•Wales have work to do if they are to reach next summer’s finals.
•Switzerland have set the pace in Group I, having taken 10 points from their four games.
The first international break of the 2023-24 season brings with it the resumption of qualifying for next summer’s European Championships.
Over six days, the continent’s nations will be in action trying to strengthen their claim for a place in the finals in Germany.
This includes England and Scotland, who are already in a very strong position in their groups. However, some major countries have plenty of work to do to qualify.
Here is some of the lowdown on how qualifying is shaping up and the fixtures to look out for in the coming days.
Euro 2024 qualifying Group A
Scotland are in magnificent shape in Group A, sitting way out in front of the rest with four wins out of four and a very healthy total of 12 points. They have a big opportunity to add to that on Friday night when they travel to Cyprus, who are bottom of the group without a point from three games. Steve Clarke’s team have beaten them once already, winning 3-0 at Hampden Park in March. Scotland will be mindful of the sides below them—Spain in particular —who have games in hand and the capacity to build some momentum with a couple of wins within a week.
The Scots have just one qualifier during this break, with their second match being the 150th anniversary game at Hampden Park against old rivals England. Before that, Gareth Southgate’s team travel to Ukraine on Saturday for their sole qualifier of the break. The Three Lions also top their group with a perfect record after four matches. A victory over the side that is second in the table this weekend will further strengthen their hand.
Euro 2024 qualifying Group C
Wales have work to do if they are to reach next summer’s finals. They have just four points after four games, leaving them well behind Group D leaders Turkey—who are on nine — and two points off second-placed Armenia, who have only played three times. Armenia’s game in hand is at leaders Turkey on Friday, meaning Wales will have a clearer picture by the time they play their one fixture of the break— at bottom-of-the-table Latvia on Monday. A win for Rob Page’s side is a must.
Euro 2024 qualifying Group D
Northern Ireland are struggling. Just three points so far from four Group H games means a six-point gap between themselves and the top two—Finland and Kazakhstan. Victories in their two fixtures in this break feel essential, with a trip to Slovenia - a place above them in fourth on seven points - on Thursday followed by a home game with second-placed Kazakhstan.
Euro 2024 qualifying Group H
The Republic of Ireland have just one win from their three games so far but remain in contention in a very tough Group B as they sit third, three points behind second-placed Greece. Their two games this break will define their challenge, with an away fixture at group leaders and 2022 World Cup runners-up France on Thursday followed by a home game with another big hitter, the Netherlands, on Sunday.
Euro 2024 qualifying Group B
Having missed out on the World Cup in 2022, Italy are in another battle to qualify for the finals of a major tournament.
They are third in the group led by England, who beat them in the first of the two games the reigning European champions have played so far.
With a new manager in Luciano Spalletti, they get the chance for some revenge against the nation that denied them a spot in Qatar when they face North Macedonia on Saturday. Then comes a big home game against second-placed Ukraine the following Tuesday.
Belgium are in decent shape in Group F. They are second, three points behind Austria but with a game in hand and matches to come against the two sides who have just one point. They are in Azerbaijan on Saturday then host Estonia three days later.
Euro 2024 qualifying Group F
Portugal have even fewer worries. They have won all four of their games to date, scoring 14 and conceding none on their way to topping Group J. They now have two key matches—against second-placed Slovakia, who are just two points behind, before hosting third-placed Luxembourg.
Euro 2024 qualifying Group J
Croatia are third in Wales’ group, but have only played two games.
This break is a real chance for them to make a move on the top two, with matches against struggling Latvia and second-placed Armenia to come. As already touched on, Spain are lagging behind in Group A but they do have games in hand.
They will be desperate to make amends for their loss to Scotland in their last qualifier when they travel to Georgia before hosting Cyprus.
France and the Netherlands were expected to dominate Group B and while the former are fulfilling their side of the bargain with four wins from four to top the table, the latter have work to do.
A win and a loss from their two games makes it important they take a significant tally from a home game against Greece on Thursday and Saturday’s trip to Ireland.
All to play for in Groups E, G and I
Switzerland have set the pace in Group I, having taken 10 points from their four games. Romania and Israel are their nearest challengers — on eight and seven points respectively —and meet in Bucharest on Saturday, the same day the Swiss are in Kosovo. Switzerland then have a great opportunity to further strengthen their qualification status when they host bottom nation Andorra on Tuesday.
Hungary and Serbia look the stand-out sides in Group G, with both on seven points from three games— but the former top with a slightly better goal difference. They met each other last night in Belgrade, giving third-place Montenegro, who are in Lithuania, a chance to make up ground. With Hungary only playing once, the other teams can apply some pressure in their second fixtures on Sunday.
There is plenty of scope for change in Group E, where four nations— led by leaders the Czech Republic—are separated by four points. The Czech Republic’s one game of the break is against second-placed Albania on Thursday.
Third-placed Moldova also only play once - at the Faroe Islands - giving Poland in fourth a chance to make a move with their games against the Faroes and Albania.