Last month, Italy and the Netherlands became the first countries to qualify from Europe. They join Japan, Korea, Australia, Iran, Argentina, Costa Rica and the US as the nations to officially qualify for the World Cup so far. The UEFA zone is far from over and there are still many possibilities as to who can qualify. How might the zone wrap up?
Most pundits predicted this group would come down to Croatia and Belgium. That proved to be true as those two nations are the only ones that can qualify from the group at this point.
Croatia and Belgium face off in Zagreb on Friday. This match is unlikely to have any major impact as Belgium are heavy favorites in a home match against Wales four days later. A win for the home side would put them well beyond Croatia and automatically into first place. Croatia, meanwhile will face Scotland.
The Likely Outcome: Belgium draws with Croatia and defeats Wales to qualify in first place. Croatia defeat Scotland to go second.
The Fluke: Belgium lose to both remaining games to allow Croatia into first place.
Group B: Italy, 20; Bulgaria, 13; Denmark, 12; Czech Republic, 9; Armenia, 9; Malta, 3
Italy anchored this group as the seeded team and have held the top spot from the beginning. The second spot was initially predicted to be a battle between Denmark and the Czech Republic. However, the group was shaken by a resurgent Bulgaria who occupy second place. Moreover, Denmark and the Czech Republic have both suffered defeats to Armenia. The lowest ranking side, Malta, have no chance to qualify.
Italy have officially qualified but second place remains wide open with Bulgaria leading the race with 13 points. Denmark, Czech Republic, and Armenia all trail behind within four points. Bulgaria appear to be the most consistent having lost only once to Italy, while all the other three trailing teams have exchanged defeats.
Each of the teams still in contention have two games to play and Bulgaria appear to have the easiest schedule. They play Armenia away and the Czech Republic at home. The Czechs play Malta on the tiny island nation before facing Bulgaria in Sofia. Denmark have the luxury of staying at home to play Italy and then Malta. Armenia, who have a tough pair of fixtures, host Bulgaria before traveling to Italy.
The Likely Outcome: Bulgaria are likely to take at least a point from Armenia in Yerevan before defeating the inconsistent Czechs at home.
The Fluke: Armenia defeat Bulgaria at home and follow up with shock victory over Italy to take second place while all the other contending teams fail to get the needed results.
Group C: Germany, 22; Sweden, 17; Austria, 14; Ireland, 11; Kazakhstan, 4; Faroe Islands, 0
As expected, Germany have topped this group. Prior to the start of qualification, the touted favorites for the second spot were Sweden. Over the last couple match days, it appears as though they might be headed to finish in second place.
Germany have not officially qualified at this point but with a home game to Ireland, the central Europeans are likely to get all three points. Sweden currently occupy second place with 17 points; Austria trail at 14 and Ireland are further behind with 11 points. Kazakhstan and the Faroe Islands have been eliminated.
Since they avoid facing Germany, Austria appear to have the easier set of remaining fixtures which includes an away match against Sweden and the Faroe Islands. But given their inconsistency, anything less than a win in the first match would open the door Sweden. Simultaneously, Sweden only need a victory against Austria to guarantee a top two finish before facing the group leaders.
The Likely Outcome: Germany easily defeat Ireland at home and then field a reserve team against Sweden. Sweden will take three points off an Austrian side yet to win away from home before tying with an already qualified Germany.
The Fluke: Germany field a strong side for both matches to take six points but Austria move into second after managing a shock victory in Stockholm.
Group D: Netherlands, 22; Hungary, 14; Turkey, 13; Romania, 13; Estonia, 7; Andorra, 0
The Dutch were the seeded team in this group and as expected have officially qualified after spending the entirety of the campaign at the top of the table. Romania and Turkey were seen as the main contenders for the second spot, but Hungary exceeded expectations and made this group interestingly tight. Hungary currently sit in second place with 14 points while Romania and Turkey trail with 13 points. Estonia and Andorra have no chance to qualify.
Turkey and Hungary have to face the Dutch along with Estonia and Andorra respectively while Romania have the easiest schedule having only to face the two latter aforementioned teams.
The Likely Outcome: The Dutch defeat Hungary and Turkey to finish off with a near perfect record while Romania take six points from Andorra and Estonia.
The Fluke: Hungary somehow manage to defeat the Dutch on their own ground and before an expected three points over Andorra to take second place.
