A 1-0 victory in Dublin put France on the verge of qualification for the 2010 World Cup but the final step towards South Africa could still be a treacherous one in Paris on Wednesday.
Injuries have disrupted France’s preparations for the second leg of their play-off against Ireland who will arrive fuelled by a sense of injustice as they fight to keep their World Cup dreams alive after just missing out to world champions Italy.
French anxiety will be shared by Portugal when they take a 1-0 advantage to what will be a hostile second leg in Bosnia while Guus Hiddink’s Russia could also be in for a raw night in Slovenia when they travel with a 2-1 lead.
With Euro 2004 champions Greece drawing 0-0 at home to Ukraine on Saturday all four of the remaining European slots for the South Africa tournament are still up for grabs on what promises to be a nerve-tingling night on Wednesday.
France, beaten to automatic qualification by Serbia and with question marks hanging over the future of coach Raymond Domenech, will be without defender Eric Abidal and midfielders Jeremy Toulalan and Abou Diaby for the visit of Ireland.
With Arsenal left back Gael Clichy and Bayern Munich playmaker Frank Ribery also absent for France, Ireland will not be daunted as they try to upset a higher-ranked team in a competitive match for the first time since 2001.
Bosnia to go all out
Bosnia are striving to qualify for the World Cup finals for the first time and Portugal, without the injured Cristiano Ronaldo, could be in for an ear-bashing in Zenica.
“We will launch an onslaught like hungry wolves from the start and I am certain that Portugal will be stunned by the atmosphere,” Bosnia coach Miroslav Blazevic was quoted as saying by daily Dnevni Avaz.
“How do we counter that atmosphere? (By) trying to keep the ball and playing, always being dangerous,” Portugal’s Chelsea defender Ricardo Carvalho told reporters.
Carvalho’s former Chelsea teammate Andriy Shevchenko will know that Ukraine’s clash with Greece in Donetsk represents his last chance of appearing in a World Cup finals and his side will start as favourites to go through.
Montevideo: Uruguay will take a 1-0 lead over Costa Rica into the second leg of their World Cup playoff here on Wednesday, with the winner having the honour of being the 32nd and final qualifier for South Africa.
A goal in the 21st minute from skipper Diego Lugano in San Jose last Saturday was enough to give the South Americans a distinct advantage on home turf but they will be wary of what happened four years ago.
On that occasion they took on Australia in a playoff for Germany 2006 but were eliminated after winning the first leg 1-0, albeit on home turf.
In 2002, the Uruguayans were also in a playoff, and on that occasion they won through, defeating Australia over two legs.
“We are so close to South Africa, but we have not yet qualified,” said Uruguay coach Oscar Tabarez who will have four players back who were suspended last weekend including Monaco midfielder Diego Perez.
Russia to entertain
Russia will stick to their crowd-pleasing style of attacking play when they take a narrow lead over Slovenia into Wednesday's World Cup playoff return leg, coach Guus Hiddink said.
The Dutchman, who has taken three teams to soccer's most prestigious tournament with his entertaining brand of football, said Russia would not suddenly become defensive just because Slovenia snatched an away goal in Saturday's 2-1 first leg.
"Since I've been here we always tried to play aggressive, attacking football that most fans love to watch," Hiddink said.