UEFA World Cup 2014 qualifying: Eastern Europe the real battleground on Friday

Charlie Crowhurst

While Western Europe's traditional footballing powers face games they should win easily, the best teams in Eastern Europe play the biggest games of Friday's qualifying slate.

The likes of France, Spain, England and the Netherlands all face very legitimate challenges in World Cup qualifying on Tuesday, but all of them will be expected to skate through their Friday matches without much problem. Spain and France host Finland and Georgia, respectively, while England go away to San Marino. The Netherlands are at home against Estonia. As long as they don't get caught looking ahead to bigger games, they should be fine.

In Eastern Europe, there are plenty of evenly matched games with real World Cup qualification implications. Croatia host Serbia in arguably the biggest game of the day, while Poland and Ukraine fight to keep pace with England and Montenegro in Group 8. Czech Republic are in a great position to take second place in Group 2, and could put their main rivals for that spot, Denmark, in a massive hole with a win on Friday night.

Ireland have a chance to seriously bolster their chances of qualifying with a game away to Sweden. A win would be a massive boost, but a draw would be an excellent result. Scotland and Wales face off in a battle of the home nations in Group 1, while Northern Ireland have a tough task against Russia.

Schedule (all times ET)

Group 1

Croatia vs. Serbia - 1 p.m.
Macedonia vs. Belgium - 3:45 p.m.
Scotland vs. Wales - 4 p.m.

Group 2

Bulgaria vs. Malta - 12 p.m.
Czech Republic vs. Denmark - 3:30 p.m.

Group 3

Kazakhstan vs. Germany - 2 p.m.
Austria vs. Faroe Islands - 3:30 p.m.
Sweden vs. Ireland - 3:45 p.m.

Group 4

Andorra vs. Turkey - 2:15 p.m.
Hungary vs. Romania - 3:30 p.m.
Netherlands vs. Estonia - 3:30 p.m.

Group 5

Slovenia vs. Iceland - 1 p.m.
Norway vs. Albania - 2 p.m.

Group 6

Israel vs. Portugal - 8:45 a.m.
Luxembourg vs. Azerbaijan - 3:15 p.m.
Northern Ireland vs. Russia - 3:45 p.m.

Group 7

Liechtenstein vs. Latvia - 2:30 p.m.
Slovakia vs. Lithuania - 3:10 p.m.
Bosnia-Herzegovina vs. Greece - 3:45 p.m.

Group 8

Moldova vs. Montenegro - 3:30 p.m.
Poland vs. Ukraine - 3:45 p.m.
San Marino vs. England - 4 p.m.

Group 9

Spain vs. Finland - 3:45 p.m.
France vs. Georgia - 4 p.m.

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