Group E: Switzerland, 18; Iceland, 13; Slovenia, 12; Norway, 11; Albania, 10; Cyprus, 4
This group did not have a clear favorite. Norway were drawn as the seeded team despite not qualifying for a major tournament since Euro 2000. Switzerland who were seeded second, have emerged as the group leaders. Iceland and Albania have recorded surprise results while Norway and Slovenia performed poorer than expected. As it currently stands, Switzerland top the group with 18 points while Iceland, Slovenia, Norway and Albania follow with 13, 12, 11, and 10 points respectively. Cyprus are out of contention and can no longer qualify.
With only two match days left, this group could change dramatically. Switzerland play Albania in Tirana before facing Slovenia at home. Iceland will host Cyprus before traveling to Oslo for a tough match against Norway. Albania face Switzerland at home before visiting Cyprus. Slovenia have the toughest fixtures by hosting Norway and then traveling to Switzerland.
The Likely Outcome: Switzerland will get at least four points from their last two matches while Iceland defeat Cyprus and draw with Norway to take second place.
The Fluke: This probably won't be too surprising but Slovenia may take the most from their two matches by defeating Norway and Switzerland. Another shocking scenario would be for Albania to win both of their remaining matches while all the other contending teams to gain less points than expected.
Since the draw, Portugal and Russia were touted as the favorites to compete for the top spot while Israel and Northern Ireland were regarded as minor threats. The group however went through quite a roller coaster when just a few months ago it looked like Portugal might lose the second place spot to Israel.
As it stands, Russia and Portugal occupy first and second place respectively while Israel are a distant third. Russia will be guaranteed first place and thus automatic qualification if they win their remaining two matches against Luxembourg and Azerbaijan. Portugal would solidify second place with six points from their last two matches at home to Israel and Luxembourg. Israel would have to defeat Portugal and Northern Ireland and hope their first opponents fail to get a victory.
The Likely Outcome: Russia and Portugal win both of their remaining matches to finish first and second respectively.
The Fluke: Russia defeat their remaining opponents. Portugal somehow fail to take anything less than six points (both are home matches) while Israel record a shock victory in Lisbon before defeating Northern Ireland to take second place.
Group G: Bosnia-Herzegovina, 19; Greece, 19; Slovakia, 12; Lithuania, 8; Latvia, 7; Liechtenstein, 2
Group G turned out to be one of the more open ones with Bosnia, Greece and Slovakia vying for the top two places. Greece and Bosnia were the main front runners while Slovakia underperformed.
All the teams have two matches left to play. Greece and Bosnia are the only two teams that can qualify while the others are eliminated. They head the group equally with 19 points. Greece have the benefit of playing both Slovakia and Liechtenstein at home. Bosnia host Greece's latter opponents before traveling to Lithuania. However, it is Bosnia who have the easier opponents and head the group on a huge goal difference. Greece would need victories in both matches and hope Bosnia drop points.
The Likely Outcome: Bosnia will take six points from their remaining games to qualify first place. Greece do the same but have to settle for second.
The Fluke: Bosnia defeat Liechtenstein but succumb to a shock defeat to Lithuania; Greece take the initiative with two victories and qualify automatically.
Group H: England, 16; Ukraine, 15; Montenegro, 15; Poland, 13; Moldova, 5; San Marino, 0
At first glance, it looked like England were going to cruise through this group with a near perfect record. But their campaign hasn't quite been perfect -- mediocre might be a better word. England, who qualified for the 2010 World Cup with a near-perfect record, have not defeated any team in the group except Moldova and San Marino in eight matches. With only two fixtures remaining, they are currently at the top with 16 points, ahead of Ukraine and Montenegro by a point.
England play Montenegro and Poland in the comfort of Wembley and are expected to take all six points. The Balkan side also face Moldova at home while Ukraine face San Marino and Poland. Poland who have 13 points could make an impact in this group they take three points from either of their opponents.
The Likely Outcome: England take at least four points from their last two matches. Ukraine handedly defeat San Marino while encountering a determined Poland side, who fight to a stalemate.
The Fluke: England are defeated in both matches while Montenegro lose to Moldova. Poland qualify automatically with 19 points after two victories.
Spain and France were long seen as the favorites to dominate this group; the only one which has five teams. These predictions turned out to be true as Finland, Georgia and Belarus rarely threatened. Finland did however manage a 1-1 draw with Spain in Gijón.
Spain and France are the only two teams that can qualify from the group after last month's match days. The former have a game in hand with Belarus and Georgia as their remaining opponents. Their Iberian neighbors play one home game against Finland.
The Likely Outcome: Spain win both of their remaining games to take first place. France take three points in their final game but have to settle for second place.
The Fluke: Georgia and Belarus manage shock victories over Spain. France defeat Finland and take first place.
If you think the groups might pan out otherwise, comments are welcome.