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The race to the Euros

By Tuesday evening we'll know the 12 of the 16 nations which will participate at Euro 2012. Poland and Ukraine will be there as hosts of the tournament, while Germany, Italy, Netherlands and Spain can already book their flights. Though mathematically Netherlands could still finish below Sweden in Group E, they would be guaranteed the remaining automatic spot as the best runner-up.

• Spain and Netherlands face tough draw

The eight group winners qualify automatically along with the best runner-up. As three groups only have five teams, the groups with six teams will have the record of the team finishing bottom of the group ignored to calculate the best runner-up.

We take a group-by-group look at who can still qualify, and how they can get to the finals. Head to head record comes before goal difference in this qualifying campaign.

Group A

Remaining fixtures
Friday: Azerbaijan v Austria, Belgium v Kazakhstan, Turkey v Germany
Tuesday: Germany v Belgium, Kazakhstan v Austria, Turkey v Azerbaijan
• Group table, results and scorers

Qualified: Germany
Able to qualify for play-offs: Turkey, Belgium

It is a straight two-way fight between Turkey and Belgium for second place, with Turkey holding a two-point advantage and also the better head-to-head. It means Belgium coach Georges Leekens will need to pick up three more points than Turkey this week.

Turkey: With Turkey hosting Azerbaijan (who have lost all their away games) on the final matchday a point at home to Germany on Friday will put one foot in the finals. However, if Turkey lose to Germany, who have a 100% record, it opens the door to Belgium.

Belgium: If Turkey lose at home to Germany, then Belgium would have to beat Kazakhstan at home and most likely win in Germany.

Verdict: Turkey may lose at home to Germany, but the chances of Belgium going to the Esprit Arena, Dusseldorf, and taking all three points are extremely slim. Turkey to make the play-offs.


Group B

Remaining fixtures
Friday: Andorra v Ireland, Armenia v Macedonia, Slovakia v Russia
Tuesday: Ireland v Armenia, Macedonia v Slovakia, Russia v Andorra
• Group table, results and scorers

Able to qualify: Russia, Ireland, Armenia, Slovakia

Armenia's crushing and shock win in Slovakia last month has put qualification within their grasp for the first time in their history. Russia remain in pole position, with a two point lead over Ireland, but if Dick Advocaat's side lose in Slovakia on Friday then the door will be open for others in the group. It seems most likely that Tuesday's game between Ireland and Armenia in Dublin will be a shoot-out for the play-offs.

The following scenarios are based upon Ireland and Russia obtaining their expected wins over Andorra.

Russia: With their final group game being at home to Andorra, who have lost every match, and their better record against Ireland, Russia effectively need a single point in Slovakia. That would leave them, at worst, above Ireland on head to head with Andorra to play at home.

Ireland: The goalless draw at home with Slovakia last month severely dented their hopes of automatic qualification, but they have the play-offs in their own grasp which they can guarantee by winning both games. For Ireland to win the group they must win both matches and hope Russia are defeated in Slovakia.

Armenia: Their only realistic hope of qualification is if they win their two remaining qualifiers, and like Ireland that would guarantee the play-offs. As the clear top scorers in the group, with the best home record, coach Vardan Minasyan will be confident of beating Macedonia on Friday which will likely take them into Tuesday's game at Ireland a point behind. Automatic qualification looks impossible as Russia would have to pick up no more than two points from their games.

Slovakia: The heavy defeat at home to Armenia has turned their qualification chances from strong to weak. Had they won that game they would be on top of the group, due to their win in Russia, but now they sit fourth. Other fixtures mean they must surely win both of their games to stand any chance, starting with the home game against Russia. Should they beat Russia, and the other games go as expected, it would leave Ireland top by a point from Russia, Armenia and Slovakia. Slovakia would then win the group if Ireland drew with Armenia, on the head to head with Russia.

