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Euro World Cup Qualifying Picture Set to Sharpen

The European qualifying picture for next year's World Cup football finals in Germany will continue to sharpen with 46 World Cup qualifying matches over the next several days. Twenty-two are set for Saturday.

Three-time World Cup champion Italy could reach the World Cup with Group-5 wins Saturday at Scotland and Wednesday in Belarus.

Ukraine can make the World Cup for the first time with a win Saturday against Georgia. The Ukraine-Georgia match will be played in an empty stadium because of fan misbehavior in two previous matches in Tbilisi.

Former world and European champion France is in fourth place in its group and should make the World Cup because it plays the Faroe Islands and Ireland in its next two matches. Ireland leads the group with 13 points.

England could pick up as many as six points with its matches against Wales on Saturday and Northern Ireland on Wednesday. The English are two points behind Group-6 leader Poland, which has played one more game than England, hosts Austria Saturday and takes on Wales.

The Netherlands leads the Czech Republic by one point in Group-1 (22-21). The Dutch take on Armenia on the road while the Czechs play Romania in Bucharest.

Spain has the day off, and Serbia and Montenegro can move ahead of the Spanish in Group-7 with a win over Lithuania on Saturday. Serbia and Montenegro takes on Spain Wednesday in Madrid.

Group-8 leader Croatia is on the road against Iceland while second-placed Sweden hosts Bulgaria.

The group winners and the top two runners-up advance to the World Cup next year in Germany. The other six runners-up play off for three spots in the 32-team field.

Some information for this report provided by AP and AFP.