When this weekend's matches wrap up, we'll be halfway through this round of qualifying for UEFA. Sure, five matches played and five to go leaves a lot yet to be decided, but there are still some pivotal tilts on the horizon. Here are the standout matches that deserve your attention from each UEFA group.
Group A: Bulgaria vs. Netherlands
With France likely to steamroll lowly Luxembourg, the Oranje will look to keep pace in Group A against Bulgaria. Sitting on seven points, a loss would be a big blow for the Dutch and an equally important boost for Bulgaria's (who have six points) qualification hopes. Both sides are coming off of a win in the last set of qualifiers and should be confident heading into Saturday's clash. After failing to qualify for Euro 2016, the pressure is on the Netherlands to show out, though.
Group B: Portugal vs. Hungary
The European champions have scored a whopping 16 goals in their four qualifying matches thus far, but they're still mired in second place behind group leaders Switzerland. After feasting upon the group's lesser teams, Portugal will face a proper test in Hungary. The Hungarians could take Portugal's second-place spot with a victory on Saturday, too. Both teams already have losses against Switzerland, so it looks like a two-dog race between the pair for second place for the time being.
Carlos RodriguesCarlos Rodrigues
Group C: Azerbaijan vs. Germany
Not only have Germany not lost in qualifying thus far, they haven't conceded a single goal. Needless to say, they're looking more than ready for the World Cup already and are runaway favorites to win their group outright. Azerbaijan have been a pleasant surprise in qualifying, but were hammered 4-0 last time out against Northern Ireland, though. Beating Norway and San Marino is one thing, but putting up a fight against mighty Germany would show they could be a real threat to swipe a spot in the second-round playoffs. They'll get their chance to make a statement on Sunday.
Group D: Republic Of Ireland vs. Wales
As it stands, Wales are on the outside looking in for World Cup qualifying. The Dragons could help their cause immensely with a result against Group D leaders Republic or Ireland. The Irish have 10 points to Wales' six, with Serbia sandwiched in there with eight points. Austria have a shout with four points in the pretty well-stacked group. Gareth Bale and Wales have settled for too many draws early in qualifying, but earning another in Dublin wouldn't be all bad. A win on Friday, however, would be a big boon.
This content is subject to copyright.
Group E: Montenegro vs. Poland
A win on Sunday could see Montenegro go top of the group above Poland. It won't be a walk in the park, though, and a loss against Armenia in November's international window doesn't exactly inspire confidence. Nevertheless, the opportunity is there. Should they seize it or not is an entirely different matter. On the other hand, Poland could make a significant pull away from the Group E pack with a win of their own.
Gallo Images (PTY) LTD
Group F: Scotland vs. Slovenia
It's too early to write a team off, but anything other than a win at home for Scotland on Sunday could be disastrous. With just four points from four matches, Scotland will be looking for the full bounty against Slovenia. Scoring goals hasn't been a big issue for Scotland, but keeping the ball out of their own net has been their downfall so far. Slovenia aren't prodigious on offense, but surely are capable. They can boost their qualification credentials with a win or draw in Glasgow.
Group G: Spain vs. Israel
It's the haves vs. the have-nots up and down Group G. Spain and Italy are at the top with 10 points, with Israel just a point behind the European juggernauts. Albania sit with six points, while cannon fodder Macedonia and Lichtenstein are sans a single point. Israel's prospects of qualifying are still quite dim, but somehow toppling Spain on Friday would give them a major foothold. Good luck, though. La Furia Roja are unbeaten in their last five matches (including friendlies) and are looking quite menacing.
Aitor Alcalde Colomer
Group H: Belgium vs. Greece
The Belgians come into this match white-hot. They trounced Estonia 8-1 in November, while Greece drew against Bosnia & Herzegovina. Belgium have yet to drop a point this qualifying campaign, but Greece could still leapfrog them with a win. Eden Hazard is on the shelf with an injury, so Belgium will have to work their way past Greece without the Chelsea man. Fortunately for manager Roberto Martinez, he's blessed with a bounty of attacking talent. The front-runner for the Premier League golden boot, Romelu Lukaku, should be more than willing to pick up the slack on Friday.
Group I: Croatia vs. Ukraine
The hosts have the inside track on winning the group with 10 points, while Ukraine sit second with eight. With Turkey expected to win against Finland and Iceland expected to beat Kosovo, both Croatia and Ukraine will want more than just a point from their Sunday clash. Group I is still wholly up for grabs for the aforementioned teams, save for Finland and Kosovo. It's likely a fight that'll go down to the end, so stockpiling early points is paramount. Fortunately for Croatia and Ukraine, they've done that so far. Can they keep it up when they square off, though?