France-Ireland (First Leg: France 1-0). France coach Raymond Domenech said what the French media have been saying for years. The Bleus don't need him. "[The players] are all desperate to win the game," he said of the Ireland game. "There is no need for me to excite them. I won't tire them out with words."
(TV: Setanta Premium, live, 3 pm ET.)
Bosnia-Herzegovina-Portugal (First Leg: Portugal 1-0).Everything favors Portugal, unbeaten on the road in qualifying for the last 13 years, but we like the underdog Bosnia despite its loss of four starters. Defenders Elvir Rahimic and Edin Spahic and midfielder Samir Muratovic are suspended, and playmaker Zvjezdan Misimovic is out with a knee injury. Bosnia still has Zlatan Bajramovic and Miralem Pjanic in midfield Edin Dzeko and Vedad Ibisevic up front to throw at the Portuguese, who will again be without Cristiano Ronaldo. The Bosnians hit the post three times in Lisbon. They should be able to put away the Portuguese in Zenica.
(TV: Setanta Sports USA, live, 2:45 pm ET.)
Slovenia-Russia (First Leg: Russia 2-1).Slovenia lost on artificial turf in Moscow, but the narrow defeat gives it hope for the return leg in Maribor. Russia is tough on the road, however. Diniyar Bilyaletdinov, Andrei Arshavinand Roman Pavlyuchenko should get the Russians the goal that will put them through to the finals.
(TV: Setanta Sports USA, delay, 5 pm ET.)
Ukraine-Greece (First Leg: 0-0).Ukraine had a slight edge in Athens so it should be favored in Donetsk. Coach Oleg Mykhailychenko plays down any notion of a home-field advantage. "At the moment," he says, "I think the chances are the same as before -- 50-50."
(TV: ESPN2, live, 1 pm ET.)
Uruguay-Costa Rica (First Leg: Uruguay 1-0).This is the third straight qualifying campaign that has ended with a playoff for Uruguay. The Celeste went through to the 2002 finals but lost in a shootout four years ago, again against Australia. The winner-take-all playoff series, necessary after their 2-2 tie with the USA dropped them to fourth place in Concacaf's Hexagonal, is a first for Costa Rica. Brazilian coach Rene Simoes is back after missing the first leg because of suspension. That didn't stop him from blasting Spanish referee Alberto Undiano and his "scandalous"officiating. "It was impossible to beat this guy," Simoes said.
Algeria-Egypt.The Pharaohs won 2-0, getting the second goal they needed to force a playoff in the fifth minute of stoppage time. Can the Algerians recover from such a crushing blow? Madjid Bougherra, who plays for Rangers in the Scottish Premier League, says Algeria is "ready for the war," alluding to attacks on the Algerian team bus after it arrived in Cairo. While played in Khartoum, thousands of fans from both teams have descended on the the Sudanese capital for the grudge match.