The road to Germany resumes this week as Euro 2024 qualifying kicks back into action with a number of teams in position to clinch qualification.
AFP Sport picks out some of the highlights with two rounds of matches spread over six days from October 12 to 17.
Scotland on the cusp
With five wins from as many matches in Group A, Scotland can become the first country to qualify for next year’s finals if they avoid defeat against Spain on Thursday in Seville. Scott McTominay’s brace earned Scotland a famous 2-0 win over Spain in March and Steve Clarke’s men have kicked on from then, defeating Norway with two late goals before easing Georgia and Cyprus aside.
Manchester United midfielder McTominay has six of Scotland’s 12 goals in qualifying – he had scored just once previously for his country – but they face a tall order to do the double over Spain. The loss in Glasgow was Spain’s first in 19 European Championship qualifiers. But they have won their past 23 such matches on home soil, losing only five qualifiers there in 125 games. Regardless of how Scotland fare, they would also qualify if Norway fail to win in Cyprus.
October 11, 2023
Perfect Portugal, France closing in
Roberto Martinez has enjoyed a serene start as Portugal coach, watching his side plunder 24 goals without reply in a weak Group J. A seventh straight win, against Slovakia on Friday, will see them over the finish line with three games to spare.
France are in a similar position with five successive wins in Group B. They can punch their ticket to Germany by defeating the Netherlands again, or by drawing if Greece lose in Dublin.
Belgium visit Austria in a meeting of the top two in Group F. The teams split the points in Brussels in June, and a win for either side on Friday in Vienna would send the victor through to the finals.
October 11, 2023
Crowded at the top in Group H
One point separates four teams at the top of Group H, with outsiders Kazakhstan trying to crash the party and appear at a first major tournament. Kazakhstan, assured of at least a play-off spot, are level on 12 points with Finland – one behind Denmark and Slovenia, who head the section by virtue of goals scored.
The next two matchdays could go a long way to deciding the top two. Denmark host Kazakhstan on Saturday, while Slovenia are at home to Finland. Kazakhstan then go to Finland three days later, Slovenia are away to Northern Ireland, and Denmark will be almost certain to beat San Marino – losers in all but one of 82 previous Euro qualifiers.
October 11, 2023
Israel bid on hold amid conflict
The outbreak of war between Israel and Hamas prompted UEFA to postpone Thursday’s match against Group I leaders Switzerland in Tel Aviv. Officials are still assessing whether Israel’s game away to Kosovo can go ahead Sunday as scheduled.
Israel is reeling under the brutal assault launched by Hamas militants on Saturday in which at least 1,200 people have now been confirmed dead in the worst attack in the country’s 75-year history. In Gaza, 1,055 people have been killed as Israel has pounded the densely populated territory with retaliatory air strikes and shelling.
October 10, 2023
England host Italy in Wembley final repeat
Gareth Southgate’s England hold a six-point cushion in Group C, with reigning champions Italy possessing a game in hand on all other sides. England gained a measure of revenge for their loss on penalties to Italy in the Euro 2020 final, launching their qualifying campaign with a 2-1 win in Naples in March.
Ukraine and North Macedonia are level on points with Italy. Those two nations face off Saturday as Italy host Malta. Luciano Spalletti began his tenure as Italy coach with a draw last month in North Macedonia, but victory over Ukraine eased fears of another doomed qualifying campaign after failing to reach the last two World Cups. Another win for England next Tuesday would all but seal first place ahead of the final rounds of the qualifiers in November.
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