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World Cup Qualification Far From Guaranteed For European Big Guns

Wednesday 5th June 2013
Now that Japan have booked their place to the 2014 World Cup in Brazil Jack Kitson takes a look at which teams from Europe could be joining them .

We are now just over 12 months away from the 2014 World Cup in Brazil and the qualification process is really starting to hot up. The European section of qualifying is always closely fought and that is certainly the case this time around with a number of big teams sweating on securing their place to the carnival capital of the world this time next year. It is fair to say that no player would want to miss out on a World Cup in Brazil and that will surely make the final few qualifying games that bit more special with plenty to play for. One or two of Europe's "Heavy Weight" nations still have plenty of work to do if they are to secure their direct passage to South America and there will be plenty of nervous managers, players and fans around Europe before qualifying concludes in October.

Germany and the Netherlands can start packing their flip flops and beach towels for Brazil as their qualification for the World Cup is all but secure. Both nations have won every single game to date in their respective groups and both will be a major threat when they do arrive for the World Cup next summer. Italy are another team who look to be in strong position having gone unbeaten in their first five games and the Azzuri will expect to confirm their qualification over the coming games.

After that it starts to get a little bit more complicated in the European section with a number of the groups being closely fought at this stage. That is certainly the case in group A where Belgium and Croatia are locked together on 16 points after six games. The Belgians are one of the most improved nations in the world but they still have to go away to a strong Croatia side in October in what is likely to be a winner takes all match in order to progress to the World Cup.

Perhaps the most surprising nation still to have their qualification under threat is Spain who are embroiled in a fierce battle with France in Group I. The Spanish are the defending World Champions but are only a point clear of the French, having failed to win either of their two games to date on home soil. Spain are still well fancied to finish on top of the pile but any more slip ups from them could well open the door to France, with the team that finishes runner up having to settle for a play-off place instead.

As always, England are giving their fans a tough time with Roy Hodgson's men sitting two points behind Montenegro in Group H. England are unbeaten in their first six games but they have only won three of them to date, leaving them with plenty of work still to do if they are to start dreaming of a return to Brazil following the recently friendly against next summer's host nation.

England do have three of their final four games at home, including a key clash against Montenegro, which should give them the edge come the conclusion of Group H. That is by no means a certainty though with England in real danger of finding themselves in a play-off in November if there are any more slip-ups from the Three Lions.

The group winners will progress directly through to the World Cup while the eight best second placed nations will then go into a two legged play-off clash to determine the remaining four European representatives in South America.

The attraction of a World Cup in Brazil is so high that there are sure to be plenty of twitchy moments over the remaining qualifying games. There will be a particular spot light on England and Spain with both sides fighting for automatic qualification and desperate not to miss out, whilst Portugal also has its work cut out in Group F.

The next round of qualifying games take place on the 7th and 8th June, with 17 matches before a break over the summer and the remaining fixtures being completed in September and October.
Jack Kitson
Massive Southampton fan, loving being back in the Premier League but cannot get enough football to feed my addiction.

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