While the men's competition is in full swing in South Africa, European qualifying for the 2011 FIFA Women's World Cup in Germany reaches a crucial point over the next few days with the likes of England or Spain, Norway, Russia, Sweden and Finland or Italy among those able to clinch play-off berths.
Only the eight group winners when the qualifying round concluces on 25 August will go into the two-legged ties to produce four teams to join hosts and holders Germany in the finals. The four play-off losers will then compete for a further place in the UEFA-CONCACAF play-off. UEFA.com looks at the state of play and ahead to the coming fixtures.
In the only six-team section, only two sides still have a realistic chance of first place – France and Iceland. Les Bleues are three points clear with four games left, having won their home game with Iceland 2-0. The return is on 21 August but first, on Saturday, Iceland host Northern Ireland. The next day, France take on Croatia, who visit Iceland on Tuesday. Les Bleues are in Estonia next Wednesday.
Norway, champions in 1995, have never failed to qualify for the World Cup and are yet to drop a point or concede a goal in this group. They are a point behind the Netherlands, who have played two games more, and the two teams are matched in Zwolle on Saturday. If Norway win, they would clinch first place by beating Belarus in Skien next Wednesday.
Unbeaten Denmark are one point ahead of Scotland, who have a game in hand and have won all their four matches, with Greece three further points back. On Saturday, Denmark welcome Greece and Scotland go to Bulgaria before the top two are matched in Kilmarnock on 24 June.
This section is proving very open. Poland are a point ahead of Hungary with a game in hand, but Ukraine - within five points of the leaders - have played a match fewer. Hungary's hopes would end if they lose in Poland on Saturday while Ukraine go to point-less Bosnia-Herzegovina. Next Wednesday, Ukraine visit Romania, who remain in mathematical contention, the day before Poland meet Bosnia-Herzegovina. The likely Ukraine-Poland decider is on 25 August.
England have won all five of their games and are ahead of Spain, who have played a match more, on head-to-head record. They meet in Aranda de Duero on Saturday, and if England repeat their victory against Spain in London on 1 April, they will secure first place and a play-off berth. If Spain win by two goals, they would be able to confirm top spot for themselves with another home victory against Malta next Thursday.
Russia, like England, have not dropped a point and lead their group on head-to-head record from Switzerland, who have played a game more. The Republic of Ireland, not in action this week, are only three points back but, should Russia win their home games in Krasnoarmeysk against Switzerland on Saturday and Israel next Thursday, they would make certain of their place in the play-offs with two matches to spare.
The leading pair – Italy and Finland – have only dropped two points, when they drew 1-1 in Ascoli on 31 March. Finland trail by three points with three games left to Italy's two, and should both win - against Portugal and Slovenia respectively - on Saturday, they would set up a decider in Vantaa next Wednesday, where victory for either side would clinch first place. That is Italy's last game, and in that scenario a high-scoring draw of 2-2 or more would also make certain of first place for the Azzurre, with a goalless game favouring Finland, who then meet Slovenia on 25 August.
Having won four straight games, Sweden would ensure a play-off place by defeating the second-placed Czech Republic in Gothenburg on Saturday and then picking up a point against Azerbaijan, also at the Gamla Ullevi, next Wednesday.
©UEFA.com 1998-2016. All rights reserved.