Russia are one point adrift, having won all of their matches aside from their 2-1 reverse in Dortmund last October. Group 4 has therefore been something of a mismatch, which fortunately is not a common theme throughout the groups.
Although the three European qualifiers have booked their tickets to South Africa with time to spare, Groups 1 and 2 have four teams still in with a chance of qualifying, whilst five teams in Groups 3 and 7 are still in the hunt.
This means that for every ‘anti-football’ defensive display provided by Andorra or San Marino there is a competitive fixture between two well-matched teams. It is Germany and Russia’s bad luck that they are a level above the other teams in their group.
Joachim Löw and Guus Hiddink’s outfits face a showdown in Moscow on October 10th, after which both teams have one game left to play. Few teams return with anything more than a point from a trip to the Russian capital and a defeat could prove crucial for Germany, as Russia travel to Azerbaijan four days later to play a team with one point to their name so far.
Germany host Finland on the same day, the team who have denied Löw’s men a 100% record thanks to a 3-3 draw in Helsinki last September. Even a point in Moscow will make that final fixture a tenser affair than appeared likely and German fans will be recalling their qualification for the 2002 World Cup with some trepidation.
Then they needed a victory against the Finns to beat England to the automatic qualification spot, but were held to a goalless draw in Gelsenkirchen. A comfortable play-off win against Ukraine secured a finals appearance which stretched to the final, but Germany cannot look so far ahead yet, as with the seedings system still to be confirmed, France and Portugal remain possible opponents with similar World Cup betting odds.