Germany and Spain lead the race for the 2013 UEFA European Under-21 Championship play-offs as qualifying takes a back seat until February. UEFA.com surveys the ten groups.
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As two of five sides with 100% records, Germany and holders Spain lead the race to reach the 2013 UEFA European Under-21 Championship. With play-off places also up for grabs for the four best runners-up, UEFA.com looks at the state of play in the ten groups as qualifying takes a back seat until February.
Germany have all but booked their play-off berth having maintained a perfect record in seven matches with the help of Peniel Mlapa's qualifying-best eight goals. Rainer Adrion's men are 11 points clear of Bosnia and Herzegovina and Belarus, who each have a game in hand over the leaders, but who are effectively vying for second place with Greece.
Slovenia and Sweden are neck and neck at the top, although the latter can move three points clear if they win their game in hand against fourth-placed Ukraine on 31 May. Finland, five points off the pace in third, will aim to enhance their prospects on 5 June in Slovenia, whom they beat 1-0 in Pori in August.
The Czech Republic lead a tightly poised group in which three points separate the top four. However, Jakub Dovalil's side, who overcame Andorra 8-0 in August and face second-placed Montenegro on 1 June, have the cushion of a game in hand. Wales and Armenia both meet point-less Andorra before facing each other in August.
Serbia are sitting pretty with 11 points from five matches but their three and six-point leads over second-placed Denmark and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, in third, are threatened by those sides' respective one and two games in hand. One, if not both, of those will drop points on 5 June, when Denmark − who held FYROM to a 1-1 draw in November − host Boban Babunski's charges. That same day Serbia take on a Faroe Islands side they sunk 5-1 in Uzice in September.
Like Germany, Spain also boast an unblemished record, their 3-0 defeat of second-placed Switzerland extending their lead to five points. Victory on 31 May against an Estonia team they have already humbled 6-0, thanks to one of two Rodrigo hat-tricks this campaign, will take the holders eight points clear. Two days later the Swiss face third-placed Croatia – hosts who must avenge September's 4-0 reverse in Sion to stand any realistic chance of pipping Pierluigi Tami's squad, who are four points better off, to a play-off place.
Russia have got off to a flyer with four wins from as many matches, a four-point lead and a game in hand for good measure. The early pacesetters will aim to reassert their dominance against second-placed Portugal on 1 June, with Poland hopeful of leapfrogging Rui Jorge's charges by overcoming rock-bottom Moldova the same day.
One of five countries yet to drop a point, Italy continued their winning ways with a fifth group victory against Hungary in November. The Azzurrini have a three-point lead and a game in hand over second-placed Turkey, and can consolidate their position on 4 June against the Republic of Ireland, who are six points back and have played a match less than the leaders.
England were going strong with four consecutive wins before a last-gasp defeat by Belgium burst their balloon. Stuart Pearce's side remain top, however, four points clear of Francky Dury's side, whom they host on 29 February, and five of Norway, who have a game in hand.
The play-offs edge ever nearer for France, who strengthened their grip on the section with a 2-0 defeat of Slovakia – their fifth win on the spin. But all is not lost for Ivan Galád's second-placed team, who can revive their play-off prospects by winning their game in hand against third-placed Romania on 1 June.
The Netherlands lead the pack, but are just one point ahead of Scotland and Bulgaria. The Oranje and Billy Stark's side have a game in hand over the eastern Europeans, however, and that match pits the top two against each other on 29 February. After five matches played, Austria, three points behind Bulgaria, are not yet out of contention either.