The football season is paused for an international break, leaving us unsure of how to spend our time. Although there are other sporting events happening, such as the Cricket World Cup, the Grand Slam of Darts, Strictly’s Blackpool week, the Big Brother finale, and Nigel F*rage trying exotic animal parts, nothing can quite compare to football. However, this break may not be so boring after all, as it is a chance for teams to secure their spots in the upcoming Euro 2024 Fußballfest. So, without further delay, here is your daily guide to the qualifying matches ahead.
On Wednesday, Israel will face off against Switzerland in a crucial match. Due to scheduling, Israel’s final four qualifiers will take place within a span of 10 days. However, their “home” games will be played on neutral ground. This particular game will be held in Hungary and a victory for Switzerland will guarantee their spot in the finals. If Israel wins, it will create an intense finish to the group as they will face the current leaders Romania on Saturday and then travel to Andorra. Meanwhile, Romania and Switzerland will also compete against each other next Tuesday.
On Thursday, Bulgaria and Hungary will face off in a match in Group G. Hungary hopes to secure their spot in the next round, but their preparations have been affected by not having a designated venue. Bulgaria has changed the location of the match from Plovdiv to Sofia, causing Hungary to criticize their behavior as “extremely unsportsmanlike.” The Hungarian Football Association released a statement expressing their frustration, stating that it is not acceptable to plan a family vacation or an international football match in such a disorganized manner.
On Friday, there will be two matches in Group E: Poland will face Czech Republic and Denmark will face Slovakia. The group standings are still uncertain, but if Sylvinho’s Albania can avoid losing to Moldova, they have a chance to qualify. In order for Poland to secure a top two spot, they must win against Czech Republic in their last game and hope that their neighboring team loses to Moldova next week. Otherwise, their only chance for qualifying would be through the playoffs. In Group H, the top two teams will face off in Copenhagen, with the winner securing qualification.
On Saturday, Armenia will face Wales while the Netherlands will play against the Republic of Ireland in a match that could determine their qualification for the tournament. Wales, who suffered a 4-2 defeat against Armenia in June, have made a remarkable comeback and can secure their spot in the tournament if they win their remaining two matches. A win in their early kick-off match will also put pressure on Croatia, who will play against Latvia later on. In Group B, the Netherlands can secure their place in the tournament by beating Ireland, leaving Greece behind. Interestingly, the playoff system works in favor of Ireland if they lose in Amsterdam – which may actually benefit them in the long run.
On Sunday, there will be a high-energy match between Group J teams Scotland and Norway. If Slovakia earns at least one point in their home game against Iceland on Thursday, they will secure their spot in the Euros. However, if they happen to lose and Bosnia is victorious against Luxembourg, then we will witness a close competition for second place behind Portugal, who are currently dominating the group. The last set of matches (Portugal v Iceland, Bosnia v Slovakia, Liechtenstein v Luxembourg) could potentially see Luxembourg qualifying for the Euros, which may seem unlikely but not impossible. And if all else fails, fans can still look forward to a pre-Euros celebration at Hampden featuring special guest Erling Haaland.
On Monday, there will be a crucial match between Ukraine and Italy in Group C. Despite the complicated scenarios, one thing is certain: this game is the most important of all. If Italy defeats North Macedonia on Friday (which is not certain), they will only need a draw in Leverkusen to secure second place. However, a victory for Ukraine would guarantee them a spot in the next round and put the reigning champions in danger of not qualifying.
On Tuesday, the match to watch is Wales against Turkey. Depending on the outcomes of previous games, the crucial match could be Slovenia versus Kazakhstan, Romania against Switzerland, or Wales hosting Turkey, who have already secured their spot as winners of Group D. Wales will be working to fend off Croatia and secure their place in the Euros. However, if you must choose now, the World Cup qualifier between Argentina and Brazil, which starts in the early hours of Wednesday, is a must-watch.
Tuesday will also clarify the playoff picture, which is influenced by Nations League results. Here is your cut-out-and-keep guide to all the permu [no, sorry, absolutely no chance. We’re off to the pub].
Streaming live on a major website.
At 8pm GMT, Sarah Rendell will provide minute-by-minute updates on the Women’s Big Cup match between Barcelona and Benfica.
“Today’s quote is…”
“In the 1880s, ‘Matilda’ was commonly used to refer to a swag, which was a bag of belongings carried by a traveling man searching for employment. The term’s German origin relates to strength in combat, making it a fitting name for a team that has sparked inspiration in many individuals, especially young females, throughout the year. To top it off, the Australian National Dictionary Centre has selected ‘Matilda’ as the country’s word of the year, following their triumph at the World Cup. How amazing!”
FOOTBALL DAILY LETTERS
Regarding the Football Daily letters from yesterday, I have a South American soccer story that may interest you. In 2012, while traveling in South America, I had the opportunity to attend a Boca Juniors game at the Bombonera stadium, which had been a long-standing item on my travel “bucket list” as a Liverpool fan for over 30 years. My friend, who supports Tottenham Hotspur, and I went to the designated meeting point where we were joined by other like-minded individuals. We were then taken to a nearby location for a pre-game drink, which turned out to be an abandoned warehouse with overpriced Argentinean drinks in old fridges. As the game approached, we were escorted to the stadium and it became clear that our trip was organized by the Boca Juniors’ hardcore fans, as we were led straight into the stadium through an open gate, without any tickets or interaction with stewards or police. There were no issues during the game and the atmosphere was amazing (although not quite on par with Anfield). The final score was 0-0, in typical rainy fashion. Some things never change – Ian Ayling.
After spending a few days in Amsterdam and indulging in some drinks, I returned home and couldn’t help but think if there was a more unfriendly stadium for the aging Albion supporters than the Johan Cruyff Arena. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a beautiful sight and has convenient transportation to the city center. You can even purchase overpriced Heineken and enjoy it from your seat. It’s not just the intimidating glass screen with razor blades on top, or being held after the game for 45 minutes, but the daunting staircase that everyone must climb to reach their seats. The Dutch seem to love steep staircases, and this one is no exception. I didn’t count the steps, but it made the stairs at Newcastle away seem like a leisurely stroll. We huffed and puffed our way up the 200-plus foot-high concrete steps, passing exhausted Albion fans along the way. And even after reaching the top, there were another 50 steep steps to reach the back of the stand. All part of the “adventure” – as described by Mark Pritchard.
Please email your correspondence to [email protected]. The recipient of today’s selected letter is Mark Pritchard, who will receive a copy of United with Dad written by Simon Lloyd and published by Pitch Publishing. Check out their exceptional collection of football books here.