Top five European World Cup qualifiers to watch out for this week

Italy Azzuri

The World Cup qualifiers in Europe are heading towards conclusion, with top nations battling it out to book a place at Brazil 2014.

Most of the World Cup qualifying groups in Europe are close-knit affairs heading into the final couple of fixtures, with an action-packed night on Tuesday night going some way to deciding the teams that will make the tournament.

With some exciting fixtures set to be played, here are the five that you should be keeping an eye on, with the teams having everything to play for:

Russia vs Israel

A tight Group F sees Portugal on top, two points ahead of Russia but having played a game more. Fabio Capello’s men can leapfrog the Portuguese to the top of the group with a win here and set up a pulsating finish to the pool.

Israel suffered a setback by drawing 1-1 with Azerbaijan at home in their last game and are three points behind Russia in third. Their entire campaign rests on this game – if they win they are right back in the hunt for at least a play-off spot; if they lose they are as good as out.

Norway vs Switzerland

The top two sides in Group E will do battle in Oslo, with the result having a key impact on who ends up on top of the pile. Switzerland, despite drawing 4-4 with Iceland on Friday, are four points clear of the chasing pack at the top – a win here and other results going their way would see them seal qualification.

Norway are a point ahead of both Albania and Iceland, who play each other on Tuesday also. A home win for the Scandinavians is much needed and would put them right back in the mix for top spot.

Romania vs Turkey

With Netherlands steamrollering Group D, it is a scrabble between the remaining teams to finish second and get access to the tournament through the play-offs. Romania currently hold second, while Turkey are three points behind in fourth.

A Romanian win on home soil would give the eastern Europeans some breathing space and virtually assure them second with the worst two teams in the group still left to play. Turkey must win on rival soil to be in with a shot, and still have Netherlands to play too.

Ukraine vs England

England’s Group H is arguably the tightest group of them all, with three teams in contention for the top two spots. Roy Hodgson’s men are equal on 15 points with Montenegro, with Ukraine a point behind and Poland back on 10 points.

Arguably the toughest game of the pool, a defeat would see England drop to second and face a real possibility of having to go through the dreaded play-offs. An English win would more than likely see the British side make the World Cup, with two home games to play. Hodgson would take a draw.

Italy vs Czech Republic

Italy can book their place at the party in Brazil with a win over Czech Republic, as Cesare Prandelli’s men are seven points clear at the top of Group B. The Azzurri are unbeaten in qualifying and will fancy their chances in Turin.

Czech Republic have fallen from grace somewhat and a disappointing campaign sees them back in third, a point behind second-placed Bulgaria. With the Bulgarians very likely to pick up three points against Malta, the Czechs need something in Italy to keep their chances of making the play-offs alive.

image: © LaertesCTB

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