Your Guide to World Cup Qualifiers: Preview & TV Guide for October 11-15

We’re getting right down to it. We’re under two months away from the FIFA World Cup draw in Brazil, and during these next two months, the field for the greatest sporting spectacle on the planet will be finalized. For some countries, these last World Cup qualifying group games will be blissfully academic. For some, the World Cup starts now.

Here’s a preview of what’s at stake for Friday and Tuesday’s upcoming games, as well as TV listings for those games shown in the United States.

All times Eastern.


Group A:

At this late point in the game, the goings on in Group A are just formalities. Belgium are on the cusp of their first World Cup trip since 2002, five points clear at the top of the group. While Belgium just need to secure one win to punch their ticket, they’ll be going for victories in both of their games. Belgium are currently in line to be seeded for the World Cup draw, a major achievement for a country that hasn’t seen major tournament action in over a decade. Belgium have become such hot dark-horses for Brazil, they can barely be considered dark-horses at all anymore. Croatia will finish second and go into the playoffs, most likely, unless Belgium slip spectacularly. The other four teams in the group have been eliminated, including Serbia, Scotland and Wales.

Friday, October 11
Croatia vs Belgium, Noon, ESPN Deportes,,

Tuesday, October 15
Serbia vs Macedonia, 2:30pm,
Scotland vs Croatia, 3pm,
Belgium vs Wales, 3pm, 

Group B:

Italy have won the group, and the Azzurri are almost assured of a seed for the draw. Most of the commotion in the camp has been around the uncertain future of transformative manager Cesare Prandelli and that of bad-boy striker Mario Balotelli. The race is for second, and three teams are still in it. Bulgaria lead the pack on 12 points, and two wins would render the chase dead. However, Denmark lurk on 11 points, and by the skin of their teeth Morton Olsen’s team has revived a once dead qualifying campaign. Czech Republic are three points off the pace, but that deficit could be erased with a victory over Bulgaria in Sofia on Tuesday. Denmark has two home games, but it’s Italy in Copenhagen on Friday, while Bulgaria play Armenia before the Czechs. There’s everything to play for, and it’s impossible to pick a winner at this stage.

Friday, October 11
Armenia vs Bulgaria, 11am,
Malta vs Czech Republic, 1:30pm,
Denmark vs Italy, 2:45pm, RAI International 

Tuesday, October 15
Bulgaria vs Czech Republic, 2:15pm, 

Group C:

Germany just need one win to book their place and a seed for the World Cup, while the race for second is between Sweden and Austria. The Swedes lead by three points, but they face a home game against Germany on the last day of qualification. Sweden will hope for Germany to win on Friday and clinch, making their game unimportant for the formidable visitors. But the decisive game could be on Friday, when Sweden and Austria meet at the Friends Arena. A win for Sweden would see them into the playoffs, while a win for Austria would make Austria favorites, as they play the less formidable Faroe Islands on Tuesday. A draw works in Sweden’s favor, but only if they can get a result against Germany.

Friday, October 11
Germany vs Ireland, 2:30pm, ESPN2 and
Sweden vs Austria, 2:45pm, GolTV

Tuesday, October 15
Sweden vs Germany, 2:45pm, GolTV 

Group D:

No battle for the top spot here either, as the Netherlands are through to Brazil. Holland is unlikely to be seeded though, and whichever group Louis Van Gaal’s team is in could be the group of death. Once again, there is a three-way battle for second. Hungary lead the chase, but the most intriguing team is an enigmatic Turkey side, managed by Fatih Terim, who was recently sacked by his club Galatasaray. Terim will be desperate to lead Turkey back from the ashes and into the playoffs with some of the players he used to manage at the club level. Turkey are one point back of Hungary, as are Romania – the team with the easiest path, as it doesn’t include a game against Holland. Both Turkey and Hungary have to play the Netherlands, and there are no head-to-head meetings left between the three.

