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Apr 30, 2013

France sweating on Fener progress

French football fans will be cheering on Fenerbahce when the Turkish side takes on Benfica this week with France's top-five UEFA ranking dependent on the outcome of the Europa League semi-final second leg.

Having won last week's first leg in Istanbul 1-0, Fenerbahce have the edge ahead of Thursday's reunion in Lisbon, but should the hosts overturn that deficit to reach the final, the celebrations in the Portuguese capital will be matched by France's large community of the Iberian nation but not the rest of the footballing public.

France's hold on fifth place in the coefficient rankings is a fragile one, and would slip if Benfica win the game. Even if the former European Cup winners triumph 1-0 and then go out on penalties, Portugal would still overtake France as UEFA do not take shoot-outs into account.

Fifth place is significant as it means the team which finishes third in Ligue 1 does not have to participate in the third qualifying round of the Champions League, but rather goes straight into the two-legged play-off for the group stage, as Lille did against Copenhagen this season.

Regardless of the outcome of Thursday's game, with France having ended in sixth already last season, whichever team finishes on the lowest step of the French top flight's podium this term will face an early start to their Champions League campaign in 2013-14.

Spain currently lead the UEFA coefficient ranking with 87.739, England is second (82.249) ahead of Germany (78.757) and Italy (64.147) while France (59.000) and Portugal (58.668) follow.

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