Euro favorites nearing qualification
Germany (via math), Spain (via stats) and the Netherlands (via domination) moved closer to the final tournament last weekend as 2012 Euro qualification was back in full swing. There are many more key matches Tuesday.
As we mentioned in last Friday's post, Euro qualifying is a bit complicated, but the easiest thing to remember is all group winners automatically qualify for the final tournament. This is the only way to guarantee a spot in next summer's championship. This should be the goal of all contending squads entering the tournament.
Group A was mathematically decided Friday when Germany defeated Austria 6-2 in Gelsenkirchen, Germany. Turkey has a great chance to finish second in the group -- 96 percent to be exact, according to ESPN's Soccer Power Index (SPI). It is very unlikely to finish as the best second-place finisher, however, so Turkey is almost assured of entering into a two-legged playoff for one spot in the final tournament later this year.
Here are some notes on other qualifying groups.
• Russia had a great weekend as it defeated Macedonia and saw its two closest competitors draw to each other. That puts Russia at about a 4-in-5 favorite to win Group B. Ireland remains second favorite to win the group (14 percent) and the favorite to claim second place (66 percent). Russia hosts Ireland Tuesday and it can make a giant leap toward wrapping up its group.
• Italy moved inches closer to clinching its group after beating the Faroe Islands Friday. It wins 99.8 percent of Group C simulations. The race for second may appear closer than it really is. Serbia is by far the strongest squad and is also the only one of the four teams within two points of second still to play group minnows Faroe Islands. Serbia is an 88.3 percent favorite to finish second.
• Croatia also won but saw its chances of winning the group fall as Greece upset Israel on the road. That loss essentially eliminated Israel from first or second place and basically guarantees Croatia and Greece of a 1-2 finish. The order, however, will likely be decided Oct. 7, when Croatia travels to Greece in a rematch of their 0-0 draw last year.
• Portugal defeated Cyprus to slightly increase its lead in Group H; this group is still the most wide open. Portugal (58 percent), Norway (29 percent) and Denmark (13 percent) still have opportunities at the automatic qualification spot. Denmark hosts Norway Tuesday in arguably the biggest match of the group so far.
• Group I is not mathematically decided, but after the Czech Republic's loss draw to Scotland, Spain now wins Group H in all 10,000 simulations. La Furia Roja can make it official at home Tuesday if it defeats last-place Lichtenstein.