Euro '96: The state of play as the nations draw their final battle lines

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The Independent Online
Group One

FOR France, nervy echoes of their unsuccessful World Cup 1994 qualifying and the ensuing recriminations. They and Romania are assured of the top two places but the second-placed could face the dreaded play- off. The French are at home to Israel, to whom they lost 3-2 by conceding two goals in the last five minutes when seemingly certain of reaching the United States. The Romanians have a tricky match in Slovakia. One hopes France and Romania make it; beyond the English-based Cantona, Ginola, Dumitrescu and Petrescu both have a host of individuals who would enhance the finals.

P W D L F A Pts

Romania 9 5 3 1 16 9 18

France 9 4 5 0 20 2 17

Slovakia 9 4 2 3 14 16 14

Poland 9 3 3 3 14 12 12

Israel 9 3 3 3 13 11 12

Azerbaijan 9 0 0 9 2 29 0

Remaining fixtures: Wednesday Slovakia v Romania; Azerbaijan v Poland; France v Israel.

Group Two

THE crucial match here was in September when the holders Denmark won 3-1 in Belgium and they are now certain to finish second behind the exciting, unbeaten Spanish, who will be well- fancied in the tournament proper. Thus will we be denied the presence next summer of Newcastle United's Philippe Albert, recalled to the Belgian squad after injury for the game in Cyprus. The Danes' match against bottom- placed Armenia will not alter their situation so Copenhagen will have its ears trained for news elsewhere to find whether their record is good enough for automatic qualification.

P W D L F A Pts

Spain 9 7 2 0 22 4 23

Denmark 9 5 3 1 16 8 18

Belgium 9 4 2 3 16 12 14

Macedonia 9 1 4 4 9 15 7

Cyprus 9 1 3 5 5 19 6

Armenia 9 1 2 6 4 14 5

Remaining fixtures: Wednesday Cyprus v Belgium; Denmark v Armenia; Spain v Macedonia.

Group Three

UEFA announced on Friday that Switzerland, the team coached by the Englishman Roy Hodgson, have, after all qualified, having done enough in matches against the potential first, third and fourth places. The surprise in this group has been the demise of the World Cup semi-finalists Sweden. Turkey will be the unfancied winners of the group if they beat the Swedes, their goal difference being superior to Switzerland's, which would be the decisive factor given that the Turks and the Swiss are otherwise inseparable in the head-to-head results between the two, each nation having won 2- 1 in the other's country.

P W D L F A Pts

Switzerland 8 5 2 1 15 7 17

Turkey 7 4 2 1 14 6 14

Sweden 7 2 2 3 7 8 8

Hungary 8 2 2 4 7 13 8

Iceland 8 1 2 5 3 12 5

Yesterday Hungary 1 Iceland 0. Remaining fixture: Wednesday Sweden v Turkey.

Group Four

SEEMINGLY a straight fight between the talented Croatians - Suker, Boksic, Boban et al - and the Italians, but the dark-horse Lithuanians still have a say. Victory for Croatia in Slovenia would see them win the group, having taken four points from Italy. Should they fail to do so, however, the Italians can overtake them with wins from their two home games in four days, against Ukraine yesterday and Lithuania. Any slip-ups by the Italians could see the World Cup finalists in the play-off or being pipped for second place by the Lithuanians, who would need to win by two goals.

P W D L F A Pts

Croatia 9 6 2 1 20 4 20

Italy 9 6 2 1 16 6 20

Lithuania 9 5 1 3 13 8 16

Ukraine 10 4 1 5 11 15 13

Slovenia 9 3 2 4 12 11 11

Estonia 10 0 0 10 3 31 0

Yesterday Italy 3 Ukraine 1. Remaining fixtures: Wednesday Slovenia v Croatia; Italy v Lithuania.

Group Five

THE thought of Euro '96 without the Dutch - Bergkamp, Roy and Co - is barely thinkable. With the Czech Republic surely certain to take a top-two place by beating Luxembourg at home, Holland must beat Norway in Rotterdam, where they seem to win when necessary, as England know. With a superior record in head-to-head meetings, that would assure them of second place at Norway's expense. Being eliminated with 20 points would be hard on the Norwegians but probably few in Britain would bemoan the absence of their dull football.

P W D L F A Pts

Norway 9 6 2 1 17 4 20

Czech Rep 9 5 3 1 18 6 18

Holland 9 5 2 2 20 5 17

Luxembourg 9 3 1 5 3 18 10

Belarus 9 2 2 5 6 13 8

Malta 9 0 2 7 2 20 2

Remaining fixtures: Today Malta v Belarus. Wednesday Czech Republic v Luxembourg; Holland v Norway.

Group Six

END of an era or Indian summer in England for Jack Charlton and his ageing motley crew? The Republic will qualify as group winners if they win in Portugal but it is a tall order against a talented team likely to be among the favourites next year, even though the Irish did beat them 1-0 at Lansdowne Road before their form dipped. A draw or a defeat will leave the Irish dependent on their Northern neighbours - much improved of late though results against the Republic mean they cannot overhaul them - denying Austria in Belfast. Should the Republic cling to second place, it is likely they will go into the play-off.

P W D L F A Pts

Portugal 9 6 2 1 26 7 20

Rep of Ireland 9 5 2 2 17 8 17

Austria 9 5 1 3 26 9 16

Northern Ireland 9 4 2 3 15 12 14

Latvia 10 4 0 6 11 20 12

Liechtenstein 10 0 1 9 1 40 1

Remaining fixtures: Wednesday Portugal v Republic of Ireland; Northern Ireland v Austria.

Group Seven

GERMANY and Bulgaria are assured of the top two places and their meeting this week will decide who wins the group. A draw will be enough for the Bulgarians, though whoever finishes second should still qualify automatically.

P W D L F A Pts

Bulgaria 9 7 1 1 23 7 22

Germany 9 7 1 1 24 9 22

Georgia 9 5 0 4 12 10 15

Albania 9 2 1 6 9 15 7

Wales 9 2 1 6 8 18 7

Moldova 9 2 0 7 8 25 6

Remaining fixtures: Wednesday Germany v Bulgaria; Albania v Wales; Moldova v Georgia.

Group Eight

THE Russians are through, and Scotland are guaranteed second place. Victory over San Marino should be a formality but even defeat would not alter their position, which looks good enough to ensure the scaling of Hadrian's Wall by the tartan hordes.

P W D L F A Pts

Russia 9 7 2 0 31 4 23

Scotland 9 6 2 1 14 3 20

Greece 9 5 0 4 18 9 15

Finland 9 5 0 4 17 15 15

Faroe Islands 9 2 0 7 10 30 6

San Marino 9 0 0 9 2 31 0

Remaining fixtures: Wednesday Scotland v San Marino; Russia v Finland; Greece v Faroe Islands.

The qualifying ifs and buts

SUCH is the complicated system of qualification that only after close of business on Wednesday will a clear picture emerge. The eight group winners qualify, along with the six best second-placed teams. These are determined by their results against the teams placed first, third and fourth in their groups. Points are the first criterion, and then, in descending order of importance, goal difference, goals scored, away goals scored and fair play, encompassing yellow and red cards. So results between two teams level on points in a group determine who finish the higher. The two second-placed teams with the worst records - going into the final matches, the Republic of Ireland are one of them - will play off at Anfield on Wednesday 13 December for the remaining place.

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