Holders Spain, 2008 runners-up Germany and FIFA World Cup finalists the Netherlands will go into the decisive UEFA EURO 2012 qualifiers in September and October with perfect records while France and Italy are also in strong positions as UEFA.com assesses the current state of the groups.
The nine section 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. More details, including the procedure for breaking ties, are in the official regulations.
Germany's wins in Austria and Azerbaijan in June opened up a ten-point gap to second-placed Belgium. In fact the only team that can catch Germany are Turkey, a point behind Belgium with a game in hand. If Germany make it eight wins out of eight at home to Austria on Friday they will qualify regardless of Turkey's result against Kazakhstan on a night when Belgium visit Azerbaijan.
It could not be tighter at the top after the Republic of Ireland, Russia and Slovakia all won their June fixtures to remain level on points with four games to go, while Armenia are now five adrift. Each of the top three still have one game left against both their rivals, and first up on Friday the Republic of Ireland welcome Slovakia, while Russia are at home to the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and Armenia visit Andorra. Four days later Ireland go to Russia, whose 7 October hosts, Slovakia, receive Armenia.
Unbeaten Italy remain five points clear of Slovenia following a 3-0 win on 3 June against Estonia and have a game in hand on the second-placed side. If Italy win in the Faroe Islands on Friday they will know that victory at home to Slovenia four days later will take them through. In the sole August fixture, Northern Ireland beat the Faroe Islands 4-0 to move into third, two points behind Slovenia with a game in hard, and one ahead of Serbia. On Friday, Northern Ireland play Serbia and Slovenia face Estonia.
France are a point clear of Belarus, who have played a game more but do hold a head-to-head advantage over Les Bleus should they end level. Bosnia and Herzegovina are two points behind Belarus with a game in hand, and two ahead of both Romania and Albania, who France visit on Friday. On that day, Belarus welcome Bosnia and Herzegovina and Romania visit Luxembourg.
The Netherlands, top with a perfect record after six games, had their lead cut to three points by Sweden's 5-0 defeat of Finland while Hungary are three further back. Hungary play Sweden on Friday when the Netherlands meet San Marino. If Sweden keep winning they could still pip the Netherlands when the sides meet in Solna on 11 October and would at least be in a strong position to be the best runners-up.
This is another tight section, with a win for each of the top three in June leaving Greece a point ahead of both Croatia and an Israel team who have played a game more. Greece go to Israel on Friday when Malta welcome Croatia and Georgia, four points off second, play Latvia. Croatia certainly have matters in their own hands as they take on Israel on 6 September and visit Greece on 7 October.
Although England and Montenegro were respectively held at home by Switzerland and Bulgaria on 4 June, the joint-leaders both maintained their six-point cushion over the pair level in third. The top two are on the road on Friday, England in Bulgaria and Montenegro visiting Wales. England are at home to Wales four days later with their decisive trip to Montenegro on 7 October.
Portugal's 1-0 win against previously unbeaten Norway left the pair level on ten points along with Denmark, with all three having three games left. Denmark's home assignments against Norway on 6 September and Portugal the following month look decisive. Before that, though, on Friday Portugal go to Cyprus and Norway welcome Iceland.
Holders Spain, with five wins from as many games, are six points clear of the Czech Republic, who visit Scotland in the only Saturday fixture. If the Czech Republic drop points in that match, Spain could qualify with a win against Liechtenstein three days later. Scotland, five points behind the Czech Republic with a game in hand, will be up to second if they win against that side then beat Lithuania four days later.
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