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International Break: That Time Again...

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Just as things were starting to get interesting.

Harold Cunningham

After two Serie a wins and a qualifying effort in the Europa League playoff round, it would be nice to roll right into the next match, but schedulers have decided differently and the world goes into International Break, with players leaving their clubs and returning to serve their countries in qualifying and friendlies.

World Cup Qualifying

Europe

European qualifying continues over the next couple of days. First place in group qualifies directly to the World Cup. The eight best second place finishers play off in a two leg tie with the four leg winners advancing to Brazil 2014 next Summer.

Croatia

Ante Rebic, coming off his International Senior team debut last month in a friendly against Liechtenstein, in which he scored after only 3 minutes on the pitch, has been called up by coach Igor Stimac for this weekends matches, a qualifier at Serbia in Group A and a friendly against South Korea in Seoul.

It's doubtful he will get any time in the match that matters, as Croatia have an abundance of attacking talent in Luka Modric, Niko Kranjcar, Eduardo, Ivica Olic, Nikita Jelavic, Mladen Petric and Mario Mandzukic but he might see time in the friendly.

Croatia are second in Group A with 16 points, 3 points behind group leader Belgium, who have 19. Belgium have a match at Scotland this weekend. Croatia and Belgium will face off next International match day in October in Croatia in a match that could decide the group. Their previous meeting was a 1-1 tie, so Croatia can win the tiebreaker with that match.

Even without winning the group, Croatia lead the pool of second place teams with 16 points and control their own destiny for the play offs, barring a major melt down.

Greece are currently second in the list of second place teams with 13 points, England and Russia have 12, while 7 other teams have 11 points. France are in there somewhere too. They only have 10 points, but their group have two less matches, so there's probably some undecipherable FIFA formula to deal with it. If they divide points by matches played, France would be even with Russia and England.

Serbia

Nenad Tomovic travels back to Red Star Stadium in Belgrade to try to help Serbia stop Croatia. Tomovic could get on the pitch as his main competition and former Viola player, Matija Nastasic hasn't been playing with his home club, Manchester City, due to injury and likely won't be fit.

Serbia are third place in Group A, with only 7 points, 9 back from Croatia with three matches left. Serbia lost the previous match up 2-0, so would need a three goal victory to earn the tie breaker, plus win the rest of their matches and hope Croatia lose the rest. Not looking good for ole Sinisa Mihajlovic.

To further spice up the pot, as it were, both players and spectators really don't care for each other, for ethnic, political, and religious reasons that lie in the dark past and are incomprehensible to most of us, except for Dumitru, of course.

Bottom line, these two squads don't like each other and Serbian authorities are going to be hard pressed to keep the match's "festivities" on the pitch.

Italy

Alberto Aquilani has been called up by Italy, and considering his recent form, he could likely see time in two huge World Cup Qualifiers Friday and Tuesday.

Cesare Prandelli's Azzurri have gone undefeated in group play, with 4 wins and 2 draws, lead Group B by 4 points over second place Bulgaria, who have 10 and third place Czech Republic, who have 9.

Italy can seal the deal, hold status quo or completely screw it all up this break as they host both Bulgaria on Friday at Palmero and the Czechs on Tuesday, in Turin.

In October, Italy will see out group play with a trip to 5th place Denmark (6 pts) and another home match against fourth place Armenia (6 pts).

Bulgaria will travel to Malta for a likely 3 points on Tuesday, then travel to Armenia in October, with their final match at home against the Czechs, with a lot likely on the line: the second and third place teams had a scoreless tie their last match up.

Germany

Mario Gomez is back on the German scene. The bomber was called up last month for a friendly against Paraguay and saw about 34 minutes, coming in for Lazio's Miroslav Klose. Seeing as coach Joachim Low has only called up one other striker, Max Kruse from Borussia Monchengladbac, Gomez seeing time is more than likely. Arsenal forward Lukas Podolski is injured.

Of course, Germany boasts many midfielders who are considered likely scoring threats, Thomas Muller and Mesut Ozil come to mind.

Germany are in firm control of their group, Group C, with 16 points, as expected, leading the group of three teams in second place Austria, Sweden and the Repulic of Ireland by 5 points. Each of the second place squads have 3 wins, 2 draws and one loss.

