Journey to Brazil 2014 continues across Europe

MADRID – With just over a year to go until the World Cup, some of Europe’s leading nations are hoping to take a major step towards sealing their places in the finals in Brazil in a busy week of qualifying.
World champions Spain entertain Finland on Friday before travelling to Paris to face France on Tuesday. Net photo.
World champions Spain entertain Finland on Friday before travelling to Paris to face France on Tuesday. Net photo.

Today
Israel     vs     Portugal    14:40 SS3
Kazakhstan     vS     Germany    19:55 SS3
San Marino     vs     England    21:55 SS3
France     vs    Georgia    21:55 SS4
Holland     vs     Estonia    21:40 SS5
Uruguay     vs     Paraguay    23:55 SS3
Bulgaria    vs    Malta    19:00
Croatia    vs    Serbia
Slovenia    vs    Iceland    20:00
Norway    vs    Albania    20:15
Andorra    vs    Turkey    20:30
Czech Rep    vs    Denmark    21:00
Hungary    vs    Romania
Bosnia    vs    Greece    19:45
Macedonia    vs    Belgium
N Ireland    vs    Russia
Poland    vs    Ukraine
Spain    vs    Finland
Sweden    vs    Rep Ireland
Scotland    vs     Wales

MADRID – With just over a year to go until the World Cup, some of Europe’s leading nations are hoping to take a major step towards sealing their places in the finals in Brazil in a busy week of qualifying.

The outstanding game of this month is the clash between France and reigning European and world champions Spain in Paris next Tuesday, with both sides tied on seven points at the top of Group I.

But both countries must first see off unfancied opposition on Friday evening, as Spain entertain Finland in the northern city of Gijon while France host Georgia.

Vicente del Bosque’s Spain side must do without captain Iker Casillas and Barcelona skipper Carles Puyol as both recover from injury, and Xavi Hernandez is also struggling for fitness.

Nevertheless, they should still see off the challenge of a Finnish side that currently props up Group I.

“We are all aware that both matches against Finland and France will be finals for us,” said Chelsea and Spain winger Juan Mata.

His thoughts echoed those of France coach Didier Deschamps, whose side play their first competitive match since a creditable 1-1 draw in Madrid in October.

“In our qualifying campaign, for the match against Spain to mean anything, we need first of all to win against Georgia,” he said last week, trying to focus his team’s attention on the task in hand.

Elsewhere, Germany will be hoping to maintain their formidable record in qualifying when they make the long trip to Kazakhstan in Group C.

Joachim Loew’s side play the former Soviet republic twice in the next week, with the match in Astana being followed by another meeting in Nuremberg on Tuesday.

Roy Hodgson’s England have little to win, and everything to lose, when they take on whipping boys San Marino on Friday before a much trickier assignment in Montenegro next midweek.

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