Almost a year to the day since Spain completed a play-off victory in Croatia en route to winning the UEFA European Under-21 Championship, the holders face the Balkan nation again as qualifying for the 2013 finals resumes this week.
Coach Luis Milla, who oversaw a 3-0 second-leg success in Varazdin on 12 October 2010, will lead Spain in Croatia on Thursday seeking a Group 5 victory to add to a pair of opening wins against Georgia. Aside from giving Croatia a swift chance to avenge their elimination 12 months ago, the match in Osijek more importantly affords the hosts the opportunity to register their first points of the campaign at the third attempt.
Germany, not at this summer's U21 finals in Denmark, have made a blistering start in Group 1 with three straight victories, 12 goals scored and just one conceded. Standing in the way of triumph No4 on Thursday are Bosnia and Herzegovina, who have four points from their first two games.
Like Germany, Turkey have also begun with three consecutive wins. On Saturday, two days after Italy play Liechtenstein in their second Group 7 fixture, Raşit Çetiner's side take on a Hungary team that have lost both of their matches so far. Should the top two maintain their 100% starts, something will have to give when they meet in Rieti on Tuesday.
On Friday, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia enter the Group 4 mix when they welcome Serbia, setting the pace with six points out of six, to Skopje. Denmark, victors in their sole match this campaign, tackle the Faroe Islands the same day.
Though all the sections are still in their formative stages, none are as tightly bunched as Group 6, where four of the five countries sit level on three points after one and two games apiece. One of those sides, Portugal, can steal a march when they entertain Poland on Thursday ahead of Russia's encounter in Moldova – the only team yet to get off the mark – a little under 24 hours later.
A full list of this month's matches, which take place between 6 and 11 October, can be found here.
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