Verdict: A tough one to call but Slovkia may find it tough to raise themselves again to earn anything more than a point at home to Russia. Russia to win the group, while Ireland should be capable of getting the point they'll need at home to Armenia to make the play-offs.


Group C

Remaining fixtures
Friday: Northern Ireland v Estonia, Serbia v Italy
Tuesday: Italy v Northern Ireland, Slovenia v Serbia
• Group table, results and scorers

Qualified: Italy
Able to qualify for play-offs: Serbia, Estonia, Slovenia, Northern Ireland

With Italy already on the plane to Poland and Ukraine there are three nations left in the hunt for a place in the play-offs. Serbia are very much in pole position having a one point lead over Estonia with a game in hand, but the fixtures could throw up a fascinating finale.

Serbia: Though Serbia may be in a position of power it is not certain they will finish second. They begin with a home game against Italy knowing that victory over the finalists will secure their place as runners-up. If Serbia draw with Italy at Stadion Crvena Zvezda, qualification will only go down to the final day if Estonia win in Northern Ireland. In that eventuality, Serbia would then have to win in Slovenia to climb above Estonia on the final day.

Estonia: Estonia's better record against Serbia - they won away and drew on their own turf - means Estonia would be above Serbia if level on points. One way this can happen is if Estonia draw in Northern Ireland and Serbia lose to both Italy and Slovenia. That would leave all three nations on 14 points. We then have to consider the mini-league between those nations, and that would result in Serbia definitely being eliminated. Slovenia would need to score at least four goals against Serbia, coupled with a win margin of at least two goals, to climb above Estonia. So, essentially, a draw for Estonia and two defeats for Serbia would almost certainly put Estonia in the play-offs. If Estonia win in Northern Ireland, they will finish second if Serbia fail to win either of their final two games.

Slovenia: The only realistic hope is that Serbia and Estonia both lose on Friday. If that happens, Slovenia will finish second ahead of Serbia on head to head by beating them in the Ljudski vrt Stadium.

Northern Ireland: It would be the comebacks to end all comebacks, but the Irish could qualify if they win at home to Estonia and then pull off the unthinkable and win away to Italy. Then all they would need to happen is Serbia to lose to Italy and Slovenia, and the Irish would be second. Winning in Italy is just one problem.

Verdict: Very hard to call but Serbia, after a troubled start to qualifying on and off the field, should book second place.


Group D

Remaining fixtures
Friday: Bosnia-Herzegovina v Luxembourg, France v Albania, Romania v Belarus
Tuesday: Albania v Romania, France v Bosnia-Herzegovina
• Group table, results and scorers

Able to qualify: France, Bosnia-Herzegovina
Able to qualify for play-offs: Romania

Though mathematically Romania can make the play-offs it is realistically a straight battle between the top two.

France and Bosnia-Herzegovina: The two teams are separated by a single point and will meet in Paris on Tuesday. Just what that means for the group will depend on what happens on Friday. Both have straightforward home games against nations they have beaten away earlier in the group so the status quo should remain at the Stade de France. That simply means France, missing several key players due to injury, must avoid defeat and Bosnia have to win to qualify automatically and avoid the play-offs. The only way the two sides can finish level on points would see France top on head to head.

Romania: Though they can reach 18 points the likelihood is that will not be enough due to Friday's games. If Bosnia-Herzegovina take only a single point from their last two games, Romania will make the play-offs by winning both their fixtures. If Romania take four points while Bosnia-Herzegovina lose both, Romania would be second on head to head. Romania can only overtake France if Laurent Blanc suffers two defeats, and Romania collect six points, to finish second.

Verdict: Though France have lost many players ahead of this key week, they should be capable of taking the point on home soil they will need to finish top. They won 2-0 in Bosnia-Herzegovina in more troubled times. Bosnia-Herzegovina may face the play-offs again.


