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Euro 2016 Qualifiers Preview: Group E-I

We’ve passed the halfway mark of the 2016 European Championship qualifiers, and a couple of nations can almost taste the coffee and baguettes as they are so close to punching a ticket for France next summer. Here’s a rundown of Group E-I heading into the second to last round of games.  

Group E: England Could Become First Nation To Qualify

England has six straight wins, and tops Group E with 18 points. The Three Lions could become the first side to qualify for the festivities in France next summer. They take on San Marino on Saturday on the road in what should be a an easy three points. Then they take on second-placed Switzerland at home. If they win both those games and Switzerland drops points against Slovenia then they will be heading to France with two game remaining.

Switzerland sits six points behind England and needs to win out in order to have chance of winning the group. They take on third-placed Slovenia at home on Saturday and then travel to England for the game on Tuesday. Slovenia will be looking for a win against Switzerland as that would put them level on points. Slovenia will then host Estonia on Tuesday.

Estonia and Lithuania will play in Tallinn on Saturday, and although neither nation will be able to catch the teams at the top, they will still want to close out the second half of the qualifications on a good note. The last meeting between the sides ended in a 1-0 win for Lithuania.

Standings Group E:

  1. England 18pts
  2. Switzerland 12pts
  3. Slovenia 9pts
  4. Estonia 7pts
  5. Lithuania 6pts
  6. San Marino 1pts

Schedule Group E:

9/5: Estonia – Lithuania

9/5: San Marino – England

9/5: Switzerland – Slovenia

9/8: England – Switzerland

9/8: Lithuania – San Marino

9/8: Slovenia – Estonia

 

Group F: Three Teams Still In The Race

Romania tops Group F on 14 points, but Northern Ireland (13 points) and Hungary (11 points) are hot on their heels. Romania will travel to Budapest for a meeting with the Hungarians on Thursday. The last meeting ended in 1-1 draw after a late equalizer by Hungarian captain Balazs Dzsudzsak. Hungary could go level on points with Romania with a win, and they will have fans cheering on them from Northern Ireland as well as Hungary. Romania will then host Greece on Monday, whilst Hungary will travel to Northern Ireland.

Northern Ireland travel up north for a meeting with the Faroe Islands on Thursday. The last meeting was a one-sided affair where the Northern Irish won 2-0 after goals by Gareth McAuley and Kyle Lafferty in the first half. The Faroe Island will then travel to Finland for the away game on Monday.

Before hosting the Faroe Islands, the Finns will play Greece on the road on Thursday. The last meeting between the two bottom sides of the group ended in a 1-1 draw. The Greeks have been a huge disappointment and only has two points after six games.

Standings Group F:

  1. Romania 14pts
  2. Northern Ireland 13pts
  3. Hungary 11pts
  4. Faroe Islands 6pts
  5. Finland 4pts
  6. Greece 2pts

Schedule Group F:

9/4: Faroe Islands – Northern Ireland

9/4: Greece – Finland

9/4: Hungary – Romania

9/7: Finland – Faroe Islands

9/7: Northern Ireland – Hungary

9/7: Romania – Greece

 

Group G: Austria Trying To Keep Sweden At Bay

Austria has had a good qualifying campaign so far and tops Group G on 16 points, four ahead of chasing Sweden. The Austrians will host Moldova in Vienna on Saturday before traveling to Stockholm and a game against the Swedes on Tuesday.

Sweden have two tough games this round as they take on Russia in Moscow on Saturday before hosting Austria on Tuesday. The last meeting between Sweden and Russia back in October last year ended in a 1-1 draw. Aleksandr Kokorin scored for the Russians early in the first half, but Sunderland forward Ola Toivonen equalized the game early in the second half. Sebastian Larsson missed a penalty, and the Swedes will be hungry for all three points on Saturday.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic will play, despite having injury troubles to start the season. Russia has a new head coach as CSKA Moscow manager Leonid Slutsky took the job on an interim basis after the Russian FA fired Fabio Capello. The Russians will take on Liechtenstein on the road after the game against Sweden.

Montenegro forfeited the game against Russia after the game had to be abandoned after problems in the stands. Russia was awarded the three points and Montenegro is now all but out of contention. They host Liechtenstein on Saturday before taking on Moldova on the road on Tuesday.

Standings Group G:

  1. Austria 16pts
  2. Sweden 12pts
  3. Russia 8pts
  4. Montenegro 5pts
  5. Liechtenstein 5pts
  6. Moldova 2pts

Schedule Group G:

9/5: Russia – Sweden

9/5: Austria – Moldova

9/5: Montenegro – Liechtenstein

9/8: Sweden – Austria

9/8: Liechtenstein – Russia

9/8: Moldova – Montenegro

 

Group H: Croatia Top Of The Group, Italy On The Hunt

Croatia still has disciplinary actions pending after a swastika was carved into the pitch in the game against Italy in June. Croatia were deducted a point, but the judgement still hasn’t been finalized as the Croatian FA appealed the decision. For now they sit at the top spot in Group H on 14 points, two points ahead of Italy. Croatia travel to Azerbaijan for the game on Thursday. They won the first meeting 6-0, so another win is pretty much a given. Then they will travel to Norway for the game on Monday.

Second-placed Italy host Malta on Thursday, and will look to win by a bigger margin than the 1-0 win they got in the first meeting. Italy will then welcome Bulgaria on Sunday. The previous meeting in Sofia ended in a 2-2 draw after a late equalizer for Italy by forward Eder.

Before traveling to Italy, Bulgaria will host Norway on Thursday. Norway won the first meeting on Oslo 2-1 back in October of last year after goals by Tarik Elyounoussi and Havard Nielsen.

Standings Group H:

  1. Croatia 14pts*
  2. Italy 12pts
  3. Norway 10pts
  4. Bulgaria 8pts
  5. Azerbaijan 4pts
  6. Malta 1pts

Schedule Group H:

9/3: Azerbaijan – Croatia

9/3: Bulgaria – Norway

9/3: Italy – Malta

9/6: Norway – Croatia

9/6: Malta – Azerbaijan

9/6: Italy – Bulgaria

 

Group I: Denmark, Albania Trying To Catch Portugal

Portugal tops Group I on 12 points after five games. This is the only group that has five teams in it, so one team always rests. Portugal will not play a qualification game on Friday, instead they will play a friendly against France. Denmark and Albania will do battle at Telia Parken in Copenhagen on Friday and if either team comes out with the win, they will go top of the group. The last meeting ended in a 1-1 draw, and another draw would be the best possible result for Portugal.

Albania will then host Portugal on Monday in a game that could have huge implications on the outcome of the group. Albania won the first meeting in Portugal 1-0 after a goal by Bekim Balaj. Denmark will travel to Armenia to try and replicate the 2-1 win they got in the first meeting.

Serbia hasn’t gotten a single point so far and after the game against Albania had to be abandoned, they sit dead last with negative two points. Serbia host Armenia on Friday and will then rest until October when they take on Albania once more.

Standings Group I:

  1. Portugal 12pts
  2. Denmark 10pts
  3. Albania 10pts
  4. Armenia 1pts
  5. Serbia -2pts*

 

Check local listings for TV times. Some games will be available on Watch ESPN.

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