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World Cup Qualifying

UEFA WCQ Preview: Iceland hosts Croatia, England travels to Scotland, and more

UEFA World Cup Qualifying resumes this weekend with several nations looking for important results in their fight to stay alive. Two matches this weekend will feature the current group leaders against the second-place side, while rivalries will renew elsewhere.

Group I leaders Croatia faces a sneaky road match on Sunday at second-place Iceland in Reykjavik. The Croats have not lost a match yet in qualifying, winning four of their opening five matches. In the reverse meeting between these two sides, Croatia defeated Iceland, 2-0, thanks to a brace from Inter Milan’s Marcelo Brozovic. Iceland burst on the scene last year at EURO 2016, but have only lost once in qualifying so far. Striker Alfred Finnbogason leads the team with three goals so far, while Swansea City’s Gylfi Sigurdsson plays a huge role in the team’s midfield.

Saturday’s Premier showdown comes from Glasgow as Scotland welcome rivals England to Hampden Park. The Scots are 2-2-1 so far in qualifying, most recently defeating Slovenia, 1-0, back in March. Scotland currently sit in fourth place in Group F, six points behind their opponents this weekend. England are 4-0-1 in qualifying so far, sitting on 13 points through five matches. Gareth Southgate’s side have been very solid at the back, not allowing a goal yet in qualifying. Liverpool’s Adam Lallana leads the team with two goals, while Tottenham’s Harry Kane will be the man to watch after another stellar campaign in England’s Premier League.

Elsewhere, Sweden welcomes Group A leaders France to the Friends Arena on Friday, while Bosnia-Herzegovina hosts Greece in Group H. Group C leaders Germany welcome San Marino to town, while Wales travels to Serbia on Sunday in Group D.

Here’s a closer look at all of the UEFA World Cup Qualifiers:

GROUP A

Group A’s must-watch match this weekend comes from Stockholm as Sweden hosts France in a battle of first and second place. A win for Sweden will see them jump into first place, while a win for France will see them extend their lead at the top to six points. Striker Marcus Berg leads Sweden with two goals, while France has four players tied for their team lead in goals.

In fourth place, the Netherlands face what should be a winnable match against Luxembourg on Friday. Despite losing twice already in qualifying, the Netherlands are still alive for a place in the top two. Midfielder Memphis Depay leads Holland with two goals, while Luxembourg look for their first victory in qualifying.

  • Sweden vs. France – June 9th, 2:45 P.M.
  • Netherlands vs. Luxembourg – June 9th, 2:45 P.M.
  • Belarus vs. Bulgaria – June 9th, 2:45 P.M.

GROUP B

Group B leaders Switzerland will look to remain unbeaten in qualifying, as they face a trip to the Faroe Islands. The Swiss will look to striker Admir Mehmedi to lead the line, with two goals already in qualifying. The Faroe Islands will look to exact revenge on the Swiss, after losing, 2-0, back in November.

EURO 2016 winners Portugal also face a road test on Saturday, traveling to Latvia. After an opening loss at Switzerland back in Sep. 2016, the Portuguese have rolled to four straight wins, outscoring their opponents 19-1 in that span. Real Madrid star Cristiano Ronaldo has nine goals in qualifying, while Andre Silva is second with five. Latvia will look to snap a four game losing run in qualifying.

  • Faroe Islands vs. Switzerland – June 9th, 2:45 P.M.
  • Latvia vs. Portugal – June 9th, 2:45 P.M.
  • Andorra vs. Hungary – June 9th, 2:45 P.M.

GROUP C

Group C leaders Germany are heavy favorites, ahead of their clash with San Marino on Saturday. Joachim Low’s side are undefeated in qualifying so far, allowing only one goal through five matches. With longtime international Thomas Muller out injured, Germany’s squad features a ton of youthful talent. San Marino will defend heavily, after losing, 8-0, against Germany back in November.

The other late match in Group C this weekend, pits Norway and the Czech Republic together on Saturday. Norway have only won once in qualifying so far, a 4-1 win over San Marino back in October. As for the Czechs, they come into this match winners of their last two qualifiers. Vladimir Darida and Michal Krmencik are tied for the team lead, with two goals apiece.

  • Azerbaijan vs. Northern Ireland – June 10th, 12:00 P.M.
  • Germany vs. San Marino – June 10th, 2:45 P.M.
  • Norway vs. Czech Republic – June 10th, 2:45 P.M.

GROUP D

The featured match in Group D this weekend sees leaders Serbia host third place Wales on Sunday. Serbia are 3-0-2 so far in qualifying, defeating the likes of Austria, Georgia, and Moldova so far. Southampton midfielder Dusan Tadic has been huge for the Serbs, scoring four goals and adding seven assists. Wales have drawn their last four qualifiers, including a 1-1 draw against Serbia back in November. Stoke City midfielder Joe Allen leads the team with two goals so far in qualifying.

Earlier that day, second place Ireland hosts Austria at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin. The Republic of Ireland have not suffered defeat yet in qualifying, winning three of their five matches so far. West Brom midfielder James McClean leads the team with three goals. Austria will look to exact revenge on Ireland, after falling 1-0 back in November. Bayern Munich wingback David Alaba leads the team with three assists, while Marc Janko has two goals.

  • Republic of Ireland vs. Austria – June 11th, 12:00 P.M.
  • Moldova vs. Georgia – June 11th, 12:00 P.M.
  • Serbia vs. Wales – June 11th, 2:45 P.M.

