We only have two rounds of games left before we know which nations will punch a ticket to Euro 2016 in France next summer and who will square off in the qualification playoffs. Several nations play key games over the weekend and here are a few games to keep an extra eye on.
Russia – Sweden (Euro 2016 Qualifiers Group G):
Zlatan Ibrahimovic and the Swedish national team will take on Russia in Moscow on Saturday in a game that has huge implications in Group G. Sweden is trying to catch up to leaders Austria and Russia is trying to catch Sweden, so a win for either team in this game will be huge. The last meeting in Stockholm ended in a 1-1 draw. The game will be the first for Russia’s new head coach Leonid Slutsky, who replaced Fabio Capello. Slutsky is also the manager of CSKA Moscow.
Swedish midfielder Pontus Wernbloom plays for CSKA in the Russian Premier League and will surely have a few tips for his countrymen about the Russians and the style of play Slutsky like to employ. Sweden will host Austria in the following game early next week, and three points against Russia could put them just one point behind depending on how the Austrians do against Slovenia.
Spain – Slovakia (Euro 2016 Qualifiers Group C):
Spain is out for revenge against Slovakia as they go up against each other in Oviedo on Saturday. Slovakia has won all six games so far in Group C and tops the group three points ahead of the Spaniards.
The last meeting ended in a 2-1 win for Slovakia after goals by Juraj Kucka and Miroslav Stoch. Stoch grabbed a late winner for the Slovaks at the Štadión MŠK Žilina in Zilina, scoring the deciding goal in the 87th minute.
Spain would overtake Slovakia with a win as they have a better goal difference. David Silva got the lone goal for Spain as they won on the road against Belarus back in June during the previous round of qualifiers.
Turkey – Netherlands (Euro 2016 Qualifiers Group A):
The Netherlands are in a tough position in Group A after losing 1-0 to Iceland at the Amsterdam Arena in Amsterdam on Thursday. Gylfi Sigurdsson scored the game’s only goal from the penalty spot in the 51st minute. Sigurdsson now has three goals in two games against the Netherlands after scoring both goals in the 2-0 win in the first meeting between the nations.
The Dutch are still in third place in the Group, but they are eight points behind leaders Iceland and six points behind second-placed Czech Republic.
Turkey sits in fourth, one point behind the Netherlands. The Turks had a chance to pass the Dutch but they only managed to get a 1-1 draw at home to Latvia. Selcuk Inan gave Turkey the lead in the 77th minute, but Valerjis Sabala scored the equalizer for Latvia in stoppage time. This game could very well decide who will end up in third place in Group A and get the qualification playoff spot.
Norway – Croatia (Euro 2016 Qualifiers Group H):
Things have really opened up in Group H after group leaders Croatia played a scoreless draw against Azerbaijan on Thursday. Second-placed Italy won 1-0 over Malta and Norway beat Bulgaria 1-0. This means that Croatia tops the group on 15 points, but they could still lose a point after the swastika on the field incident against Italy. The Italians also have 15 points and Norway sits in third with 14 points.
A win for Norway on Sunday in Oslo would be a huge step in the right direction to getting one of the two automatic spots to France. Vegard Forren became the hero for Norway in the Thursday game against Bulgaria on the road. Forren’s goal in the 57th minute was the lone goal of the game and secured three extremely important points. The last meeting between Croatia and Norway ended in a 5-1 for the Croats.
Wales – Israel (Euro 2016 Qualifiers Group B):
After a 1-0 win over Cyprus on Thursday, Wales could secure a spot in the tournament next summer with a win over Israel. Wales tops the group on 17 points, three points ahead of Belgium. Israel sits in third with 12 points, and if Wales wins, then they will guaranteed a spot in the tournament as the worst they could finish would be second. Gareth Bale has been outstanding for Wales and he scored the winner against Cyprus.
Israel will surely be happy with third place in the group and getting the qualification playoff spot, but they will be in good spirit after beating Andorra 4-0 on Thursday after goals by Eran Zahavi, Nir Biton, Tomer Hemed and Munas Dabbur. Belgium will take on Cyprus, and both Wales and Israel will be hoping for a draw in that game.