Sweden slip up.
Joachim Loew, who has been unhappy with his side’s defensive performances, will miss Bastian Schweinsteiger, Mario Goetze, Ilkay Gundogan and Lukas Podolski due to injury. Mesut Ozil however, will be there.
European and world champions Spain play their first competitive fixture since their Confederations Cup final defeat to Brazil when they face Finland in Helsinki.
Spain are top of Group I but, with a lead of just one point over France, they still need to win their remaining three fixtures to be certain of a return to Brazil next year.
France’s chase of Spain continues with a tough-looking tie in Georgia, where Spain toiled for a 1-0 win last year.
England, who are two points behind Montenegro with a game in hand, face Moldova at Wembley and travel to Ukraine next week.
With Wayne Rooney and Daniel Sturridge ruled out through injury, Roy Hodgson will have to dip into his reserve pool of strikers on Friday. Danny Welbeck, Jermain Defoe and Rickie Lambert are battling to get the call.