Germany closing in on Euro 2012 qualification

Germany’s spot at the European Championship will be virtually

assured with a win at Azerbaijan on Tuesday, when 2010 World Cup

finalists Spain and the Netherlands will be in South America for


World and European champion Spain, which beat the United States

4-0 on Saturday, plays Venezuela and the Netherlands visits Uruguay

in a repeat of last year’s World Cup semifinal.

It means Germany is the only European heavyweight in competitive

action in just six Euro 2012 qualifiers this week before the summer


A seventh straight win in Group A would lift Germany 10 points

clear of second-place Belgium, leaving only Turkey capable of

stopping Joachim Loew’s side from qualifying as pool winners.

”If we have 21 points at the end of the day, who is going to

come ahead of us?,” Loew asked.

Azerbaijan props up its group but the three points it has picked

up so far came from a 1-0 home win over Turkey in October, ensuring

Loew will not be complacent as he heads to Baku after a 2-1 win

over Austria on Friday.

”I believe the players can do their job in Azerbaijan. We have

to mobilize all our forces while we are at the end of the season,”

said Loew, whose side is one of three – alongside Spain and the

Netherlands – to have perfect records in qualifying.

”Turkey lost there and they (Azerbaijan) don’t usually concede

too many goals.”

With midfielders Sami Khedira and Simon Rolfes withdrawing

because of injury, under-21 players Lewis Holtby of Mainz and

Sebastian Rudy of Hoffenheim were called up by Loew. Rudy was

summoned from his holiday in Italy.

Striker Lukas Podolski is nursing an ankle injury but is

expected to recover in time.

Azerbaijan, which lost to Kazakhstan on Friday, is managed by

former Germany coach Berti Vogts.

Second-place Belarus can trim the gap to Group D leader France

to a point with a win at home to Luxembourg on Tuesday, while

Sweden hosts Scandinavian rival Finland in Group E knowing a

victory will reduce the deficit to leader Netherlands to three


Almost 12 months after Spain’s World Cup victory, coach Vicente

del Bosque can set a record for wins at the helm of the national

team with a victory over Venezuela.

The former Real Madrid coach joined predecessor Luis Aragones on

38 victories with the win over the U.S.

”I have benefited from the excellence and the style of play of

this team and its victories,” Del Bosque said. ”Spain has

continued a trajectory in recent years in all different scenarios

and against all its rivals.”

Chelsea striker Fernando Torres scored the fourth goal against

the U.S. after coming on as a substitute and could be given a start

by Del Bosque.

After drawing 0-0 with the Netherlands in Goiania on Saturday –

and in doing so failing to avenge last year’s World Cup

quarterfinal defeat by Bert van Marwijk’s men – third-ranked Brazil

hosts Romania in Sao Paulo.

The match will mark the farewell of former Brazil striker

Ronaldo, who retired from football earlier this year. He is

expected to play only a few minutes as a tribute before being

honored at halftime.

Uruguay lost 3-2 to the Dutch in the last four in South Africa,

ending the nation’s hopes of making the final for the first time

since 1950.

Like Brazil, Uruguay will be fine-tuning its preparations for

the Copa America, which starts later this month in Argentina, when

it plays in Montevideo on Wednesday.

In a match between teams that top their Euro 2012 qualification

groups, Italy plays Ireland in a friendly in Liege, Belgium against

a backdrop of a Juventus reunion.

During the early 1980s when Giovanni Trapattoni managed

Juventus, two of his players were Cesare Prandelli Marco


Trapattoni is now the Ireland coach, Prandelli coaches Italy and

Tardelli is an assistant coach with Ireland.

The trio spent a total of six seasons together in Turin, from

1979 to 1985, and their reunion threatens to overshadow the action

on the pitch in Liege.

France takes on the co-hosts of Euro 2012 in friendlies in the

space of three days, playing Ukraine on Monday and Poland on