Four more European teams are through to next summer's FIFA World Cup finals in South Africa after the penultimate set of qualifying round fixtures, while November's play-off lineup also began to take shape.
Seven now qualified
England, the Netherlands and Spain had already clinched first place in their sections prior to Saturday's encounters and they will be joined by holders Italy, three-time winners Germany, Denmark and Serbia in the 32-team finals between 11 June and 11 July 2010. The Azzurri earned their place courtesy of a last-gasp Alberto Gilardino equaliser at the end of a 2-2 draw in the Republic of Ireland, while Germany won 1-0 in Russia, Denmark downed Scandinavian neighbours Sweden by the same scoreline and Serbia swept aside Romania 5-0.
Up for grabs
Only two more automatic berths remain to be resolved on Wednesday. In Group 2, Switzerland are three points clear following their 3-0 win in Luxembourg, with only Greece still able to catch them after beating Latvia 5-2. To overtake Switzerland on goal difference, Greece must beat visitors Luxembourg and hope the leaders lose to Israel in Basel. Meanwhile, Slovenia won 2-0 away at Group 3 leaders Slovakia to close the gap to two points. If Slovakia do not win in Poland on Wednesday, Slovenia would overhaul them by beating San Marino in Serravalle.
The eight runners-up with the best records against the top five teams in their group will go into the play-off draw on Monday 19 October and four of those hopefuls are now known: Russia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, France and the Republic of Ireland. Portugal would join them from Group 1 by winning at home to Malta on Wednesday and Ukraine would pip Croatia in Group 6 with victory in Andorra. Likewise, should Slovenia beat San Marino, whoever finishes second between themselves and Slovakia will also be competing in the play-offs. Norway, second in the completed five-team Group 9, retain only mathematical hopes of being one of the eight best runners-up. For a full rundown of the group standings, click here.
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