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What to watch out for in Thursday's qualifiers

Preview: looks at Thursday's European Qualifiers, including a hoodoo for Poland, the peerless 'Christiano Eriksen' and Northern Ireland's home comforts.

Christian Eriksen will be Denmark's key man in Portugal
Christian Eriksen will be Denmark's key man in Portugal ©AFP/Getty Images

Group D
Germany's problem position

The world champions only need one point in the Republic of Ireland to book qualification, while the home side know a draw could allow a top-two finish to slip out of their grasp before Sunday's visit to Poland. For Germany, though, there is the problem of who to deploy at full-back, with Joachim Löw having used 15 different players in those positions in 34 matches over three years. Indeed, he won the FIFA World Cup with a back four of central defenders, and after that triumph Philipp Lahm bowed out of international football.

After some trial and error in the initial stages of UEFA EURO 2016 qualifying, Löw has settled on Emre Can on the right and Jonas Hector on the left. These last games against Ireland and Georgia will give a hint as to whether that combination will prove up to the challenge of the finals, assuming Germany get over the line this week.
Republic of Ireland v Germany, 20.45CET

Poland's Hampden hoodoo
Scotland have yet to record a victory against Poland at Hampden Park, so if Gordon Strachan's side are to maintain their hopes of qualifying for next year's finals they will have to break a hoodoo that stretches back to 1960. On that occasion Scotland lost 3-2 on Poland's first visit to the Glasgow stadium.

Five years later, Billy McNeill opened the scoring before the Scots conceded two late goals, and in May 1990 Maurice Johnston put Scotland ahead only for Poland to salvage a draw thanks to Gary Gillespie's own goal. That game was a warm-up for Scotland ahead of the FIFA World Cup finals and. A victory would keep them in the hunt for a play-off place this time around, as long as Ireland do not beat Germany. A draw would also do if Ireland lose.
Scotland v Poland, 20.45CET

Vlad Chiricheş celebrates during Romania's win in Finland
Vlad Chiricheş celebrates during Romania's win in Finland©AFP/Getty Images

Group F
Romania's edge over Finland
History favours Romania in their potentially decisive encounter with Finland, having won seven and drawn two of their nine previous meetings. Romania are on a run of four straight wins, including 2-0 in Helsinki earlier in qualifying, and the last draw was on 6 June 1985 in the Finnish capital, a result which ultimately cost both dear in the race to reach the World Cup. In two of those Romania wins, in 1972 (including a 4-0 EURO qualifying win in Helsinki), current national coach Anghel Iordănescu was in the team. Then in Romania's record 9-0 victory in 1973, in goal for Finland in Bucharest was the man who is now their FA president, Pertti Alaja.
Romania v Finland, 20.45CET

Home comforts key to Northern Irish progress
Northern Ireland, just two points away from sealing automatic qualification, will bid to roll back the years on two fronts at Windsor Park when Greece arrive. If Michael O'Neill's men defeat the 2004 winners in Belfast, the country will secure qualification to a first ever European Championship finals and make it a first appearance at a major tournament since the 1986 FIFA World Cup in Mexico.

A draw or victory would also mean it is the first time in three decades Northern Ireland have gone through a qualifying campaign unbeaten at Windsor. The last time was during the 1984 UEFA European championship campaign when a team coached by legendary boss Billy Bingham secured four home wins over West Germany, Albania, Turkey and Austria.
Northern Ireland v Greece, 20.45CET 

Christian Holst is with the Faroes squad for the last time
Christian Holst is with the Faroes squad for the last time©AFP/Getty Images

Faroese farewells
Midfielder Christian Holst announced after training on Tuesday that he will retire from the Faroe Islands team after facing Hungary on Thursday and Romania three days later. Captain Fródi Benjaminsen, banned for the trip to Budapest, will end his playing career entirely after the latter fixture. "This is the last trip with the national team, so Romania on Sunday will be my last match," said 33-year old Holst, who has 49 caps.

While the Faroes' hopes were ended with the 1-0 loss in Finland last month, Hungary and Romania are both are in contention for top-two finishes. Coach Lars Olsen said: "We could actually have a say in who will qualify for the European Championship finals, and there is no doubt that both Hungary and Romania expect to beat the Faroe Islands. But we can put a spoke in their wheels, and I think that in the previous matches we have proved that we are competitive."
Hungary v Faroe Islands, 20.45CET

Group I
Eriksen carries Denmark hopes

Danish fans are relishing the return of Christian Eriksen – or Christiano Eriksen as they like to nickname him after his two latest free-kick goals for Tottenham Hotspur last weekend. The 24-year-old missed the 0-0 draws against Albania and Armenia last month due to suspension and his presence is key for the must-win trip to Portugal that will end Denmark's qualifiying campaign in the sole five-team group. "He is at a standard like no one else," as midfielder William Kvist puts it.
Portugal v Denmark, 20.45CET