Quartet can book place | The Daily Star
11:00 PM, September 08, 2009 / LAST MODIFIED: 11:00 PM, September 08, 2009

FIFA World CupSouth Africa 2010

Quartet can book place

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Italy defender Gianluca Zambrotta controls the ball during a training session at the Olympic Stadium in Turin on Tuesday. Italy will face Bulgaria in a 2010 World Cup qualifier tonight.Photo: AFP

England, Serbia, Spain and Slovakia can all book their places at next summer's World Cup in South Africa when European qualifying continues on Wednesday.
England and Serbia have the most straightforward tasks, with both sides needing just a victory to secure top spot in their respective groups and subsequently progress to the finals.
Fabio Capello's England take on Croatia at Wembley, while Serbia welcome Raymond Domenech's under-achieving France to Belgrade.
European champions Spain, meanwhile, can guarantee their passage only if they beat Estonia in Merida and second-placed Bosnia-Herzegovina fail to win at home to Turkey.
Slovakia will qualify if they win in Northern Ireland and the match between Slovenia and Poland in Maribor ends in a draw.
A place in a fourth consecutive World Cup awaits England if they beat Croatia, but revenge is also likely to be a motivating factor for the home side.
The Croats prevented England from qualifying for Euro 2008 by beating them 3-2 on a sodden November night at Wembley in 2007 and England midfielder Gareth Barry says the players will draw inspiration from that dispiriting defeat.
"There's a lot of players in that dressing room who won't forget that night at Wembley and we're back here again," said the Manchester City man.
"There'll be a few memories but it's a different manager and a different team and although it will be in the back of our minds, we'll be confident."
England's failure two years ago set in motion a chain of events that saw Capello replace Steve McClaren at the helm and the Italian has since overseen a run of seven straight competitive wins.
Croatia, though, arrive desperate for points in their bid to finish ahead of third-placed Ukraine and coach Slaven Bilic has upped the ante by claiming that England have lost vital qualities under Capello.
"They are a very different team," said Bilic.
"They have some advantages but they are also missing something from their game. They are missing some Englishness, some of the things that have always made England teams difficult to defend against and play against," added Bilic, who spent four years in England playing for West Ham and Everton.
Croatia's Balkan neighbours Serbia go into their crunch clash with France in a far healthier position, four points clear of Domenech's men and with South Africa in sight.
Radomir Antic's side will be just three points away from qualifying even if they only manage a draw on Wednesday, but Antic says they will not be playing it safe.
"We're not interested in any calculations, we got the result we wanted from the France v Romania match [1-1] and it's now our turn to prove our worth," said the former Atletico Madrid handler.
France are not the only major nation in danger of missing out on qualification, as Portugal currently trail Group One leaders Denmark by seven points.
The play-offs already look Portugal's most likely route to South Africa, but defeat to second-placed Hungary in Budapest on Wednesday would leave Cristiano Ronaldo and co with only a mathematical chance of finishing second.
Denmark can move to within three points of qualification if they win in Albania, while Group Two leaders Switzerland will also be within touching distance of the finals if they win in Latvia and Greece fail to beat Moldova.
Elsewhere, Scotland can secure second place in Group Nine with a draw at home to Bert van Marwijk's already-qualified Netherlands.

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