The third round of group stage qualifiers for the 2014 World Cup will feature a few interesting matches between sides in direct contention for the top two spots – Belgium playing in Serbia, Denmark in Bulgaria, Ireland hosting Germany, Turkey playing Romania and Russia playing Portugal. England host San Marino in a predicted breezer while Spain travel to Belarus.
One big match that’s going to be crucial for the fight for the top two spots, as Belgium head into Belgrade to play Serbia. They drew their match at home against Croatia, while the Serbs looked very impressive at home against Wales. Still, talent means Belgium should at least have a point. Scotland in Cardiff against Wales? Not important probably, and smells like a draw as well. Croatia won’t have an easy time in Macedonia, struggling to beat them 1-0 on the opening game.
Macedonia vs Croatia (20:30), Serbia vs Belgium (20:30), Wales vs Scotland (19:45)
For once, Italy shouldn’t struggle that match. After picking up four points from the first two matches, playing in Armenia is a great opportunity to get consecutive wins, but the win over Malta showed nothing will be going easy for Prandelli’s side. The Czech Republic should have no problems against Malta at home, while Bulgaria hosting Denmark is an extremely tough one, but Denmark are probably the better side so looks like a draw or a win for the visitors.
Czech Republic vs Malta (18:00), Armenia vs Italy (21:00), Bulgaria vs Denmark (21:00)
Kazakhstan might have a chance to pick up their first points when hosting Austria, who made life very difficult for Germany last month before losing. Sweden in somewhat of a Scandinavian derby against the Faroe Island will win, while Germany will keep their perfect record by beating Ireland in Dublin.
Kazakhstan vs Austria (22:00), Faroe Islands vs Sweden (17:00), Ireland vs Germany (19:45)
The big game in the group will be Turkey, with 3 points, hosting Romania, with 6. A Romanian win in Istanbul, which is possible given as to how Turkey tend to implode in certain matches. Netherlands hosting Andorra is just a question of how much, while Hungary should win in Estonia but probably won’t.
Turkey vs Romania (20:30), Estonia vs Hungary (21:30), Netherlands vs Andorra (20:30)
Switzerland, the only perfect team in the group, get to host Norway, coming off their win over Slovenia. Still, the Norweigans lost in Iceland, and Switzerland are clearly the best team in this group. Albania hosting Iceland feels like a draw while Slovenia will keep Cyprus at 0.
Albania vs Iceland (19:00), Switzerland vs Norway (20:30), Slovenia vs Cyprus (20:45)
One big match, between Russia and Portugal. The Russians have looked better so far in the qualifying matches, and might have an overall better team, but Cristiano Ronaldo… we’ll go for a draw. Israel should win at Luxembourg, but after their draw in Azerbaijan even that isn’t guaranteed.
Luxembourg vs Israel (21:00), Russia vs Portugal (19:00)
The two best teams in the group, Greece and Bosnia, both with six points, meet in Piraeus. Greece are extremely difficult to beat despite being the less talented side, and at home should come up with the win. Slovakia will beat Latvia while Lithuania might not win at Lichtenstein.
Lichtenstein vs Lithuania (19:30), Slovakia vs Latvia (20:15), Greece vs Bosnia (21:45)
Two easy matches to predict this Friday – Ukraine will win in Moldova, England will win at home against San Marino.
Moldova vs Ukraine (21:00), England vs San Marino (20:00)
Finland host Georgia in a tough match to predict but Georgia are the better team, and we’re sticking with them in this one. Spain in Belarus should be much easier for the World champions, unlike their visit to Tbilisi.
Finland vs Georgia (18:30), Belarus vs Spain (21:00)