Italy and the Netherlands are safely through to next summer's FIFA World Cup finals but seven group winners and eight play-off berths are still to be decided when European qualification concludes on Friday and next Tuesday. UEFA.com looks at the permutations with 29 teams in mathematical contention.
The nine section winners qualify directly for the 32-team finals from 12 June to 13 July in Brazil. The eight runners-up with the best records against the sides finishing first, third, fourth and fifth in their pool go into November's play-offs, which will be drawn at 14.00CET on 21 October in Zurich. The four highest nations in the 17 October FIFA world rankings will be seeded for the play-off ties on 15 and 19 November.
World Cup finals draw: 6 December (17.00CET), Bahia
Qualified countries: Brazil (hosts), Argentina, Australia, Costa Rica, Iran, Italy, Japan, Netherlands, South Korea, United States
Assured at least UEFA play-off: Belgium, Germany
Assured top-two finish: Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, France, Greece, Spain (holders)
Able to win group: England, Iceland, Israel, Montenegro, Poland, Portugal, Russia, Slovenia, Sweden, Switzerland, Ukraine
Able to reach play-offs: Albania, Armenia, Austria, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Denmark, Hungary, Norway, Republic of Ireland, Romania, Turkey
Only two teams remain in contention: Belgium lead Croatia by five points so need only a draw when they travel to Zagreb on Friday to qualify. Croatia must win and triumph in Scotland four days later while also hoping Belgium lose at home to Wales to avoid the play-offs.
Italy's defeat of the Czech Republic in Turin last month left them seven points clear and assured of a slot in Brazil, while also ending the reign of visiting coach Michal Bílek. Bulgaria are second, a point ahead of Denmark, with the Czechs and Armenia three further back. Bulgaria visit Armenia and are then at home to the Czech Republic; Denmark will hope that wins against Italy and Malta can lift them into second and a possible play-off.
Germany hold a five-point lead over Sweden, whose comeback to draw 4-4 in Berlin last October remains key to keeping the group alive. Still, a draw at home to the Republic of Ireland should suffice for the three-time champions – who have a vastly superior goal difference – even if Sweden beat Austria and then Germany in their closing games. Austria are three points behind Sweden with a better goal difference, so a win when these two sides meet, followed by a victory in the Faroe Islands, would leave them second. Ireland, three further points behind, must prevail in Germany and beat Kazakhstan, while hoping Sweden lose both matches and Austria are defeated in the Faroes, to have a chance of second on goal difference.
The Netherlands dropped their only points on 7 September with a 2-2 draw in Estonia but then won 2-0 in Andorra to qualify as Romania lost at home to Turkey – putting the Dutch eight points ahead. That result allowed Hungary to move second, a point clear of Turkey and Romania, with a 5-1 thrashing of Estonia. Hungary go to the Netherlands on Friday before playing Andorra, so there is still hope for Fatih Terim's Turkey, who have the best goal difference of the three contenders for second spot. They visit Estonia before welcoming the Netherlands. Romania could leap-frog both Hungary and Turkey as they visit Andorra and host Estonia.
Switzerland's 2-0 success in Norway looks the decisive result in a group where only Cyprus are definitely eliminated. Ottmar Hitzfeld's side are five ahead of Iceland, with Slovenia, Norway and Albania positioned at further one-point intervals. Switzerland's goal difference is superior by at least eight to any of their rivals, and the Alpine nation will qualify with two points from their games in Albania and at home to Slovenia. Iceland know wins against Cyprus and in Norway would mean at worst second place. The other Friday fixture matches Slovenia and Norway; four days later Albania will go to Cyprus hoping to still be in contention.
After a nip-and-tuck tussle, Russia lead Portugal by a point with Israel another five behind and maintaining mathematical hopes. Russia travel to Luxembourg and Azerbaijan, with Portugal at home to Israel and a Luxembourg side flush from a rare win against Northern Ireland that took them off the bottom. Israel themselves entertain Northern Ireland on Tuesday week hoping they have won in Portugal.
Bosnia and Herzegovina's points lead over Greece was wiped out in September but they remain 15 clear in terms of goal difference, their 2-1 victory in Slovakia avenging a home loss four days earlier and ending the hopes of the last team able to catch the top two. A first-ever qualification will surely be Bosnia and Herzegovina's if they win at home to Liechtenstein and in Lithuania. Unless Greece can beat Slovakia and Liechtenstein by enough to overturn their goal difference deficit, they need Bosnia and Herzegovina to drop points.
England's 0-0 draw in Kyiv in September put them a point above Ukraine and Montenegro, with Poland two further behind. Wembley defeats of Montenegro and Poland would be enough for England to clinch the group. Ukraine, whose goal difference is eight better than Montenegro's but seven short of England's, welcome Poland and visit San Marino. On the concluding day, Montenegro face Moldova knowing that if they have won in England, another victory would at least ensure a top-two finish.
Spain lead France on goal difference and have two matches left to Les Bleus' one, with no other side in the sole five-team group in contention. The holders will qualify with four points at home to Belarus and Georgia, the second game falling next Tuesday when France welcome Finland.
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