Group E

Remaining fixtures
Friday: Finland v Sweden, Netherlands v Moldova
Tuesday: Sweden v Netherlands, Hungary v Finland, Moldova v San Marino
• Group table, results and scorers

Qualified: Netherlands
Able to qualify: Sweden, Hungary

There's an anomaly in this group as even though Netherlands are not guaranteed to win the group, if they were to finish second they are assured of being the best runner-up. But Netherlands would also have to lose at home to Moldova for this to even be remotely possible. Hungary do have a chance but they have only one match left to play.

Sweden: To win the group Sweden must win their games and in doing so better Netherlands' 5-1 win over them. That would put Sweden top on head to head. If Sweden beat Netherlands 5-1, they would have to have won in Finland by seven goals to finish top on goal difference. Sweden would be the best runners-up simply by winning their last two games, which includes by any score over the Dutch. Failure to beat the Dutch may well put them in the play-offs. A win over Finland on Friday will guarantee second place.

Hungary: As Hungary are behind Sweden on the head to head their chances are reduced. Though level on points with Sweden, they only have one match left, which comes at home to Finland. As stated above, if Sweden win in Finland on Friday then it is over for the Magyars. If Sweden do not win that first game, then there is the chance Hungary could sneak in. In short, Hungary must beat Finland and hope Sweden win neither of their games.

Verdict: Netherlands will certainly win the group, and it is a tough ask for Sweden to win against them and guarantee best runner-up. An away game in Finland is not easy win for the Swedes, but when it comes to such a crucial stage they should get the win they need for second.


Group F

Remaining fixtures
Friday: Greece v Croatia, Latvia v Malta
Tuesday: Georgia v Greece, Malta v Israel, Croatia v Latvia
• Group table, results and scorers

Able to qualify: Croatia, Greece

The key game in this group is on Friday when the top two, split by a single point, meet at the Karaiskakis Stadium in Greece. Croatia will be in the finals should they win away from home.

If Greece win they would need only a single point in Georgia as they lead Croatia on the head-to-head rule. But if Greece lose in Georgia then Croatia could finish top by winning at home to Latvia.

If the top-of-the-table showdown finishes in a draw on Friday, then Croatia would be the favourites to top the group having the point advantage and a home game against Latvia. Greece would have to win and hope Croatia do not for two reasons. Firstly, they cannot win the head to head win a draw on Friday, only match it with a 0-0, and Croatia would then still win the group on goal difference unless they lost by six goals to Latvia.

Verdict: Nerves got the better of Greece in Latvia, and Croatia may well have enough to get the point they effectively need at the Karaiskakis Stadium.


Group G

Remaining fixtures
Friday: Montenegro v England, Wales v Switzerland
Tuesday: Bulgaria v Wales, Switzerland v Montenegro
• Group table, results and scorers

Able to qualify: England, Montenegro
Able to qualify for play-offs: Switzerland

England know what they must do to secure top spot, but for Montenegro there is the very real fear that their early work of the qualifying campaign is about to come to nothing.

England: Need a point in Montenegro to secure top place. If they lose at Stadion Pod Goricom then it lets Montenegro in with the chance of topping the group. Even if that happens and England finish second in this group, would could only happen if Montenegro also win in Switzerland, they may qualify as the best second placed team. England can win the group with a defeat on Friday if Montenegro then do not beat Switzerland.

Montenegro: Even if Montenegro beat England they would not be guaranteed second spot, as Switzerland could overtake them on head to head. Montenegro will top the group with two wins and be guaranteed second spot with four points, however they get them.

Switzerland: Their task is simple in some respects as they know with two wins they could finish second. If Montenegro lose to England and Switzerland win in Wales, Switzerland would still have to beat Montenegro due to Montenegro's 1-0 win over the Swiss earlier in qualifying. The same applies if both teams draw on Friday. If Switzerland lose in Wales, they can only finish second if Montenegro lose to England, and Switzerland then beat Montenegro.

