European World Cup qualifying: The permutations

Sports Mole looks at all the unresolved issues heading into the final round of World Cup qualifying matches for the European nations.

European nations will play their final qualifying encounters for the 2014 World Cup this evening.

Although some teams have secured their spot in Brazil, 18 countries still have something to play for.

Here, Sports Mole analyses the permutations for each of the nine groups going into the last round of fixtures.


There is very little to play for in this mini-league, with Belgium having already won the group. However, should the Red Devils avoid defeat against Wales in Brussels, they will have gone the entire campaign without suffering a defeat.

Croatia also know their fate - the playoffs. Meanwhile, three nations - Scotland, Wales and Macedonia - could all finish bottom.

Fixtures: Serbia vs. Macedonia, Belgium vs. Wales, Scotland vs. Croatia

Steven Defour of Belgium celebrates his goal during the 2014 World Cup Group A qualifying football match between Scotland and Belgium at Hampden Park in Glasgow, Scotland, on September 6, 2013© Getty Images


Unbeaten Italy have won the group with ease, but the battle for second spot is still bubbling away.

Just one point separates Bulgaria, Denmark, Czech Republic and Armenia, but because of their current low points tally, this could well be the group from which no side reaches the playoffs.

Bulgaria are in pole position for the runners-up spot, knowing that if they defeat the Czech Republic, it's theirs. That is assuming that Denmark don't defeat Malta by seven more goals! The Danes will finish second if they better Bulgaria's result, while the Czechs would claim that spot if they win and Bulgaria slip up.

It's much more unlikely for Armenia, who not only need all three of their rivals to drop points, but they must also win in Italy.

Fixtures: Denmark vs. Malta, Bulgaria vs. Czech Republic, Italy vs. Armenia


Like the first group, this one is already wrapped up. Germany have won the group thanks to eight wins from their nine encounters, while Sweden are runners-up.

The only positions that could be traded are third and fourth, which are currently occupied by Austria and the Republic of Ireland. For that to happen, Ireland would need their Austrian counterparts to lose to the Faroe Islands, while also recording a heavy win over Kazakhstan.

Fixtures: Faroe Islands vs. Austria, Republic of Ireland vs. Kazakhstan, Sweden vs. Germany

Germany's midfielder Sami Khedira celebrates scoring with Germany's defender Philipp Lahm during the FIFA 2014 World Cup Group C qualifying football match Germany vs Republic of Ireland in Cologne, western Germany on October 11, 2013© Getty Images


The Netherlands may have won the group, scoring 32 goals in the process, but there are three teams behind them with something to play for.

Turkey currently occupy second spot on goal difference from Romania, but they will play host to the group winners. If the Turks win, they will finish runners-up, but anything less will open the door for Romania, who play Estonia at home.

The outsider is Hungary. They are expected to overcome bottom-of-the-table Andorra, but they would also need both Turkey and Romania to lose to finish second.

Fixtures: Hungary vs. Andorra, Romania vs. Estonia, Turkey vs. Netherlands


Iceland have never qualified for a major tournament, but they will move a step closer to making history if they defeat Norway. It would seal second spot for Lars Lagerback's side, which will also be confirmed if they match the result that Slovenia, currently in third, achieve against group winners Switzerland.

In a dead rubber, Albania travel to Cyprus.

Fixtures: Cyprus vs. Albania, Norway vs. Iceland, Switzerland vs. Slovenia

Brazilian forward Neymar is tackled during the International Friendly against Switzerland on August 14, 2013 © Getty Images


Victory over Azerbaijan in Baku would secure top spot for Russia, who are three points ahead of Portugal.

It's a big ask for the Portuguese to overhaul the Russians. For a start they require Azerbaijan to defeat Russia, but they also need to produce a seven-goal swing from their encounter with Luxembourg.

Elsewhere, Northern Ireland will avoid finishing bottom if they claim maximum points from their trip to Israel.

Fixtures: Azerbaijan vs. Russia, Israel vs. Northern Ireland, Portugal vs. Luxembourg


If Bosnia-Herzegovina win against Lithuania, there is a 99.9% chance that they will have secured their place in Brazil. The only way that they will lose their automatic spot is if Greece, who like Bosnia have 22 points, overcome Liechtenstein by 18 goals!

Fixtures: Greece vs. Liechtenstein, Lithuania vs. Bosnia-Herzegovina, Latvia vs. Slovakia

Bosnia-Herzegovina's Ermin Bicakcic in action against Slovakia during their World Cup qualifier on September 10, 2013© Getty Images


England play host to Poland with the knowledge that a victory will see them finish as group winners. Anything less and Ukraine will surely pounce.

The Yellows, who are one point behind the Three Lions, take on San Marino, who have lost all nine of their matches so far, having shipped 46 goals in the process. During that time they've also scored just one goal.

Montenegro can still finish second, but they would need San Marino to cause a shock, while also overcoming Moldova with a 12-goal swing.

Fixtures: England vs. Poland, Montenegro vs. Moldova, San Marino vs. Ukraine


Avoiding defeat is all that Spain require from their home clash with Georgia to finish atop the group.

There is a slight hope for France, who would win the group if they beat Finland and Georgia defeat the Spanish in Albacete, coupled with a three-goal swing. Even so, Les Bleus are guaranteed second spot.

Fixtures: France vs. Finland, Spain vs. Georgia

Danish forward Nicklas Bendtner celebrates scoring during the FIFA 2014 World Cup Group B qualifying football match Denmark vs Italy in Copenhagen, Denmark on October 11, 2013
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