The weekend UEFA EURO 2012 qualifying fixtures brought two contrasting nights, with the games played on Saturday leaving three groups with no outright leaders, while the previous evening Germany and Italy both opened up particularly healthy advantages.
UEFA.com rounds up the action, with more games to come on Tuesday. The nine group winners and the runners-up with the best record against the sides placed first, third, fourth and fifth in their pool qualify directly, with the other second-placed teams entering the play-offs.
Germany extended their lead to seven points as they won 2-1 in Austria on Friday while second-placed Belgium were held 1-1 by Turkey, who remain a point behind with a game in hand. Should Germany win on Tuesday away against Azerbaijan – whom Kazakhstan beat 2-1 to get off the mark – they will be assured a top-two finish and at least a play-off berth as only Turkey would be able to catch them.
All three games were on Saturday and Russia made the first move, coming from behind with Roman Pavlyuchenko's hat-trick to beat Armenia 3-1. Slovakia then overcame Andorra 1-0 while Robbie Keane's 50th and 51st international goals ensured Ireland a 2-0 win in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. Ireland, Russia and Slovakia are all on 13 points from six matches, five ahead of Armenia, raising the stakes for when the top three meet each other in September and October.
Unbeaten Italy kept their advantage at five points as they won 3-0 against Estonia on Friday while Slovenia, who have played a game more in second, prevailed 2-0 in the Faroe Islands. Serbia, Estonia and a Northern Ireland side who have played the fewest fixtures so far are respectively three, four and five points behind Slovenia. Estonia visit the Faroe Islands in the only Tuesday game.
France were held 1-1 in Belarus on Friday and the two teams are still four points apart. Romania continued their climb by beating Bosnia and Herzegovina 3-0 to move a point ahead of that team, level with Albania and one behind Belarus. On Tuesday, Bosnia and Herzegovina meet Albania and Belarus welcome bottom side Luxembourg.
The Netherlands, top with a perfect record after six games, are sitting out the June games allowing Sweden to close the gap to six points, with a match in hand, following Friday's 4-1 victory in Moldova. Sweden's extra game is on Tuesday at home to Finland, who won 1-0 in San Marino, where third-placed Hungary are next in action.
In the only group where games were split between Friday and Saturday, Croatia moved to the top on the first of those evenings by beating fourth-placed Georgia 2-1. However, Greece restored their one-point lead on Saturday with a 3-1 win against Malta while Israel returned to parity with Croatia – albeit after having played a game more – thanks to a 2-1 victory in Latvia. The group resumes on 2 September when Israel play Greece and Croatia visit Malta.
Unbeaten pair England and Montenegro began Saturday six points ahead of Switzerland and Bulgaria, and ended it in similar fashion. England came back from two down to draw 2-2 with Switzerland at Wembley while Montenegro were held 1-1 by Bulgaria. On 2 September, England visit Bulgaria and Montenegro go to Wales.
Portugal's 1-0 win against previously unbeaten Norway in Lisbon – reversing their autumn Oslo scoreline – leaves the pair level on ten points together with Denmark, 2-0 victors in Iceland. Denmark's home games against Norway on 6 September and Portugal the following month look decisive.
In the sole June fixture, Liechtenstein got off the mark by beating Lithuania 2-0 on Friday. Spain, with five wins from as many games, are six points clear of the Czech Republic, who are at home to Scotland on 2 September. If the Czech Republic drop points in that match, Spain could qualify with a win against Liechtenstein six days later.
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