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Portugal and England await play-off rivals

Portugal and England have booked their places in October's play-offs, and holders Spain and France are well set to join them when the ten groups end in September.

England's play-off berth is secure
England's play-off berth is secure ©Getty Images

With June's UEFA European Under-21 Championship qualifiers finished, just two of the 14 places in October's play-offs have been claimed, only Portugal and England already within one tie of joining hosts the Czech Republic in the eight-team finals next June.

UEFA.com looks at how the groups stand as the sections come to an end on 13 August and 3 to 9 September. The ten group winners and four runners-up with the best record against the teams first, third, fourth and fifth in their sections advance to the play-offs between 8 and 14 October.

Group 1
England, contending for a fifth straight qualification, were assured of a play-off place with two fixtures left on 1 June when Moldova, the only team that could have caught them, lost 1-0 in Finland. Moldova subsequently won 3-0 in Lithuania to eliminate their hosts and reduce the race to second place to themselves, Finland and Wales – respectively four and six points behind with two games left to Moldova's one. That game in hand is on 5 September before the deciders four days later when Moldova host England knowing a slip would open the door to either Finland, at home to San Marino, or Wales visiting Lithuania.

Group 2
Russia's 2-1 win in Estonia on 31 May ensured this group became a straight shoot-out between themselves and Denmark, unbeaten with a one-point lead as they prepare to host Nikolai Pisarev's side on 3 September. Six days later both are at home, Denmark playing Bulgaria and Russia facing Andorra.

Group 3
The Netherlands have moved to the top by winning 6-1 in Scotland and 3-1 against Luxembourg, three points clear of Slovakia, with Scotland, six off second, still mathematically able to make the play-offs. To do that Scotland must at least win in Slovakia, who they have already beaten in Paisley, on 4 September when the Netherlands host Georgia. Four days hence Slovakia go to the Netherlands knowing, if they are still three points adrift, a win would give them first place on head-to-head record. Scotland, should they have beaten Slovakia, will hope that side lose again as they themselves take on Luxembourg,

Group 4
Defending champions Spain have six perfect wins and are six points ahead of the only side that can catch them, Austria, with two games left. Even if Austria beat Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Spain lose in Hungary on 4 September, the holders still have a home game to go against the second-placed side the following Monday as they continue their bid for a third straight title.

Group 5
In crucial fixtures over the last week, Ukraine defeated Latvia 2-1, having previous held leaders Croatia 1-1, and overcome a scare to beat Liechtenstein 5-2. That left Croatia leading Ukraine and Switzerland by only three and four points respectively, and both their rivals also have a game in hand. Croatia visit Latvia on 3 September knowing victory would ensure top spot regardless of what happens when Ukraine play Switzerland the following day. The group ends on 8 September when Ukraine face Liechtenstein and Switzerland meet Latvia.

Group 6
This is a three-horse race with Germany leading Montenegro by three points and Romania two further adrift. Germany's head-to-head advantage over Montenegro means victory against the Republic of Ireland on 5 September would make sure of first place even if their closest rivals win in Romania the previous day. On 9 September, Germany face Romania and Montenegro visit the Faroe Islands.

Group 7
This section is the most open with five points separating the four contenders. Poland are top but only have one game left compared to the two of Greece, three points behind, and both Sweden and Turkey who are two further adrift. The games in hand are on 5 September when Greece visit Sweden and Turkey go to Malta. Four days later Sweden, whose head-to-head is inferior to both Greece and Poland, host Turkey; Greece and Poland are themselves matched.

Group 8
Portugal's 1-0 win in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia was their sixth from as many group games and made them the first nation to book a play-off slot, as well as spelling the end for home coach Boban Babunski. Israel, in second ahead of Norway on head-to-head record and with two games in hand, can still finish as one of the four best runners-up: they visit FYROM on 13 August and host the same side on 9 September, four days after a trip to Azerbaijan.

Group 9
Another close group with Serbia one point ahead of Belgium and Italy. Serbia go to Italy on 5 September, when Belgium complete their fixtures in Cyprus. Four days later Serbia are in Northern Ireland and Italy host Cyprus.

Group 10
France, like Spain and Portugal, have six perfect wins and are six points ahead of Iceland, who would make sure of a top-two finish by defeating Armenia on 3 September. France visit Kazakhstan on 4 September and host Iceland on 8 September knowing that one point is all they need, even if Armenia have not already done them a favour in the previous match.