Germany will host Austria on Friday and travel to the Faroe Islands on Tuesday. Faroe Islands have lost every mach and given up 20 goals doing it, so it would be a certain shocker for Germany to drop any points on Tuesday.

Austria hold second place with 11 points, due to a goal differential of 10, gained with a 6-0 drubbing over the Faroe Islands and a 4-0 win over Kazakhstan, who have only 1 point in group play. Austria will host Ireland on Tuesday, followed up with a tough match in Sweden in October and will finish group play at the Faroe Islands.

Sweden travels to Ireland Friday and to Kazakhstan on Tuesday.

Montenegro

Stefan Savic will join former teammate Stevan Joevtic in a single qualifying match and a big one it will be. Montenegro, currently leading Group H with 14 points, will travel to fourth place Poland, who have 9 points.

Montenegro will certainly need a win, as their main competition will be looking to gain points this weekend. In October, Montenegro have a huge trip to England before finishing up at home against Moldova.

Poland held Montenegro in Podgorica, 2-2 but that was back in the first match of group play, and Savic's squad have not lost a game since, with 5 straight victories and a 1-1 tie at home against England back in March.

Poland followed up their opening tie by beating Moldova 2-0 and holding England to 1-1 in  Warsaw, but then followed that great result up by giving up three goals to Ukraine and a tie with Moldova. Poland can still figure in the group, however as the play England and Ukraine down the stretch.

Second place England, riding a cresting wave of sound, mostly coming from the constant gnashing of teeth of their supporters as they continually fail to do enough to satisfy are breathing down Montenegro's neck with 12 points and  look to put a 6 point swing on the former Yugoslavians.

In England's favor is a game in hand, which will be made up this weekend. England host Moldova, certainly a match which should earn three points for the home squad, at least in the fan's opinion. If England fail to win, a rash of head explosions could rock the Green Fields O' Blighty.

Also with a game in hand is Ukraine, third place with 11 points. Ukraine will host San Marino on Tuesday and England on Tuesday. Ukraine host Poland and travel to San Marino to finish Group play in October.

England will host Montenegro and Poland in October.

Other Groups

Group D

Netherlands are 6-0 and in complete control. They play at Estonia and at Andorra this weekend, and with two wins would clinch first place in the group, making their last two matches, at home to Hungary and at Turkey a moot point.

Hungary and Romania are second and third place, with 11 and 10 points, respectively and will need to gets some points to have a chance at a playoff.

Group F

Portugal hold the table lead going into the next two matches with 14 points, but second place Russia only trail by 2 points with 11 points and surprising Israel are third, with 10. Russia and Israel have an added advantage of each having a game in hand on Portugal, which they'll make up this weekend.

Portugal will travel to Belfast to play Northern Ireland and their last qualifiers will be in October, against Israel and Luxembourg. Northern Ireland travel to Luxembourg Tuesday and will finish off in October on the road, playing at Azerbaijan and at Israel.

Russia will play two matches, hosting Luxembourg on Friday and Israel on Tuesday. Russia will finish out group play with road trips, to Luxembourg and to Azerbaijan.

Group G

Bosnia-Herzegovina are undefeated in Group G with 5 wins and 1 draw and 16 points, Greece are second with 4 wins and a draw and 13 points, Slovakia are third with 9 points. Lithuania, Latvia and Liechtenstein round out the group with 5,4, and 2 points.

Bosnia-Herzegovina will play home and away against Slovakia on Friday and Tuesday, while Greece will travel to Liechtenstein and host Latvia.

Group I

Group I is the short group, with only 5 teams and the two favorites have to be Spain and France and, not surprisingly, Spain lead with 11 points and France have 10. Finland have 6 points, while Georgia and Belarus each have 4 points.

Spain travel to Finland Friday and have a friendly Tuesday against Chile. They will finish group play at home against Belarus and Georgia.

France travel to Georgia and Belarus and finish in October with a home match against Finland.

South America

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With Brazil already qualified as hosts, top 4 teams automatically qualify while 5th place plays a playoff. Each team will play 18 matches. The playoff will be against the winner of Jordan and Uzbekistan, who play a two leg tie this weekend.

