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Italian soccer is on the brink of disaster

ESPN FC  By Dale Johnson

Who will be the worst runners-up and miss World Cup playoffs?

The battle to make the World Cup playoffs in Europe is almost over -- only Slovakia or Bosnia and Herzegovina can now miss out as the worst runners-up..

CONFIRMED FOR PLAYOFFS: Portugal or Switzerland (runners-up in Group B), Italy, Runners-up in Group A, Denmark, Northern Ireland, Croatia, Republic of Ireland. 

It is slightly confusing as points gained against the team that finishes sixth are removed from the calculation, hence the table below.

Greece are almost certain to be the final team in the playoffs -- they only need to win at home to Gibraltar to clinch the runners-up spot in their group. They have already played all their games for the calculation and have 13 points -- one more than Slovakia -- so just have to secure second spot.

Even if Greece fail to win, they can only be overtaken by a win for Bosnia and Herzegovina and that would leave them on 11 points, one less than Slovakia, so they cannot now qualify for the World Cup.

So Slovakia's only hope is this: Greece fail to beat Gibraltar and Bosnia win in Estonia.

The runners-up in Group A are most likely to be Sweden, who would have to lose by seven goals away Netherlands to miss out on the playoffs, while France would also be through if they dropped into second by failing to win at home to Belarus. 

The full table of second place teams is as follows:

Portugal 18 (+18)
Denmark 14 (+7)
Croatia: 14 (+4)
Italy 14 (+3)
Sweden 13 (+10)
Northern Ireland 13 (+4)
Greece 13 (+4)
Republic of Ireland 13 (+2)
Slovakia: 12 (+5)

Greece, Portugal, Sweden and Sweden are in action on Tuesday.

Dale Johnson has been an editor and journalist at ESPN for 18 years. You can follow him on Twitter @dalejohnsonESPN.


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