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France and Italy battle for Euro 2008 places

LONDON, Oct 13 (Reuters) France and Italy head into this weekend's Euro 2008 qualifiers knowing they risk the humiliation of failing to book a place at the tournament just a year after playing in the World Cup final.

Scotland are the surprise leaders of Group B with three matches left to play, having rattled up 21 points to Italy's 20 and France's 19. Only two of those three teams will qualify for the tournament in Switzerland and Austria.

Victory for France should be a formality in the Faroe Islands, subject to the match going ahead today after their plane was unable to land yesterday.

Whether or not the match is postponed to tomorrow, Les Bleus will be treading a tightrope after losing at home to Scotland last month.

The French are also without striker Louis Saha and captain Patrick Vieira.

World champions Italy are at home to Georgia, while the Scots host fourth-placed Ukraine.

England will be without captain John Terry for their Group E match against Estonia at Wembley.

The Chelsea defender has a knee injury but England should defeat the Baltic state before heading off for a high-stakes battle with third-placed Russia on Wednesday.

Croatia will be on the verge of qualifying for the finals from England's group with a home win over Israel today.

A rampant Germany are guaranteed a place if they get at least a point in Ireland in Group D.

Spain still have work to do in Group F but can make further ground with a victory over Denmark, who still have a chance with Northern Ireland of grabbing second place behind likely group winners Sweden.

Group G leaders Romania host the Netherlands today with both sides level on 20 points from eight matches.

Goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar is missing for the Dutch, having pulled out of the squad with a toe injury, while Romania captain Cristian Chivu is available despite a shoulder problem.

Bulgaria, who have played a game more and are not in action this weekend, are two points behind.

Reuters DKS VP0755

Story first published: Saturday, October 13, 2007, 14:42 [IST]
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