Saturday, September 5, 2009

Benzema Netherlands have already made it to the World Cup, but France and Portugal still have to secure their pass
The Netherlands, Portugal and France face key World Cup qulaifying matches today.
Bolstered by the best attack in the section (13 goals) and the most miserly defence (two goals conceded), Morten Olsen's Denmark are still unbeaten in Group 1 following five wins and a draw. That record has given the Danes a three-point lead over closest challengers Hungary, not to mention a healthy seven-point cushion from pre-qualifying favourites Portugal and Sweden. That said, Carlos Queiroz's Portugal are not out of the running yet. Bruno Alves's last-gasp strike in their 2-1 victory in Albania kept their hopes alive and they would give their prospects another major boost with maximum points in Copenhagen.

In an attempt to find a system better suited to getting everything out of his key individuals, Queiroz could decide to finally discard the 4-2-3-1 strategy favoured by his predecessor, Luiz Felipe Scolari. In its place, he may well opt for a 4-4-2 with a diamond midfield designed to give as much freedom as possible to Cristiano Ronaldo.

For their part, France lie five points shy of Serbia while possessing a game in hand and retain a serious chance of topping Group 7. First place in the section will surely come down to the contest between the two rivals in Belgrade on Wednesday, but before that the 2006 runners-up must find their feet going forward again and overcome a Romania side deprived of dangerous striker Adrian Mutu.

The Netherlands have already sewn up first place in Group 9, of course, and that means Scotland and FYR Macedonia will put their play-off aspirations on the line when they lock horns in Glasgow. Norway have not given up on finishing second either, and they visit Iceland on Saturday before welcoming the Macedonians on Wednesday.

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