England in driving seat, Turkey, Greece in distress

Harry Kane, watched by manager Roy Hodgson during training, will hope to play a part in helping England to qualify for Euro 2016 with a win against San Marino.
Harry Kane, watched by manager Roy Hodgson during training, will hope to play a part in helping England to qualify for Euro 2016 with a win against San Marino.PHOTO: ACTION IMAGES

PARIS • The first qualifiers for football's Euro 2016 finals in France could be decided today, tomorrow and Saturday in the first of a double-header of match days.

Here is a look at what is at stake:

WHO CAN QUALIFY?

England have won every game in Group E and can qualify for the finals by maintaining that record when they face minnows San Marino in Serravalle on Saturday.

Indeed, simply matching Slovenia's result from their game in Switzerland would suffice.

But anything other than a victory would be an embarrassment for Roy Hodgson's side.

After all, San Marino are ranked 192nd in the world and have never won a competitive match.

"The players must keep going, play well and look to win every match," said Hodgson after announcing his squad for the game and Tuesday's home meeting with Switzerland.

"I don't want any let-up and we want to win both these games."

Unbeaten Austria will qualify from Group G with three games to spare if they beat Moldova at home and hosts Russia fail to get past Sweden.

A draw could also be enough.

THE BIG GAMES

Iceland have never reached a major finals but their fine form in Group A has put them in a tremendous position. They go to Amsterdam to face the Netherlands, who have struggled and lie third behind the Czech Republic.

The Dutch lost in Reykjavik last October but will look for revenge. Robin van Persie, who has 49 international goals, is aiming to bring up his half century.

Defending champions Spain will seek revenge for a 2-1 defeat in Zilina last October when they take on Slovakia in Oviedo.

Slovakia have won all six games so far and are certain to finish in the top three in Group C.

Spain, who have Diego Costa back, will also lock up a top-three spot with a win before they go to Macedonia and Slovakia host third-placed Ukraine next week.

Group D is one of the tightest and leaders Poland are a point clear of world champions Germany before their Frankfurt meeting.

Scotland are third and a win in Georgia would boost their chances. This is especially with fourth-placed Ireland travelling to play whipping boys Gibraltar and the Scots hosting Germany next.

Wales are still unbeaten in Group B. They will move to the brink of a place at the finals with a win in Cyprus, where they have lost in their last two visits.

Belgium host Bosnia in a match that is vital to the hopes of the visitors in particular.

WHO IS IN TROUBLE?

Euro 2004 winners Greece are already all but out of contention in Group F after collecting just two points with only four games to go.

As they prepare to host Finland under interim coach Kostas Tsanas, they are 11 points adrift of the automatic qualifying berths.

Turkey are also in trouble in Group A. They will be on the brink of elimination if they lose to Latvia in Konya today and the Czech Republic beat Kazakhstan at home.

Russia are third in Group G, four points behind second-placed Sweden. They badly need a victory as they host the Swedes at Spartak Moscow's Otkrytie Arena.

It will be Leonid Slutsky's first game since replacing Fabio Capello as coach.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 03, 2015, with the headline 'England in driving seat, Turkey, Greece in distress'. Print Edition | Subscribe