GROUP E

The early match in Group E sees Kazakhstan welcome Denmark to Almaty. The hosts are bottom of the table with two points but will look to pull the upset at home. Denmark sits in third place with seven points, and are unbeaten in their last two qualifiers. Tottenham midfielder Christian Eriksen is the man to watch, with three goals so far in qualifying.

Group leaders Poland will look to stay unbeaten, hosting Romania in Warsaw on Saturday. Following a 2-2 draw with Kazakhstan to open qualifying, Poland has won four in a row. Bayern Munich striker Robert Lewandowski leads the team with eight goals so far in qualifying. Romania will look to add to their one win so far, by pulling a huge upset on the road. Midfielder Nicolae Stanciu will be relied on to put in good performance in midfield.

  • Kazakhstan vs. Denmark – June 10th, 12:00 P.M.
  • Poland vs. Armenia – June 10th, 2:45 P.M.
  • Montenegro vs. Armenia – June 10th, 2:45 P.M.

GROUP F

Also at 12:00 P.M. on Saturday, Slovenia hosts Malta in Ljubljana. After a four match unbeaten run to kick off qualifying, Slovenia fell 1-0 at Scotland in March. Atletico Madrid keeper Jan Oblak is one of the world’s top keepers, while midfielder Josip Ilicic has three assists. Malta are still looking for their first qualifying victory of the campaign, after losing five straight. Alfred Effiong has the only goal for Malta in these qualifiers.

The late match in Group F sees Slovakia travel to Lithuania. The hosts have lost their last two qualifiers, after going unbeaten in their opening three. Fedor Chernykh leads the Lithuanians with three goals. Slovakia have rolled to three straight qualifying wins after losing their opening two. Napoli midfielder Marek Hamsik is an important piece to the Slovaks midfield, while Robert Mak leads the team with two goals.

  • Scotland vs. England – June 10th, 12:00 P.M.
  • Slovenia vs. Malta – June 10th, 12:00 P.M.
  • Lithuania vs. Slovakia – June 10th, 2:45 P.M.

GROUP G

Second place Italy should have zero problems on Sunday, facing off with last place Liechtenstein. The Italians have 13 points so far, level with leaders Spain in the standings. Coming into this match on the back of three consecutive victories, Italy will be heavy favorites at home. Liechtenstein have only scored one goal through their opening five matches, and will most-likely defend for their lives on Sunday.

Group leaders Spain head to Macedonia on Sunday, looking to extend their lead at the top. Spain won the reverse fixture between these sides, 4-0, back in November thanks to an own goal and three different goalscorers. Macedonia’s only win in qualifying came back in March as they defeated Liechtenstein, 3-0. Palermo’s Ilija Nesterovski leads the team with three goals and will be relied on to lead the line this weekend.

  • Italy vs. Liechtenstein – June 11th, 2:45 P.M.
  • Israel vs. Albania – June 11th, 2:45 P.M.
  • Macedonia vs. Spain – June 11th, 2:45 P.M.

GROUP H

In Group H, second place Greece face a trip to third place Bosnia-Herzegovina on Friday. The Greeks have not tasted defeat yet in qualifying, winning three of their five fixtures so far. These sides drew 1-1 in Sarajevo back in November, with the hosts earning a late equalizer. Benfica striker Konstantinos Mitroglou leads the team with three goals in qualifying. Since a 4-0 drubbing at the hands of Belgium, Bosnia are unbeaten in their last three matches. Strikers Vedad Ibisevic and Edin Dzeko are tied for the team lead with three goals apiece.

Group leaders Belgium will look to keep their undefeated run going, traveling to Estonia on Friday. Roberto Martinez’s side defeated their opponents, 8-1, back in November and will look to do the same this time around. Everton striker Romelu Lukaku leads Belgium with six goals, while Napoli’s Dries Mertens has four assists. Estonia’s only victory, was a 4-0 thumping of Gibraltar back in October. Midfielder Mattias Kait leads the team with two goals, and will be expected to run the show against a stubborn Belgian side.

  • Bosnia-Herzegovina vs. Greece – June 9th, 2:45 P.M.
  • Estonia vs. Belgium – June 9th, 2:45 P.M.
  • Gibraltar vs. Cyprus – June 9th, 2:45 P.M.

GROUP I

The early fixture in Group I sees third place Ukraine travel to fifth place Finland. Ukraine tasted defeat for the first time in qualifying, losing 1-0 against Croatia back in March. Dynamo Kiev midfielder Andriy Yarmolenko is a talented midfielder, leading Ukraine with three goals and two assists. Finland will hope for their first victory in qualifying, after four straight losses. Striker Teemu Pukki and midfielder Robin Lod each have a goal to their name.

In the other late fixture in Group I, last place Kosovo hosts fourth place Turkey in Shkoder. Kosovo have lost four in a row since a draw with Finland back in September. Midfielder Valon Berisha is tied for the team lead with one goal in qualifying. Turkey have won their last two qualifiers, defeating Kosovo and Finland respectively. With Barcelona midfielder Arda Turan announcing his retirement from international football earlier this week, it leaves a huge hole in Turkey’s midfield going forward.

  • Finland vs. Ukraine – June 11th, 12:00 P.M.
  • Iceland vs. Croatia – June 11th, 2:45 P.M.
  • Kosovo vs. Turkey – June 11th, 2:45 P.M.

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