Sweden v. Greece: Last Chance for Greek Team to Qualify for World Cup

October 12, 2021

A look at what's happening in European soccer in Tuesday's qualifying games for the World Cup:


Two days after losing the Nations League final to France, Spain can be knocked off the top of its World Cup qualifying group if Sweden beats Greece. That's easier said than done for Sweden, which lost to Greece in the first game between them. The Greeks are third, the only unbeaten team in the group, and could move level on points with Sweden in second if they win. Either way, Spain has a tricky run-in next month with Greece away and a potential decider against Sweden in Seville. Also on Tuesday, Kosovo hosts Georgia. Both teams are already out of the running to qualify.


Serbia looks to keep the group lead ahead of Portugal when it hosts last-placed Azerbaijan. The Serbians are coming off a victory in their trip to Luxembourg, which will visit Portugal needing a victory to hold on to its slim chances of qualifying. Portugal is one point behind Serbia but has a game in hand. Luxembourg is seven points behind Portugal with three matches left. Portugal is coming off a 3-0 win over World Cup host Qatar, with one goal from Cristiano Ronaldo.


Switzerland is targeting top spot in the group and, barring an upset against last-placed Lithuania, will move level on points with leader Italy. That would set up next month's game between Italy and Switzerland in Rome as a de facto single-leg World Cup playoff. Northern Ireland is third and its slim hopes of reaching the World Cup via the playoffs almost certainly demand a win away to Bulgaria. 


Ukraine can tighten its hold on second place and a spot in the qualifying playoffs if it can beat Bosnia and Herzegovina. That would move Ukraine within one point of group leader France, but the 2018 World Cup champion has an extra game to play. Finland is fourth and will likely be out of contention to qualify if it doesn't beat already eliminated Kazakhstan in the early game. 


An eighth successive win will ensure Denmark qualifies as the group winner. The Danes host Austria having not conceded a single goal so far. A draw would also be enough if second-placed Scotland doesn't beat the Faeroe Islands, but Denmark is keen to keep its run going. In third, Israel is smarting from a loss to Scotland last week and plays Moldova.


England needs a maximum of five points from its remaining three games to qualify. The first-choice players will return to the starting lineup for the visit of Hungary to Wembley after fringe members of the squad featured in Saturday's 5-0 rout of Andorra. There will be a focus on visiting fans after England players faced racist abuse from Hungarians in the away game in Budapest last month. England has a four-point lead over Albania, which hosts third-placed Poland. Albania is chasing a playoff spot as it seeks to reach a first World Cup. Hungary is in fourth place, nine points behind leader England. The last two teams in the standings are also in action with San Marino, still without a point, facing Andorra. 


A one megaton bomb has been dropped on the Greek soccer world as AEK’s owner Dimitris Melissanidis announced on June 10 that he is leaving and anointing shipowner Marios Iliopoulos as his successor.

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