Our final UEFA preview takes a look at groups G, H and I. Group H is especially interesting, which we will see shortly.
Similar to Group A, G appears to be a 2 horse race. Lithuania, Latvia and Liechtenstein just have so much ground to make up. After Bosnia’s defeat of Greece in March, they clearly have the inside track on the automatic qualifier. This was the most likely group to produce a Pot 3 stunner, as Greece and Slovakia were the lowest ranked teams in Pots 1 and 2 respectively.
Lithuania v. Greece – Vilnuis, Lithuania
This is pretty much it for Lithuania. They have 4 of 5 remaining games at home, which is a huge advantage, but they can’t drop points against the teams in front of them if they want to be taken seriously. On the other hand, Greece is thankful to be done with Bosnia, as they have only clear skies ahead. Lithuania is a nice story, but Greece has too much firepower.
Prediction: Greece by 2
Latvia v. Bosnia-Herzegovina – Riga, Latvia
I keep thinking to myself that one of these days Latvia is going to break through and make some noise. They always seem to be in it, just can never put it all together. Unfortunately for them, at a time when they need points desperately to stay alive, they have to host a red-hot, 1st place Bosnia-Herzegovina side which hasn’t lost in over a year. Currently our #15 side, Bosnia-Herzegovina should take the next step in qualifying for their first World Cup.
Prediction: Bosnia-Herzegovina by 2
Liechtenstein v. Slovakia – Vaduz, Liechtenstein
Currently the whipping boys in Group G, Liechtenstein have virtually no shot of reaching Brazil. We had them dead last in 998 of 1,000 simulations. If things shake out as we project, we are going to have an official elimination. There is not much to say about Slovakia here other than they need all 3 points desperately. They should come out firing and not let up until the final whistle. Our predictor might underestimate this one a little bit.
Prediction: Slovakia by 2
Liechtenstein should be officially eliminated on the 7th.
What a competitive group this is. At 52.8%, England is the favorite to win the group, but no other group has their leader with such a low percentage chance. Moldova and San Marino are as good as done, so it should come down to the games between the top 4 teams. Can Montenegro hold on to the top spot?
Montenegro v. Ukraine – Podgorica, Montenegro
Speaking of big games between the top 4 teams, this is certainly one to keep an eye on. You have to feel for Ukraine here. At #24 in our rankings, they’d be the highest ranked team in Group B, yet they are 3rd among their Group H counterparts. Montenegro is one team that has truly lived up to the hype. In only their 2nd ever qualification attempt, they look to have a great shot at reaching Brazil. You have to go all the way back to November 2011 to find the last time Montenegro lost a game. The stadium will be rocking in Podgorica.
Prediction: Montenegro by 2
Moldova v. Poland – Chisinau, Moldova
Poland knew they had a tough draw ahead of them despite being paired with whipping boys Moldova and San Marino. The problem they have is that their final 3 games are on the road, including one at England. xCRO seems to believe that they have a slight chance still. Their odds will certainly not improve any in this one even with a victory. Moldova will be all but mathematically eliminated after this one as they would need San Marino to defeat Ukraine twice among other results to even stay alive. It’s lights out.
Prediction: Poland by 2
San Marino inadvertently will be eliminated with these results without even taking the pitch.
|San Marino||0||-29||thru 6||*Eliminated|
Group I has only 5 teams, but having Spain and France in the same group just seems unfair to the other nations. Spain shouldn’t have much trouble qualifying, but there are a few teams who could make some noise despite being further down in the table. Belarus and Finland will play a home-and-home series on the 7th and 11th while the other 3 teams sit idle.
Finland v. Belarus – Helsinki, Finland
In the first leg of the home-and-home, Finland will try to claw their way back from last place in the group. They’ve only played 3 matches to date in qualifying, and they are the only team on that number. They’ve fallen behind 1-0 in all 3 of those games, and were able to draw level in 2 of those, including at Spain. It’s a long way to climb, but you have to start somewhere.
Prediction: Finland by 2
Belarus v. Finland – Gomel, Belarus
If Finland is able to take all 3 points on the 7th, Belarus will be in dire territory. Their final two games are at Spain and home against France, so they would be virtually eliminated without a result. Perhaps a win in Helsinki would generate momentum for the Finns to take another 3 in the reverse fixture. This game most likely ends all level, which puts both teams’ hopes on ice.
With 3 teams sitting idle, it is up to Finland and Belarus to decide if Spain and France truly have a worthy adversary. The mountain is too tall to climb in all likelihood.