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Race for second takes centre stage in Group C

Published: Monday 3 October 2011, 21.45CET
Serbia can seal the Group C play-off spot with one win from their final two matches although Estonia, Slovenia and Northern Ireland are ready to pounce should they fail to do so.
Race for second takes centre stage in Group C
Marko Pantelić's goal against Northern Ireland put Serbia in pole position to finish second in Group C ©Getty Images
Published: Monday 3 October 2011, 21.45CET

Race for second takes centre stage in Group C

Serbia can seal the Group C play-off spot with one win from their final two matches although Estonia, Slovenia and Northern Ireland are ready to pounce should they fail to do so.

With Italy already guaranteed top spot and a place at the final tournament in Poland and Ukraine, attention turns to the race for a play-off berth. Serbia know that victory against Italy in Belgrade will give them an unassaible advantage in second over the chasing pack but, should they lose, Estonia, Slovenia and Northern Ireland will be waiting to pounce.

7 October: Serbia v Italy, Northern Ireland v Estonia

11 October: Slovenia v Serbia, Italy v Northern Ireland

Latest standings

Italy (22 points) Q
Already assured of top spot in the section, the Azzurri have nevertheless named a strong squad for the conclusion of their campaign. One surprise inclusion is Atalanta BC midfielder Luca Cigarini, who has previously been in the senior squad just once, in 2010, and could be in line for his debut. Juventus defender Andrea Barzagli, who has not featured since 2008, is also involved. With Giampaolo Pazzini and Federico Balzaretti having withdrawn with injuries and fellow striker Giuseppe Rossi waiting to discover the seriousness of a knee injury sustained in training on Tuesday, AS Roma forward Osvaldo has been called up.

Goalkeepers: Gianluigi Buffon (Juventus), Morgan De Sanctis (SSC Napoli), Salvatore Sirigu (Paris Saint-Germain FC).

Defenders: Davide Astori (Cagliari Calcio), Federico Balzaretti (US Città di Palermo), Andrea Barzagli (Juventus), Leonardo Bonucci (Juventus), Mattia Cassani (ACF Fiorentina), Giorgio Chiellini (Juventus), Domenico Criscito (FC Zenit St Petersburg)*, Christian Maggio (SSC Napoli), Angelo Ogbonna (Torino FC)**.

Midfielders: Alberto Aquilani (AC Milan), Luca Cigarini (Atalanta BC), Daniele De Rossi (AS Roma), Claudio Marchisio (Juventus), Riccardo Montolivo (ACF Fiorentina), Antonio Nocerino (AC Milan), Andrea Pirlo (Juventus).

Forwards: Mario Balotelli (Manchester City FC)*, Antonio Cassano (AC Milan), Sebastian Giovinco (Parma FC), Giampaolo Pazzini (FC Internazionale Milano)*, Giuseppe Rossi (Villarreal CF), Osvaldo (AS Roma)**.

* Withdrawn
** Called Up

Serbia (14 pts)
Serbia coach Vladimir Petrović has called up 20-year-old FC BATE Borisov defender Marko Simić and midfielder Luka Milivojević for the first time, while also including injured duo Nemanja Vidić and Milan Biševac in his 27-man squad as he believes the pair may recover in time to face Italy and, especially, Slovenia. "We must be clever and at our best physically," said Petrović, who also recalls Nikola Žigić, Miloš Krasić and Dragan Mrdja after injury. "We can't make calculations, that's not how football works. I want to see the best of my team and if that's the case I expect us to qualify for the play-offs."

Goalkeepers: Bojan Jorgačević (KAA Gent), Damir Kahriman (SC Tavrya Simferopol), Bojan Šaranov (Maccabi Haifa FC).

Defenders: Branislav Ivanović (Chelsea FC), Nenad Tomović (US Lecce), Neven Subotić (Borussia Dortmund), Nemanja Vidić (Manchester United FC), Milan Biševac (Paris Saint-Germain FC), Marko Simić (FC BATE Borisov), Milan Vilotić (FK Crvena zvezda), Slobodan Rajković (Hamburger SV), Aleksandar Kolarov (Manchester City FC), Duško Tošić (Real Betis Balompié).

Midfielders: Dejan Stanković (FC Internazionale Milano), Zdravko Kuzmanović (VfB Stuttgart), Radosav Petrović (Blackburn Rovers FC), Ljubomir Fejsa (Olympiacos FC), Miloš Ninković (FC Dynamo Kyiv), Luka Milivojević (FK Rad), Miloš Krasić (Juventus), Nemanja Tomić (FK Partizan), Zoran Tošić (PFC CSKA Moskva), Adem Ljajić (ACF Fiorentina), Milan Jovanović (RSC Anderlecht).

Forwards: Marko Pantelić (Olympiacos FC), Nikola Žigić (Birmingham City FC), Dragan Mrdja (FC Sion).

Estonia (13 pts)
Estonia captain Raio Piiroja has recovered from a thigh strain and is fit to play in front an estimated 300 travelling supporters in Belfast. Konstantin Vassiljev, however, is a doubt with a hamstring injury, the FC Amkar Perm midfielder describing his own chances of playing as "only 50-50". Defender Taavi Rähn is to miss Estonia's final qualifying match due to suspension and, at the request of his club – Tianjin Songjiang FC – will not appear in the friendly against Ukraine on 11 October.

Goalkeepers: Sergei Pareiko (Wisła Kraków), Pavel Londak (Bodø/Glimt)¹, Artur Kotenko (Rävan Bakı FK).

Defenders: Alo Bärengrub (JK Nõmme Kalju), Enar Jääger (Aalesunds FK), Gert Kams (FC Flora Tallinn), Ragnar Klavan (AZ Alkmaar), Karl Palatu (FC Flora Tallinn), Raio Piiroja (Vitesse), Mikk Reintam (JJK Jyväskylä), Andrei Stepanov (Gomel), Tihhon Šišov (Xäzär Länkäran FK), Taijo Teniste (Sogndal IL Fotball).

Midfielders: Aleksandr Dmitrijev (FC Ural Ekaterinburg), Dmitri Kruglov (FC Rostov), Sander Puri (Lombard-Pápa TFC), Ats Purje (Ethnikos Achnas FC), Konstantin Vassiljev (FC Amkar Perm), Martin Vunk (Nea Salamis Famagusta FC).

Forwards: Tarmo Kink (Middlesbrough FC), Jarmo Ahjupera (Újpest FC), Kaimar Saag (Silkeborg IF), Sergei Zenjov (FC Karpaty Lviv).

Slovenia (11 pts)
There are few surprises in Matjaž Kek's 21-man squad with captain Robert Koren missing out through suspension and Bologna FC's René Krhin recalled after featuring in 2013 UEFA European Under-21 qualifying against Ukraine.

Goalkeepers: Samir Handanovič (Udinese Calcio), Jasmin Handanovič (NK Maribor), Vid Belec (Crotone).

Defenders: Mišo Brečko (1. FC Köln), Boštjan Cesar (AC Chievo Verona), Branko Ilič (FC Lokomotiv Moskva), Bojan Jokič (AC Chievo Verona), Matej Mavrič (Kapfenberger SV), Marko Šuler (KAA Gent), Miral Samardžič (FC Sheriff).

Midfielders: Armin Bačinovič (US Città di Palermo), Valter Birsa (Genoa CFC), Josip Iličič (US Città di Palermo), Andraž Kirm (Wisła Kraków), René Krhin (Bologna FC), Aleksandar Radosavljevič (ADO Den Haag), Dare Vršič (NK Olimpija Ljubljana).

Forwards: Zlatko Dedič (1. FC Dynamo Dresden), Zlatan Ljubijankič (KAA Gent), Milivoje Novakovič (1. FC Köln), Tim Matavž (PSV Eindhoven).

Northern Ireland (9 pts)
Northern Ireland captain Aaron Hughes has been ruled out of their final qualifiers against Estonia and Italy because of a groin injury. The Fulham FC centre-back is retiring at the end of the season, so, after 79 appearances, it seems the 31-year-old has played his last game for his country. Uncapped Preston North End FC defender Conor McLaughlin has been drafted into the squad. Also missing for the two remaining matches are strikers Josh McQuoid (virus) of Millwall FC and Jamie Ward of Derby County FC.

Back-to-back defeats against Serbia and Estonia in September have left Northern Ireland with only an outside chance of a play-off berth, although manager Nigel Worthington is remaining upbeat. "My focus now is on keeping an even keel and getting the players right mentally and physically for our final two qualifiers," he said. "We want to finish the campaign with two positive performances and results."

Goalkeepers: Maik Taylor (no club), Lee Camp (Nottingham Forest FC), Alan Mannus (Saint Johnstone FC).

Defenders: Jonathan Evans (Manchester United FC)*, Ryan McGivern (Crystal Palace FC), Craig Cathcart (Blackpool FC), Gareth McAuley (West Bromwich Albion FC), Aaron Hughes (Fulham FC)*, Lee Hodson (Watford FC), Conor McLaughlin (Preston North End FC)**.

Midfielders: Chris Baird (Fulham FC), Grant McCann (Peterborough United FC), Niall McGinn (Brentford FC), Jonny Gorman (Wolverhampton Wanderers FC), Corry Evans (Hull City FC), Steven Davis (Rangers FC), Sammy Clingan (Coventry City FC), Pat McCourt (Celtic FC), Chris Brunt (West Bromwich Albion FC), Oliver Norwood (Scunthorpe United FC)**.

Forwards: Warren Feeney (Plymouth Argyle FC), David Healy (Rangers FC), Jamie Ward (Derby County FC)*, Kyle Lafferty (Rangers FC), Josh McQuoid (Millwall FC)*, Andrew Little (Port Vale FC)**.

* Withdrawn
** Called Up

Last updated: 05/10/11 18.57CET

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