The second and third match days of UEFA World Cup Qualifying are underway this international break, headlined by a clash of Group G titans.
Italy and Spain will meet in the biggest match of the round. Each team won their first games, Spain by a score of 8-0 against Leichtenstein while Italy toppled Israel by a final of 3-1. The two now duke it out to stake a claim to the top of the table.
France and the Netherlands both enter the week having drawn their initial matches against Belarus and Sweden, respectively. The Netherlands will hope to secure a victory over their difficult opponents after missing out on Euro 2016 this past summer, while France aims to bounce back from their devastating finals loss to Portugal. Both teams will seek to gain ground on Bulgaria, currently on top of the table.
Not to be overlooked are interesting meetings between Germany and the Czech Republic, as well as England against Slovenia in the first match since the shameful firing of Sam Allardyce.
Here’s a closer look at all of the UEFA World Cup Qualifiers:
France against Bulgaria provides an interesting opening to the Group A matches. France current sits two points behind Bulgaria, who are the only team with three points from their first match after defeating Luxembourg.
The real highlight of the group, however, is the match day three showdown between France and the Netherlands, with both sides looking to bounce back from very different, but equally disappointing Euro 2016 campaigns.
- France vs. Bulgaria – October 7th, 2:45 P.M.
- Luxembourg vs. Sweden – October 7th, 2:45 P.M.
- Netherlands vs. Belarus – October 7th, 2:45 P.M.
- Belarus vs. Luxembourg – October 10th, 2:45 P.M.
- Netherlands vs. France – October 10th, 2:45 P.M.
- Sweden vs. Bulgaria – October 10th, 2:45 P.M.
With the two group favorites, Portugal and Switzerland, set to avoid one another in this round of matches, Group B is one of the less interesting schedules this week. Hungary and Switzerland feature as the most exciting match-up with the latter currently leading the group.
Match day three is a battle of giants and minnows. Hungary features again in the most exciting match, this time against joint-leaders Latvia, though they’ll likely be the favorites in this match.
- Hungary vs. Switzerland – October 7th, 2:45 P.M.
- Latvia vs. Faroe Islands – October 7th, 2:45 P.M.
- Portugal vs. Andorra – October 7th, 2:45 P.M.
- Andorra vs. Switzerland – October 10th, 2:45 P.M.
- Faroe Islands vs. Portugal – October 10th, 2:45 P.M.
- Latvia vs. Hungary – October 10th, 2:45 P.M.
Group C features several compelling matches in this round of fixtures. Group leaders Germany battle the Czech Republic on match day two in a match with some upset potential.
Germany feature in another compelling match on the 11th, facing Euro 2016 darlings Northern Ireland, who drew the aforementioned Czechs in their first match.
- Azerbaijan vs. Norway – October 8th, 12:00 P.M.
- Germany vs. Czech Republic – October 8th, 2:45 P.M.
- Northern Ireland vs. San Marino – October 8th, 2:45 P.M.
- Czech Republic vs. Azerbaijan – October 11th, 2:45 P.M.
- Germany vs. Northern Ireland – October 11th, 2:45 P.M.
- Norway vs. San Marino – October 11th, 2:45 P.M.
Group D remains fairly open and interesting given the lack of European giants and throws some interesting matches up as a result. Austria and Wales headlines match day two as the best British Isles team from Euro 2016 faces the team current tied atop the table with them in Austria.
Wales face minnows Georgia on match day three, leaving Austria against Serbia as the most watchable event. The Republic of Ireland can gain some ground as they face Georgia and Moldova this international break.
- Austria vs. Wales – October 6th, 2:45 P.M.
- Moldova vs. Serbia – October 6th, 2:45 P.M.
- Republic of Ireland vs. Georgia – October 6th, 2:45 P.M.
- Wales vs. Georgia – October 9th, 12:00 P.M.
- Moldova vs. Republic of Ireland – October 9th, 2:45 P.M.
- Serbia vs. Austria – October 9th, 2:45 P.M.
