Race for U21 play-offs reaches climax

While five countries have booked their play-off places as group winners, and another as a best runner-up, there are plenty of other issues to be resolved as the Under-21 group stage concludes today.

Race for U21 play-offs reaches climax
Race for U21 play-offs reaches climax ©uefa.com 1998-2012. All rights reserved.

The lineup for the 2011 UEFA European Under-21 Championship play-offs will be confirmed when the qualifying group stage reaches an exciting climax on Tuesday, with half the sections still to be settled.

Switzerland, Croatia, Ukraine, Greece and the Netherlands have secured their places in Friday's draw by winning their pools, but the other five are unresolved going into the last matchday. The ten group winners qualify for the play-offs alongside the four best runners-up.

Having beaten second-placed Russia 3-0 on Friday, Romania can afford a two-goal defeat when the sides meet again in St Petersburg and still finish top of Group 1. A similar situation exists in Group 5, where Iceland must overcome pacesetters the Czech Republic by two goals to guarantee their place in next month's knockout round. However, the Czechs are already assured of a place in the draw as one of the best runners-up at least.

In Group 3 leaders Wales require a point in Pescara against five-time winners and nearest challengers Italy. If the Azzurrini fail to win they will be overtaken in second by Hungary should Antal Róth's team prevail at home to Bosnia and Herzegovina. Sweden, meanwhile, will wrap up Group 6 with a draw away to bottom-of-the-table Bulgaria.

The picture is less clear in Group 10. Belarus, Austria and Scotland are all level on 14 points, with the latter two meeting in Aberdeen. Scotland will advance as pool winners if they triumph due to a better head-to-head record against their two rivals, while Austria know that victory would only be enough to top the group if Belarus fail to beat Azerbaijan.

There is plenty at stake elsewhere, too, as teams seek to enhance their prospects of finishing as one of four runners-up with the best record against teams finishing first, third, fourth and fifth in their sections.

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