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MATCHDAY: Italy and Spain Lagging Behind in Euro 2024 Qualifying as Germany Begins Life after Flick

September 12, 2023

A look at what’s happening in European Championship qualifying on Tuesday:

GROUP A

Second-place Spain will aim to eat into Scotland’s nine-point lead by beating Cyprus, which has lost all four of its qualifiers. Spain is coming off a 7-1 thrashing of Georgia, which travels to Norway — led by Erling Haaland — in the other match. Spain has played two games fewer than Scotland and has still to host the Scots in qualifying. If the Norway-Georgia match ends in a draw, Scotland will become the first nation to qualify for next year’s tournament in Germany.

GROUP C

Italy is in trouble again in a qualifying campaign for a major tournament. After a 1-1 draw in North Macedonia on Saturday in Luciano Spalletti’s first game in charge, the Italians are languishing in third place ahead of a home match against Ukraine, which is three points ahead in second place. They look to be battling it out for the second automatic qualifying place alongside England, which leads by six points. Malta has lost all four of its games heading into a home match against North Macedonia.

GROUP F

Belgium and Austria will move into commanding positions to qualify automatically with wins against Estonia and Sweden, respectively. They are both on 10 points, with only Sweden — four points back in third — a realistic challenger and four games remaining. Belgium, which is at home, is missing the playmaking skills of Kevin De Bruyne and lacked creativity and aggression in an underwhelming 1-0 win at Azerbaijan on Saturday. Austria must travel to Stockholm to play a Sweden team coming off a 5-0 win in Estonia on Saturday.

GROUP I

Group leader Switzerland heads into a home game against Andorra in need of a drama-free evening. Captain Granit Xhaka openly criticized the team and, by extension, coach Murat Yakin after twice wasting the lead in a 2-2 draw in Kosovo on Saturday. Kosovo leveled deep into stoppage time. Xhaka said a lack of intensity was logical after lackluster training sessions last week. It was the second straight game that the Swiss had dropped points because of a late goal. Switzerland is two points clear of second-place Romania which hosts Kosovo. Third-place Israel hosts Belarus.

FRIENDLIES

Germany begins life after Hansi Flick with a match against France in Dortmund, where Rudi Völler — the former national team striker who coached the country nearly 20 years ago — will be among those in charge. The Germans are on a five-match winless streak and were jeered during a 4-1 loss to Japan on Saturday, a day before Flick was fired. Scotland hosts England at Hampden Park in the oldest fixture in international soccer, with the teams having first met in 1872. Saudi Arabia, now coached by Roberto Mancini, plays South Korea at St. James’ Park — the home of Premier League team Newcastle, which is under Saudi control.

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