Friday, October 11
Netherlands vs Hungary, 2:30pm,
Estonia vs Turkey, 2:30pm,
Andorra vs Romania, 2:30pm, 

Tuesday, October 15
Turkey vs Netherlands, 2pm,
Hungary vs Andorra, 2pm,
Romania vs Estonia, 2pm, 

Group E:

Switzerland just need one victory to clinch in Group E, while the battle for the playoff spot is between teams once considered minnows – Iceland, Slovenia, Norway, and Albania, on 13, 12, 11, and 10 points respectively. Iceland have to be considered favorites – and we can’t say that often – while Norway have just made a managerial change. The Norwegians and Slovenia both have a tough road, while an Albania emergence into second would defy all logic. But it seems anything could happen in this group.

Friday, October 11
Albania vs Switzerland, 2:30pm,
Slovenia vs Norway, 2:45pm,
Iceland vs Cyprus, 2:45pm, 

Tuesday, October 15
Cyprus vs Albania, 1:30pm,
Switzerland vs Slovenia, 2pm, 

Group F:

There is a race for the top spot in Group F, and it’s between two heavyweights. Russia only need to take care of business against Azerbaijan and Luxembourg to make their one point lead over Portugal stand up, but it’s never that simple with the Russians. Portugal, a team quite accustomed to going through the playoffs (where they usually beat Bosnia and Herzegovina), also need two wins to give themselves the chance to take advantage of potential Russian misfortune. Upstart Israel are all but retired, as a draw and defeat in the last round of games has seen them fall off the pace.

Friday, October 11
Azerbaijan vs Northern Ireland, Noon,
Luxembourg vs Russia, 2:30pm,
Portugal vs Israel, 3:45pm, 

Tuesday, October 15
Israel vs Northern Ireland, 1pm,
Portugal vs Luxembourg, 1pm, ESPN Deportes, and
Azerbaijan vs Russia, 1pm, 

Group G:

Only two teams are in, and two teams can win it. Bosnia have led the whole way in this group, only to let Greece back in the game with a shocking home defeat to Slovakia in the September. Now, Bosnia and Greece are tied on 19 points, while all the other teams in the group are out. Bosnia are the top scoring side in European qualification, giving them a far superior goal difference to Greece. Bosnia are desperate to avoid the playoffs, where they’ve come up short for the last two major tournaments, and if they beat Liechtenstein and Lithuania they’ll qualify for their first major tournament. Greece can only win (and score a lot of goals, which is always doubtful) and hope.

Friday, October 11
Lithuania vs Latvia, 11:30am,
Bosnia and Herzegovina vs Liechtenstein, 2pm, 
Greece vs Slovakia, 2:45pm, 

Tuesday, October 15
Lithuania vs Bosnia Herzegovina, 1pm,
Greece vs Liechtenstein, 1pm,
Latvia vs Slovakia, 2:10pm, 

Group H:

Well it’s all come down to this: With Roy Hodgson’s conservative approach, England were always going to have to beat a top team or two at some point to make it to Brazil, and now those two crucial games stare the Three Lions in the face. Two home games, against Poland and Montenegro, two quality sides, but two sides England should be looking beyond. With only one point separating Hodgson’s men from Ukraine and Montenegro, with the Poles three points back, two wins are the only safe way to win the group. Anything less, and it could be calls for Hodgson’s head and a national disaster. Outside of the group’s glamor team, the Euro 2012 co-hosts play a crucial game Friday in Kharkiv. A win for Poland would vaunt the red and white back into the thick of things, while a win for Ukraine would make them favorites and put Poland on the back-burner. A draw is what England and Montenegro want. We’ve seen this go both ways with England – in 2001, behind David Beckham at Old Trafford, the Lions roared. In 2007 at Wembley, they were crushed. Whatever happens this time around, it will be drama at its highest point.

Friday, October 11:
Moldova vs San Marino, Noon,
England vs Montenegro, 3pm, FOX Sports 1 and FOX Deportes

Tuesday, October 15
San Marino vs Ukraine, 3pm,
Montenegro vs Moldova, 3pm,
England vs Poland, 3pm, FOX Sports 1 

Group I:

Either Spain or France will go into the World Cup in the coming days. Both countries have 14 points, but Spain have two games left, while France only have one. Despite being hit hard with injuries, Spain are the presumptive winner, which would consign France to a World Cup playoff again. The last time that happened? Ireland remembers.

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  1. Rick October 10, 2013
  2. Tayo October 10, 2013
  3. Tony Butterworth October 10, 2013
  4. Porque? October 10, 2013
  5. San Fransiscan October 11, 2013

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