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Berths on the line in top-of-the-standings clashes
by Paul Kennedy, October 9th, 2009 6:45AM



[WORLD CUP 2010 QUALIFYING] The winners of six European groups will earn World Cup berths on Saturday or Wednesday, and eight teams will clinch spots in November's playoffs as the best (of nine) runners-up. Saturday's highlights include four top-of-the-standings clashes. For a look at Denmark-Sweden, Slovakia-Slovenia, Russia-Germany and Italy-Ireland ...

Denmark-Sweden. The Danes will wrap up first place in Group 1 with a win Saturday in Copenhagen. Denmark's concerns are on defense, where it has had to field a different lineup in every qualifier because of injuries. Sweden's problem has been its attack. It's had to settle for three scoreless draws and beat Malta, 1-0, last month on an own goal.

(TV: Fox Soccer en Espanol, live, 2 pm ET; Fox Soccer Channel, delay, 5 pm ET.)

Probable lineups:
Denmark -- Thomas Sorensen, William Kvist, Daniel Agger, Simon Kjaer, Lars Jacobsen, Christian Poulsen, Jakob Poulsen, Jon Dahl Tomasson, Dennis Rommedahl, Martin Jorgensen, Nicklas Bendtner.
Sweden -- Andreas Isaksson, Mikael Nilsson, Olof Mellberg, Daniel Majstorovic, Behrang Safari; Kim Kallstrom, Rasmus Elm, Samuel Holmen, Anders Svensson, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Henrik Larsson.

Slovakia-Slovenia. Slovakia is on the verge of qualifying for the World Cup for the first time. It can clinch first place with a win or tie in Saturday's game at Bratislava's 24,000-seat Tehelne Pole Stadium, which sold out in less than four minutes. Even with a loss, Slovakia will still holds a two-point lead over Slovenia, which won the first game, 2-1, in Maribor 13 months ago.

Probable lineups:
Slovakia -- Jan Mucha, Peter Pekarik, Martin Skrtel, Radoslav Zabavnik, Jan Durica, Zdenko Strba, Vladimir Weiss, Marek Hamsik, Kamil Kopunek, Miroslav Stoch, Robert Vittek.
Slovenia -- Samir Handanovic, Matej Rozic Mavric, Miso Brecko, Marko Suler, Bojan Jokic, Valter Birsa, Aleksander Radosavljevic, Robert Koren, Andraz Kirm, Milivoje Novakovic, Zlatko Dedic.

Russia-Germany. The Germans have been training in Mainz on artificial turf to prepare for Saturday's game at Moscow's Luzhniki Stadium. They lead Russia by a point, so a win will wrap up the group or a tie will leave them well placed going into Wednesday's game against Finland in Hamburg. Russia has not played at Luzhniki Stadium since it beat England, 2-1, there two years ago in Euro 2008 qualifying.

(TV: Gol TV, live, 10:55 am ET)

Probable lineups:
Russia -- Igor Akinfeyev, Alexander Anyukov, Sergei Ignashevich, Vasily Berezutsky, Renat Yanbayev or Yuri Zhirkov, Igor Denisov, Sergei Semak, Vladimir Bystrov, Konstantin Zyryanov; Andrei Arshavin, Pavel Pogrebnyak or Alexander Kerzhakov.
Germany -- Manuel Neuer, Philipp Lahm, Per Mertesacker, Heiko Westermann, Marcel Schaefer, Michael Ballack, Thomas Hitzlsperger; Bastian Schweinsteiger, Mesut Ozil, Lukas Podolski, Mario Gomez.

Ireland-Italy. The defending World Cup champion will return to the finals with a win or draw on Saturday in Dublin. A loss will still leave the Azzurri with a one-point lead going into Wednesday's game against Cyprus in Parma -- a prospect Coach Marcello Lippi wants to avoid. "It is very important to qualify on Saturday," he says. "Not only from my point of the view. It's important for everybody." Italy captain Fabio Cannavaro is suspended for the Ireland game and also faces an inquiry into a failed drug test.

Probable lineups:
Ireland -- Shay Given, Sean St. Ledger, Kevin Kilbane, John 0'Shea, Richard Dunne, Glenn Whelan, Aidan McGeady, Keith Andrews; Stephen Hunt; Kevin Doyle, Robbie Keane
Italy -- Gianluigi Buffon, Gianluca Zambrotta, Nicola Legrottaglie, Giorgio Chiellini, Fabio Grosso, Mauro Camoranesi, Daniele De Rossi, Andrea Pirlo, Claudio Marchisio, Alberto Gilardino, Vincenzo Iaquinta.


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