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Azzurri and Oranje close to clinching
September 6th, 2013 12:02AM
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TAGS:  germany, italy, netherlands

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[WORLD CUP 2014 QUALIFYING: Europe] As many as five European teams could clinch their World Cup 2014 qualifying groups by Tuesday, though only Italy and the Netherlands won't need help from others. Bosnia-Herzegovina and Germany -- both of which the USA has beaten this year -- as well as Switzerland are also closing in berths in next year's final.

(Click here for viewing of Friday's World Cup 2014 qualifiers.)

BOSNIA-HERZEGOVINA. Bosnia-Herzegovina can clinch a berth in the World Cup finals for the first time with a sweep of its two games against Slovakia but it will need for Greece to drop of four points against Liechtenstein and Latvia -- an unlikely scenario. Edin Dzeko and Vedad Ibisevic, who combined for all three BiH goals in the 4-3 friendly loss to the USA, will lead the attack.

-- BiH has scored 23 goals in six games -- the most of any team in European qualifying.

GERMANY. Germany will look to keep its record perfect of having qualified for every World Cup in which it has been entered, and it could clinch with with Group C wins over Austria on Friday and the Faeroe Islands on Tuesday. Starting midfielders Ilkay Gundogan and Bastian Schweinsteiger are both injured, so Sami Khedira and either Lars Bender or Toni Kroos will play in their place.

-- Germany has given up nine goals in its last three games, all friendlies: two to Ecuador, four to the USA and three to Paraguay.

ITALY. The Azzurri, semifinalists at the Confederations Cup in June, can clinch the Group B title with wins over its closest rivals, Bulgaria on Friday and the Czech Republic on Tuesday. Mario Balotelli -- red-carded against the Czechs in June -- is one of three Italians who are suspended for the Bulgaria game at the Stadio Renzo Barbera in Palermo, and two other players are injured.

-- Goalie Gianluigi Buffon will equal the Italian appearance record of 136 caps if he plays against Bulgaria.

NETHERLANDS. The Dutch are the only unbeaten and untied team in European qualifying and should wrap things up with wins on the road against Estonia on Friday and Andorra on Tuesday. Veterans Robin van Persie, Arjen Robben and Wesley Sneijder (recalled in place of injured Rafael van der Vaart) will lead the Oranje against Estonia. Other players who should get starts include Jonathon De Guzman, whose brother Julian plays for Canada, and a pair of 21-year-old center backs, Bruno Martins Indi and Stefan de Vrij, both of Feyenoord.

-- The Dutch have a 11-game unbeaten streak (eight wins and three ties) dating back to August 2012.

SWITZERLAND. Switzerland, which is coming off a 1-0 win over Brazil in their friendly, has an outside shot of clinching, but it will need to win games against Iceland and at Norway and Albania will have to lose at Slovenia or Iceland. The average age of Coach Ottmar Hitzfeld's quartet of strikers -- Haris Seferovic, Mario Gavranovic, Josip Drmic and Steven Zuber -- is 22.

-- The Swiss have conceded just one goal in five games -- the best defensive record in Europe.

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