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Euro 2016 Qualifiers Preview: Group E-I

Another round of Euro 2016 qualifiers is upon us as we go into the second half of the qualification group stage. Here’s how things stands in Groups E-I heading into Matchday 6.

Group E:

  1. England – 15pts
  2. Slovenia – 9pts
  3. Switzerland – 9pts
  4. Lithuania – 6pts
  5. Estonia – 4pts
  6. San Marino – 1pts

England is one of two unbeaten nations (Slovakia is the other) heading into Matchday 6. The Three Lions have scored 15 goals in five games while only allowing one. They will head to Ljubljana to take on second-placed Slovenia on Sunday. The last time the two teams met in London back in November, England won 3-1 after a goal by captain Wayne Rooney (Manchester United) and two goals from Danny Welbeck (Arsenal).

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0y3igViF0K0

Third-placed Switzerland can leapfrog Slovenia if they win on the road against Lithuania and Slovenia losses or draws against England. The Swiss beat the Lithuanians 4-0 in their first meeting at the AFG Arena in St. Gallen. Lithuania’s two wins have come against San Marino and Estonia, but they have lost the last three qualification games.

Minnows San Marino are delighted to have a point so far in the qualifications, as they are notoriously poor and been a pushover nation ever since they started competing in 1990. They have yet to win a single European or World Cup qualification game, but they might somehow have a chance against Estonia as the teams drew 0-0 in their first meeting.

Schedule:

June 14: Estonia – San Marino

June 14: Slovenia – England

June 14: Lithuania – Switzerland

Group F:

  1. Romania – 13pts
  2. Northern Ireland – 12pts
  3. Hungary – 8pts
  4. Finland – 4pt
  5. Faroe Islands – 3pts
  6. Greece – 2pts

It’s clearly a two horse race between Romania and Northern Ireland for the top spot in Group F. The Romanians are still undefeated after four wins and one draw, and they have been playing extremely well defensively, only allowing one goal. But there’s cause for concern up front as they have only scored seven goals in five games. They will travel to Belfast to take on a Northern Ireland team that is looking to make it to its first European Championship.

Third-placed Hungary will travel to Finland to try and get three points and at least stay within range of the two top teams. Hungary won the previous meeting between the sides 1-0 after Zoltan Gera scored late in the second half for the Hungarians in front of 19,500 fans at the Groupama Arena in Budapest.

Greece have been appalling during the qualifiers and they are pretty much already out of the race, sitting at the bottom of the standings with a measly two points halfway through. They lost 1-0 at home against the Faroe Islands in November, and now they travel to Torshavn to try and get revenge. The Greeks have only scored one goal while allowing five.

Schedule:

June 13: Finland – Hungary

June 13: Northern Ireland – Romania

June 13: Faroe Islands – Greece

Group G:

  1. Austria – 13pts
  2. Sweden – 9pts
  3. Russia – 8pts
  4. Montenegro – 5pts
  5. Liechtenstein – 4pts
  6. Moldova – 1pts

Top-placed Austria has yet to lose a game this far in the qualifications and with four wins and one draw they have a nice little cushion down to Sweden and Russia. If the Russian are able to beat the visiting Austrians in Moscow on Sunday, and Sweden takes care of business against Montenegro, then we would have a pretty open race between the top three nations in the group. Last time Austria and Russia met back in November, it ended in a 1-0 win for Austria after a Rubin Okotie goal in the 73rd minute.

Sweden will host Montenegro at Friends Arena in Solna, just outside Stockholm. The teams drew 1-1 in Montenegro back in November. The Swedes got an early goal by Zlatan Ibrahimovic in the 9th minute, but Stevan Jovetic tied it up from the penalty spot after a soft penalty was given by referee William Collum from Scotland. Ibrahimovic & Co. will look to score more than once this time around and hope that they Montenegrins doesn’t get any more favors from the referees.

Liechtenstein will host Moldova at the Rheinpark Stadion in Vaduz. Neither of these teams will be in the fight for a spot in the Euros, but they nonetheless want to put on some good performances. Last time around, when the team met in Moldova, Liechtenstein won 1-0.

Schedule:

June 14: Liechtenstein – Moldova

June 14: Russia – Austria

June 14: Sweden – Montenegro

Group H:

  1. Croatia – 13pts
  2. Italy – 11pts
  3. Norway – 9pts
  4. Bulgaria – 5pts
  5. Azerbaijan – 3pts
  6. Malta – 1pts

It’s still a pretty open race between the top three teams in Group H, and looking at the upcoming matchups, it can get really interesting. Croatia is hosting second-placed Italy in Split, and this is one of the more interesting games during Matchday 6.

If Croatia manage to win over the Italians, the teams drew 1-1 in their first meeting, then if Norway somehow drops points against Azerbaijan, then they could find themselves with a nice five-point gap down to Italy, or four points to Norway if they beat Azerbaijan.

The Norwegians must almost be hoping that Croatia will come out victorious in that matchup as they have an easy game on paper against Azerbaijan. Norway won the previous meeting 1-0 in Baku, but they will be even stronger favorites at home in Oslo.

Bulgaria will travel to the village of Ta’ Qali take on the tiny nation of Malta. Malta is a beautiful place, but the nation’s soccer team is really poor as they don’t have a lot of players to choose from. Malta did however managed to get a draw against Bulgaria in the previous meeting between the teams, and now fans will be hoping that they can take it even further and win a game. Malta will be in good spirit after winning a friendly game against Lithuania 2-0 earlier this week.

Schedule:

June 12: Croatia – Italy

June 12: Malta – Bulgaria

June 12: Norway Azerbaijan

Group I:

  1. Portugal – 9pts
  2. Denmark – 7pts
  3. Albania – 7pts
  4. Serbia – 1pts
  5. Armenia – 1pts

In Group I there’s only five teams competing, but it’s pretty clear that only three of them will have a shot at making it to France next summer. Serbia got three points deducted after the game against Albania in October had to be abandoned due to fighting.

Portugal with Real Madrid’s superstar Cristiano Ronaldo leading the way top the group and they will travel to bottom-placed Armenia and the Vazgen Sargsyan anvan Hanrapetakan Marzadasht Stadium in Yerevan. Portugal only got a 1-0 win at home against the Armenians, but on paper it should be a much more one-sided result on Saturday.

Denmark will take on Serbia in Copenhagen at the Telia Parken. The Danes, who won the Euros back in 2012, are tied with Serbia for most goals scored in the group (6). Serbia needs to win out all remaining games if they are to have any chance to reach the Euros, but it seems unlikely as a bunch of other results must go their way as well. Albania is resting and won’t play a qualification game again until September.

Schedule:

June 13: Armenia – Portugal

June 13: Denmark – Serbia

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