However, if Montenegro beat England and then Switzerland beat Montenegro, two sides would be level on 14 points in second. It would then come down to head to head: If Switzerland win 1-0 it will go to goal difference (they are currently level on +2, Switzerland have the better goals scored), while any other one goal scoreline sees Montenegro finish second on away goals. Any other Switzerland winning scoreline would put them ahead on Montenegro on head to head.

Verdict: It will now be a shock if England do not get the point they need in Montenegro, as long as the right Fabio Capello side turns up. Montenegro's fall from grace means Switzerland look slight favourites for second.


Group H

Remaining fixtures
Friday: Cyprus v Denmark, Portugal v Iceland
Tuesday: Denmark v Portugal, Norway v Cyprus
• Group table, results and scorers

Able to qualify: Portugal, Denmark, Norway

While all three sides are still in with a chance of making the finals, Norway are at a disadvantage sitting in third place with only one game left to play and behind on head-to-head and goal difference.

Portugal: The home game against Iceland should pose no problems for Paulo Bento's side, given that they won 3-1 at the Laugardalsvollur Stadium a year ago. They have won their last four qualifies, beating rivals Denmark and Norway in that time. It is likely that Denmark and Portugal will go into the game in Copenhagen level on 16 points. As Portugal won the first meeting 3-1 that means they would qualify on head to head by avoiding defeat.

Denmark: Much of what they have to do is covered above, simply put they are likely to have to win both of their games to top the group. They could still top the group with a draw in the final game if Portugal fail to beat Iceland.

Norway: Their task will largely depend upon what happens on Friday, but they have little chance of qualifying. They must beat Cyprus, then the only way they can overtake Denmark is if the Danes pick up no more than two points from their two matches. They would need a minimum goal difference swing of eight goals with Portugal if level so, again, the Portuguese must pick up no more than two points. Put simply, Norway must beat Cyprus and hope either Denmark or Portugal fail to win a game.

The unlikely scenario? Norway win, while Denmark and Portugal draw both games. That leaves Norway top and Portugal in second.

Verdict: It looks like being a titanic battle in Copenhagen, and maybe the Danes will just have enough on home soil to beat Portugal and climb top on the last day. Norway have only the most outside of chances.


Group I

Remaining fixtures
Friday: Czech Republic v Spain
Saturday: Liechtenstein v Scotland
Tuesday: Spain v Scotland, Lithuania v Czech Republic
• Group table, results and scorers

Qualified: Spain
Able to qualify for play-offs: Czech Republic, Scotland

Despite already having qualified, Spain still have a huge say in who makes the play-offs, playing both Czech Republic and Scotland in the final week.

Czech Republic: As they have the better head to head record with Scotland they may need just a single point in Lithuania to finish second, considering both nations must play Spain. Four points will guarantee second.

Scotland: The Scots must pick up three more points than the Czechs, and that suggests they must get some kind of result against Spain in the Jose Rico Perez, home of Hercules. Anything less than a win in Liechtenstein would make their task extremely difficult.

Verdict: It is difficult to see either the Czechs or Scotland taking anything off Spain which takes it down to the other two fixtures, and the Czechs will surely get a point at Lithuania - who have not won at home at all in qualifying (they even drew with Liechtenstein).


Best runner-up

This will become clearer after Friday's games. The second-placed team from Groups E, F, G or H is most likely to take the automatic berth.

Netherlands 18
England 17*
Russia 14*
Croatia 13
Denmark 13
Portugal 13
Bosnia-Herigovina 13*
Norway 13*
Greece 12
Sweden 12
Hungary 12*
Ireland 12*
France 11
Montenegro 11
Czech Republic 10
Estonia 10*
Belgium 9*
Scotland 8
Serbia 8
Switzerland 8
Turkey 8
Northern Ireland 5

*Denotes only one qualifying match remaining for best-runner-up calculation

• Follow me on Twitter: @dalejohnsonESPN

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