Colombia

Juan Cuadrado and Colombia are in second place in the South American group, 7 points ahead of the last qualifying spot with only 4 matches left to go. They will host third place Ecuador, who are only 2 points behind. Colombia will then travel to Uruguay, who cling to 5th place and the Inter-continental play off spot by a mere two goal differential over Venezuela.

Chile

Matias Fernandez and David Pizarro are representing Chile this weekend, although Mati is hampered with an injury and may not be able to go. Chile host Venezuela on Friday and will travel to Geneva to play a friendly against Spain on Tuesday.

Chile are fourth with 21 points and are 5 points ahead of Uruguay and their opponents on Friday.

Peru

Juan Manuel Vargas is back for Peru, and they're going to need some magic as they are currently in 7th place in the table.

This will be the moment of truth, as it were as the next two match ups will be at home against Uruguay and away to Venezuela. Peru are only 2 points behind 5th place Uruguay and 6th place Venezuela and with some wins could possibly break into the top 5.

Under 21

Meanwhile, UEFA are engaged in qualifying for the Under 21 Championships to be played in 2015.

Marko Bakic and Montenegro will host Romania in Group 6 play, Montengro won their opener against Faroe Islands 3-0.

Rafal Wolski and Poland, already with two wins, travel to Sweden.

Friday Update

Serbia  1-1 Croatia

Mandzukic scored at min 53, Serbia equalized at 66. Nemanja Matic of Benfica got two yellow cards in 7 minutes and sent Croatia to ten men at minute 75, 5 min later Josip Simunic of Dinamo Zagreb was given a straight red for a harsh tackle and sent the sides even.

Matija Nastasic played all 90 minutes for Serbia, so Tomovic watched it from the bench. Ante Rebic did get on the roster for Croatia, but also watched it from the bench.

Croatia loses 2 pts to Belgium in the standings. Belgium went to Scotland and got all three points and are now five points ahead of Croatia. Croatia will have to beat Belgium in October and hope for favorable results on the last game day. Croatia are still best second place squad in the region, however..

Italy 1-0 Bulgaria

Alberto Gilardino scored the lone goal to give Italy all three points, That result, combined with a Czech home loss to Armenia puts Italy seven points ahead with three matches left. A win Tuesday against the Czechs and Italy are qualified for Brazil. Even if that fails, a win in either of the next two matches will be enough.

Alberto Aquilani was on the roster but did not play.

Germany 3-0 Austria

Klose with the first blow to the Austrians, Kroos with the second punch to the gut and Muller with the knock out blow. It's not official, but just go ahead and book the German's place at the World Cup.

Mario Gomez was on the bench but did not play.

Germany are five points ahead of Sweden and eight points ahead of Austria and Republic of Irenland with three matches left.

Poland 1 - 1 Montenegro

Montenegro got the fans up in arms early with a score in the twelfth minute, but Robert Lewandowski evened it up 5 minutes later and there it would sit to the bitter end. Poland made a late run but were held off.

Stefan Savic did start the match, and also finished the match and, to the best of my knowledge, did not suffer a catastrophic ankle injury. Oddly enough, that guy name Yoyo didn't even see the pitch, no reports I can find of any injury.

England dominated, however, now are tied with Montenegro. Ukraine also won and are 1 point behind. with each squad having a fairly easy match up on Tuesday, Team Jovetic looks to win up in third place and fading.

Slovenia 1-0 Albania

Slovenia made one goal in the 18th minute stand and got the three points.

Josip Ilcic did not even get on the roster.

Swtizerland were held by Iceland, so Slovenia are only six points back with three matches to go. Slovenia are only two points behind second place Norway, although, with a low point total, they would need more points to get in the top eight of second place teams.

Colombia 1-0 Ecuador

Colombia scored in the 31st minute. Ecuador earned a penalty at the one hour mark but missed and Colombia saw it out.

Juan Cuadrado came in at half time and played the entire second half. He earned a free kick 3 minutes into his stint, had a shot at goal, but wide and then got a shot on net later that required a save.

Colombia are tied for first place with idle Argentina

Chile 3-0 Venezuela

Chile scored one early, doubled before half time and closed out with a third. David Pizarro came in near the hour mark and put in a little over 30 min. The result leaves Chile in third place only two points behind Argentina and Colombia.

Peru 1 - 2 Uruguay

Peru loses, Vargas came on at halftime.