Women's race heads for thrilling finish

Sweden and Germany have already joined hosts Finland in the UEFA WOMEN'S EURO 2009™ finals but the remaining four automatic qualifiers and ten play-off contenders will be decided over the next week.

Sweden have joined holders Germany and hosts Finland in the finals but nine berths are unclaimed
Sweden have joined holders Germany and hosts Finland in the finals but nine berths are unclaimed ©Getty Images

The UEFA WOMEN'S EURO 2009™ qualifying round concludes over the next week and four of the groups are heading for final-day deciders as the remaining automatic finals berths and play-off places are decided.

Decisive fixtures
Sweden and holders Germany have already won their groups to join hosts Finland in the finals from 23 August until 10 September next year, but the other pools are undecided and over the coming days the leaders of the four other pools visit the teams second in their respective sections to decide who takes the automatic qualifying berths. The six runners-up go into the play-offs on 25/26 and 29/30 October along with the four third-placed teams with the best record against the rest of the top quartet in their pool. Full standings can be found here, click on the individual groups for fixture details.

Group 1

• Uniquely, any one of three teams could win this group, though all of that trio are ensured of at least a play-off berth. Unbeaten England have two games left and are level on points with Spain and two ahead of the Czech Republic, who each have one fixture remaining – at home to England.

• England need only avoid defeat in the Czech Republic on Sunday and Spain four days later to top the group.

• If England fail to beat the Czech Republic but do not lose by five goals, a win against Spain on Thursday would take them to the finals. Otherwise Spain would have to overturn the 1-0 defeat they suffered in England on 25 November 2007 to win the group on head-to-head record.

• The Czech Republic can only top the group in a three-way head-to-head tie-breaker if they beat England by five goals and the game between Spain and England is drawn.

Group 2

• Sweden, following six wins and 28 unanswered goals, have won the group as Italy, three points behind with one game left, have an inferior head-to-head record.

• Italy will finish second as, by the same criterion, they cannot be overtaken by Ireland.

• The Republic of Ireland are confirmed in third and have picked up six points against fourth-placed Romania while losing twice to Italy and also in the visit of Sweden. That could prove enough for a play-off place but they would end all doubt by avoiding defeat in their remaining fixture, a trip to Sweden on Wednesday.

Group 3

• Iceland's June wins against Slovenia and Greece lifted them to the top of the group, level on points with France, who they defeated in Reykjavik last year. Therefore the group will be decided when France play Iceland in the return on Saturday; Les Bleues must win to overtake their opponents.

• Slovenia are third and can only lose that position if Greece beat Serbia on Saturday and then defeat Tanja Lekić's side by a better scoreline than 3-1 on Thursday. That is unlikely to be enough to give Greece a play-off place; by contrast a point in their remaining fixture is all Slovenia need to ensure a two-legged tie for first finals berth and even a narrow defeat might not end their chances.

Group 4

• Germany, aiming for a fifth consecutive title, clinched qualification in May and have won all seven of their games.

• This is the only group where three teams are still competing for second place. A last-gasp goal in the Netherlands on 30 August gave Switzerland a 1-1 draw and second spot; they are one point ahead of Belgium and two clear of the Dutch; all have one game remaining.

• Switzerland's task is tough as they are at home to Germany on Wednesday and to finish second they must win. Switzerland could go into the play-off as one of the four best third-placed teams but most likely must hope Scotland do not beat Slovakia in Group 5 and Poland fail to defeat Russia in Group 6.

• As long as Switzerland do not beat Germany (unbeaten in EURO qualifiers since 1996), Belgium would finish second with a draw in the Netherlands on Saturday while a win is the target for the home side. Both Belgium and the Netherlands have a superior head-to-head record against Switzerland should there be a tie.

Group 5

• Ukraine's 1-0 win against Denmark, who also had a perfect record until that game on 22 June, took them top, ahead of the only other challengers.

• At worst, Ukraine will need a draw in Denmark on Wednesday to qualify for the first time. If Ukraine beat Portugal by a margin of less than five on Saturday, they would qualify with a one-goal defeat in Denmark other than 1-0. If Ukraine beat Portugal by a margin of five or more, they would also be able to afford a 1-0 loss.

• Scotland are one point ahead of Slovakia in the race for third place and the two teams meet in Perth on Sunday. Scotland beat Slovakia in their previous meeting – and both teams lost all their games to Ukraine and Denmark – so a win would give Anna Signeul's side a great chance of being one of the four best third-placed teams; a draw may not prove enough. A win would still only give Slovakia a slim chance of a play-off.

Group 6

• With seven wins and 26 unanswered goals, Norway are six points clear of Russia, who have two fixtures remaining.

• Russia – assured of at least a play-off place – must win in Poland on Saturday to remain in contention to top the group when they welcome Norway to Krasnoarmeysk on Thursday. Even then, Russia will need a four-goal win to overturn the 3-0 defeat they suffered in Norway last November. A 3-0 win would only be enough for Russia if they defeat Poland by a margin of five or more to improve their overall goal difference.

• Austria have completed their fixtures and are third, two points clear of Poland. However, even if Poland do not defeat Russia, Austria can only finish as one of the four best third-placed teams if Greece overtake Slovenia in Group 3 and Slovakia beat Scotland in Group 5 by a margin of two goals or less.

• Poland would claim third place by defeating Russia and would have a chance of reaching the play-offs though that would depend on results from other groups.

TEAMS IN FINALS (7 berths+5 from play-offs): Finland (hosts); Sweden (Group 2); Germany (Group 4).

TEAMS CONTENDING FOR FIRST PLACE/ASSURED AT LEAST PLAY-OFF: England, Spain, Czech Republic (Group 1); Iceland, France (Group 3); Ukraine, Denmark (Group 5); Norway, Russia (Group 6).

TEAMS IN PLAY-OFFS (draw 6 October): Italy (Group 2).

TEAMS CONTENDING FOR PLAY-OFFS (4 berths remain): Republic of Ireland (Group 2); Slovenia, Greece (Group 3); Belgium, Switzerland, Netherlands (Group 4); Scotland, Slovakia (Group 5); Austria, Poland (Group 6).