Group positions hold key

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 08 October, 2005, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 08 October, 2005, 12:00am

Punters are advised to familiarise themselves with the group standings before placing bets on this week's international fixtures.

Results at this stage are often determined by the outcome that would suit one or both countries, and it is vital to know whether teams require a draw, a win, or are already out of the running for World Cup qualification.

In group one, a draw will be enough for Holland in their crunch visit to the Czech Republic, while Romania need a win against eliminated Finland to retain their slim hopes. Greece need a win from their group two visit to Denmark, who are still in with a slim chance. If Turkey are still second after that match, expect them to get the result they need from their midweek visit to Albania.

A pair of home games puts Slovakia in a good position to defend second place in group three. First they must beat Estonia, who can't qualify, and then a point will be enough against Russia, assuming the latter have disposed of Luxembourg but only by a moderate score. A Slovakia home win and draw, in that order, look good bets.

Italy need only a point from today's game against Slovenia to top group five, and in that case two wins would put Norway into the play-offs. Two Scotland wins, and Norway drawing, could edge the Scots into second place, so Norway probably won't be able to relax for their final game in Belarus.

Serbia & Montenegro lead group seven and need a win in Lithuania to stay in pole position, whereas their hosts are fifth in the group and all but eliminated. Belgium and Spain will be aiming for a win in their clash today; a draw could be enough for Spain, however, as Bosnia would need two wins to deny them a play-off place.

Croatia need a win in their group eight clash with Sweden to go top, but the Swedes will be happy with a draw, knowing a home win against Iceland on Wednesday would ensure qualification. If Croatia win, however, they would be in the driving seat going into their final game in Hungary. In that case, a Hungary-Croatia draw would be no surprise.