While favorite Poland’s clash with current group leaders Denmark is certainly the most interesting match of day two, the best named match of this entire international break is Montenegro vs. Kazakhstan. Poland will try and take the top place in the group with a win over Denmark, and the Danes will hope to separate with a strong victory.
Match day three sees three fairly eclectic matches, with Poland facing Armenia as the one with the biggest group implications. Denmark will certainly not want to drop any points in a should-win game against Montenegro.
- Armenia vs. Romania – October 8th, 12:00 P.M.
- Montenegro vs. Kazakhstan – October 8th, 12:00 P.M.
- Poland vs. Denmark – October 8th, 2:45 P.M.
- Kazakhstan vs. Romania – October 11th, 12:00 P.M.
- Denmark vs. Montenegro – October 11th, 2:45 P.M.
- Poland vs. Armenia – October 11th, 2:45 P.M.
The undoubted story-line of Group F is centered around an England team in turmoil after the dismissal of Sam Allardyce and rise of Gareth Southgate in his stead. They’ll have an easy match day two as they face Malta in what should be a rout for the Three Lions.
England faces a bit tougher of a test on match day three, with Slovenia on the schedule providing more of a challenge than Malta. Slovakia against Scotland could also provide decent entertainment value as the Scots will hope to keep pace with England atop the group.
- England vs. Malta – October 8th, 12:00 P.M.
- Scotland vs. Lithuania – October 8th, 2:45 P.M.
- Slovenia vs. Slovakia – October 8th, 2:45 P.M.
- Lithuania vs. Malta – October 11th, 2:45 P.M.
- Slovakia vs. Scotland – October 11th, 2:45 P.M.
- Slovenia vs. England – October 11th, 2:45 P.M.
Group G gets match day two underway immediately with the best fixture of the entire international break as Italy and Spain face off in a clash of European giants. The top two teams in the group will each look to establish themselves as favorites over their opponents, but a draw could open the door for Albania to seize early control with a win over Liechtenstein.
Match day three settles down the action as Albania against Spain headlines the games. Israel is in for an easy week, first facing Macedonia and then Liechtenstein in should-win matches.
- Italy vs. Spain – October 6th, 2:45 P.M.
- Liechtenstein vs. Albania – October 6th, 2:45 P.M.
- Macedonia vs. Israel – October 6th, 2:45 P.M.
- Israel vs. Liechtenstein – October 9th, 12:00 P.M.
- Albania vs. Spain – October 9th, 2:45 P.M.
- Macedonia vs. Italy – October 9th, 2:45 P.M.
Belgium vs. Bosnia and Herzegovina headline Group H action this round, as the two battle at the top of the table. Their co-leader, Greece, face of against Cyprus and should earn all three points, increasing the pressure on the two “B” teams.
Belgium should have no problem earning their three points on match day three, however, as a trip to one of Europe’s smallest competitors, Gibraltar, is on schedule.
- Belgium vs. Bosnia and Herzegovina – October 7th, 2:45 P.M.
- Estonia vs. Gibraltar – October 7th, 2:45 P.M.
- Greece vs. Cyprus – October 7th, 2:45 P.M.
- Bosnia and Herzegovina vs. Cyprus – October 10th, 2:45 P.M.
- Estonia vs. Greece – October 10th, 2:45 P.M.
- Gibraltar vs. Belgium – October 10th, 2:45 P.M.
The story-lines in Group I are fascinating. Iceland secured a win in their first match and look to continue in their efforts to pull off another miracle and make the World Cup as they face Finland and then Turkey in their two matches.
Meanwhile, Kosovo enter matches two and three of their first ever qualifying campaign after earning a draw against Finland in their first match. Croatia provides them with a significant challenge in match two before Ukraine provides a slightly easier opponent in match three.
- Iceland vs. Finland – October 6th, 2:45 P.M.
- Kosovo vs. Croatia – October 6th, 2:45 P.M.
- Turkey vs. Ukraine – October 6th, 2:45 P.M.
- Finland vs. Croatia – October 9th, 12:00 P.M.
- Ukraine vs. Kosovo – October 9th, 12:00 P.M.
- Iceland vs. Turkey – October 9th, 2:45 P.M.