By DAN KARELL
Sole possession of first place in UEFA World Cup qualifying Group H is on the line for England when the Three Lions travel to face Ukraine.
The hosts currently sit just one point behind England and Montenegro, who are in a tie for first place, though England has the edge on goal differential. However, Roy Hodgson’s charges are in for potentially their toughest challenge of the group at the Olympic Stadium in Kiev, with a number of players missing due to injury, and the possibility that an untested Rickie Lambert in line to start.
While England defeated Moldova on Friday by a score of 4-0, Ukraine are in even better form, having demolished San Marino, 9-0.
In South America, Argentina is three points away from securing a place in the World Cup next summer in nearby Brazil, and they have a favorable matchup against last-place Paraguay. In Africa, Egypt, the only undefeated team left in African World Cup qualifying, plays their final match, although they are already through to the third round of CAF qualifying.
And in Asia, Uzbekistan hosts Jordan in the final playoff match for the fifth-place spot in AFC qualifying, after the two tied, 1-1, in Jordan on Saturday.
Here is a closer look at the rest of Tuesday’s World Cup qualifying action:
Belgium, Croatia, and Spain each secured at the least a place in the playoff round of the UEFA qualification on the last matchday, and Italy, Germany, and the Netherlands are in the running to join them on Tuesday.
Italy faces third-placed Czech Republic, who suffered a shocking loss to Armenia at home and now have to travel to Turin. If Italy wins, they could also qualify for the top spot in the group with still two matches remaining.
Germany and the Netherlands each face weak opponents in the Faroe Islands and Andorra, respectively, though both teams will have to put in a full effort after Estonia secured a historic draw against Louis Van Gaal’s side.
Groups F and G both could shorten up or lengthen the list of contenders for the top place by Tuesday night. In Group F, second-place Russia faces third-place Israel in St. Petersburg with everything on the line for the Israelis, who suffered an embarrassing draw to Azerbaijan at home on Saturday. An Israeli win would put them back in contention, while a Russian victory would put them atop the group.
In Group G, a surprise Bosnia & Herzegovina defeat to Slovakia meant that Greece is tied on points with the group leaders, and if Bosnia loses on the road in a Slovakian rematch, Greece could go top of the group, as they face Latvia, a winnable match surely.
France, who haven’t scored in five matches, visit Belarus with a hope to not lose any more ground to Spain in Group I.
Here is the full list of Tuesday’s qualifiers in UEFA, sorted by group:
Macedonia vs. Scotland
Wales vs. Serbia
Armenia vs. Denmark
Malta vs. Bulgaria
Italy vs. Czech Republic
Kazakhstan vs. Sweden
Austria vs. Republic of Ireland
Faroe Islands vs. Germany
Romania vs. Turkey
Andorra vs. Netherlands
Hungary vs. Estonia
Norway vs. Switzerland
Cyprus vs. Slovenia
Iceland vs. Albania
Russia vs. Israel
Luxembourg vs. Northern Ireland
Lithuania vs. Liechtenstein
Slovakia vs. Bosnia & Herzegovina
Greece vs. Latvia
Ukraine vs. England
San Marino vs. Poland
Georgia vs. Finland
Belarus vs. France
By Tuesday night, Argentina could join Japan, Australia, Iran, and South Korea as qualified nations to the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.
The Albiceleste visit Paraguay for their third to last match in the round-robin group, and with a win, will book a place in Brazil next summer. Alejandro Sabella’s squad should be confident of their chances, having had the week to train and going up against the worst nation in the group so far.
Also in action on Tuesday in South America, Ecuador visit Bolivia, Colombia and Radamel Falcao visit Luis Suarez and Uruguay, and Venezuela host Peru.
Here is the full list of Tuesday’s qualifiers in CONMEBOL:
Bolivia vs. Ecuador
Uruguay vs. Colombia
Venezuela vs. Peru
Paraguay vs. Argentina
Only three competitive matches are set to take place on Tuesday in the African and Asian World Cup qualifying setup.
In Africa, Egypt looks to win their sixth match and go undefeated in the second round of qualifying when they host Guinea, but it won’t be easy after the domestic league was suspended due to political violence and other issues once more. Egypt’s western neighbor Algeria faces Mali in Blida, Algeria. Both Egypt and Algeria have qualified already for the third round.
Meanwhile in Asia, after a 1-1 draw in Jordan, Uzbekistan has the advantage on away goals when they welcome Jordan for the second-leg match. The winner will face the fifth-placed team in the CONMEBOL World Cup qualifiers.
Here is the full list of Tuesday’s qualifiers in CAF/AFC:
Egypt vs. Guinea
Algeria vs. Mali
Uzbekistan vs. Jordan
What do you think of these matches? Which World Cup qualifying matches are you looking forward to? Do you see England winning on the road? Do you believe Argentina can take care of business against Paraguay?
Share your thoughts below.