Expect pressure in Paris, drama in Dublin

 

There will be ghosts stalking the dug-outs of Europe tonight, notably those of David Ginola and Thierry Henry, as the group stage of Euro 2012 qualifying draws to a dramatic close with key matches in Paris, Dublin and Copenhagen.



Group D: France v Bosnia (TV: ESPN 8pm, live)

It's 1993, Gérard Houllier's France, needing only a point at home to an unfashionable east European team to reach the World Cup, are playing out time at 2-2. Then Ginola over-hits a cross, Bulgaria break away to score. Ancient history? Not exactly. Only last summer Ginola was threatening to sue Houllier for continuing to blame him for France's failure. This time Bosnia & Herzegovina play the part of Bulgaria with Manchester City's Edin Dzeko in the Hristo Stoichkov role. Bosnia, who also have Stoke's Asmir Begovic, Roma's Miralem Pjanic and Rangers' Sasa Papac, are yet to reach a major finals.

The pressure is on France, who are without Franck Ribéry, Karim Benzema and Bacary Sagna and have Eric Abidal and Patrice Evra doubtful. "We have nothing to lose,'' said Pjanic, "We've reached our minimum goal."

If France lose they will be pitched into the play-offs, evoking memories of Henry's handball against the Irish in the 2010 World Cup play-off. Just desserts, an Irishman might say, except there are complicating factors.

Group B: Rep of Ireland v Armenia (TV: Sky Sports 1, 6.45pm, live)

Andorra have played 35 competitive internationals away from home. They have lost 34 and drawn one, in Macedonia in 2005. It can be assumed they will not defeat Russia in Moscow tonight which means Ireland and Armenia are playing for a play-off place (if Ireland win and Russia draw, Russia qualify on head-to-head results).

Armenia, who have never qualified for a finals, are in form with three straight wins in which they have scored 11 goals. Ireland have scored only 13 in nine qualifiers, five of those against Andorra, and will be without Robbie Keane. A point will do, so Richard Dunne's return after suspension is probably more relevant than the identity of Keane's replacement – West Bromwich's Simon Cox. Aras Ozbiliz, a Turkish-born, Dutch-raised Ajax striker of Armenian descent who was only granted Armenian citizenship last week, could make his debut.

Should Ireland finish in the play-offs they will probably be seeded, unless Serbia win ... and France lose. Cue "Allez les Bleus" at the Aviva, perhaps.

Group H: Denmark v Portugal (TV: ESPN 10pm, delayed coverage)

A draw sends both through (Denmark as best runner-up) unless Sweden beat the Dutch in Stockholm. If that happens Denmark need a victory which, if combined with an unfeasibly large win for Norway at home to Cyprus, would knock in-form Portugal out altogether.

Final push: who needs to do what

Group A

Germany have won the group. Turkey and Belgium vie for second: Belgium are a point ahead, but visit Germany, while Turkey host Azerbaijan.



Group B

Russia need only a point at home to tiny Andorra to ensure first place. Republic of Ireland and Armenia are vying for second and play in Dublin: Ireland need only a point for second.



Group C

Italy have won the group, and Serbia will be second if they win in Slovenia. If they do not, Estonia make it.

Group D

France and Bosnia-Herzegovina will be the top two, and they meet in Paris to decide first place. France need only a draw to finish top.



Group E

Netherlands have won the group and Sweden will be second. They meet in Stockholm and if Sweden win they qualify as best runners-up.



Group F

Greece need to draw in Georgia to win the group. If they do not, Croatia can pip them to automatic qualification by beating Latvia.

Group G

England have won the group and Montenegro have sealed second place: only third is left to play for.



Group H

Denmark host Portugal to decide first place: a draw is good enough for the visitors, and could also make the Danes best runners-up, depending on how Sweden fare.



Group I

Spain have won but Scotland, who play there, must match the Czechs' result in Lithuania for second place.

Rik Sharma

Sport
Seth Rollins cashes in his Money in the Bank contract to win the WWE World Heavyweight Championship
WWERollins win the WWE World Heavyweight title in one of the greatest WrestleMania's ever seen
Arts and Entertainment
Louis Theroux: By Reason of Insanity takes him behind the bars again
tvBy Reason of Insanity, TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Cassetteboy's latest video is called Emperor's New Clothes rap
videoThe political parody genius duo strike again with new video
Arts and Entertainment
tvPoldark, TV review
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor