England MUST beat Malta and North Macedonia to ensure a top seeding of or Euro 2024, it’s win or bust for Wales and Italy’s hopes are hanging by a thread… breaking down the crunch fixtures in the final round of qualifiers

International football is back in town and there’s a lot to play for as we head into the final group qualifiers for the 2024 European Championships.

Twenty-four dream teams will take the plunge in Germany next summer and the identities of fifteen of them have yet to be determined.

England and Scotland have both already qualified but will want to finish at the top of their groups to try and guarantee the best possible placement for the final tournament.

Wales’ fate hangs in the balance as they struggle with Croatia for second place in Group D, knowing they have no guarantee of a play-off place after the Nations League debacle.

Italy and the Netherlands are also at risk of not qualifying automatically – Italy currently sit third in the English group and three points behind Ukraine, while the Netherlands are in a dogfight with Greece for second place in Group B.

Twenty teams from ten groups automatically receive a ticket for the final tournament, but only three of the twelve can advance to the play-offs, which depends on their ranking in the Nations League.

Mail Sport summarizes the key talking points to watch out for during this international breakthrough.

Wales in danger, but also in the driver’s seat

Wales are currently second in Group D with ten points after six games. This also applies to Croatia. Armenia is not far behind at seven.

Now that group leader Turkey is already through with dry feet, only one of them can automatically advance to the European Championship.

This is particularly important for Wales, who, having finished bottom of the Nations League group, have no chance of making the play-offs. It’s win or fail for Rob Page’s men.

Wales secured a crucial 2-1 win over Croatia to finish second in the group but need to remain in the top two to progress to the European Championship

Harry Wilson pulled off a double to put the 2018 World Cup finalists to the sword in October

Harry Wilson pulled off a double to put the 2018 World Cup finalists to the sword in October

In their last two games they travel to Armenia and host Turkey, two difficult games.

The saving grace is that Wales are above Croatia for their head-to-head record, having drawn them and beaten them – the latter thanks to a Harry Wilson double.

It means that as long as they keep pace with Croatia in the last two matches, they will go to Germany.

Croatia already has a play-off spot thanks to its victory in the Nations League group.

England and Scotland compete for the best placement

England and Scotland don’t have to worry too much; after all, they’re already done. The Three Lions’ 3-1 win over Italy sealed their qualification and showed how the tables have turned since the Euro 2020 final where they looked uninspired.

But that’s not the full picture. These latter games are not dead rubbers.

In addition to host country Germany, there are five placements up for grabs for the best qualifiers.

Going into the latest series of matches, Portugal, Slovenia, Denmark, France and Belgium all have more points than England.

England qualified for the European Championship with a 2-1 win over Italy but still have work to do to secure a favorable placement

England qualified for the European Championship with a 2-1 win over Italy but still have work to do to secure a favorable placement

Scott McTominay's goal has already helped Scotland reach the European Championship, but can they achieve the best possible placement?

Scott McTominay’s goal has already helped Scotland reach the European Championship, but can they achieve the best possible placement?

That’s why Gareth Southgate’s men need to beat Malta and North Macedonia – to give themselves the best possible chance of getting into the top six and avoid being drawn with a behemoth when it comes to the draw for Germany.

Wins against them should be enough to clinch a top spot – Denmark and Slovenia are in the same group, while having a better goal difference than Romania and Turkey, who are also in the running.

After a 2-0 defeat to Spain in their last qualifying match, Scotland’s hopes of qualifying as one of the top-placed teams are slim, but that shouldn’t take away from their great performance.

Steve Clarke’s side won their first five games in the group, navigated a tough away match at Norway to win 2-1 and recorded a 2-0 victory at home over Spain.

THE NINE TEAMS HAVE ALREADY QUALIFIED FOR EURO 2024

Nine teams have already qualified for next summer’s European Championships.

Germany obviously gets an automatic place as host country.

They will be accompanied by:

Spain

Scotland

France

England

Turkey

Belgium

Austria

Portugal

Italy’s battle for automatic qualification with Ukraine

After failing to reach the last two World Cups, the winners of the last Euros won’t feel so high if they miss out on a golden ticket to Germany.

Their world record 37 match unbeaten run under Roberto Mancini is a far cry from their tepid form today as they sit third in Group C.

Gli Azzurri are three points behind second-placed Ukraine with a match in hand, while matches against North Macedonia and the invaded country remain to be played.

Luciano Spalletti’s men secured a crucial 2-1 win over Ukraine in September when Davide Frattesi scored with a double to take the three points.

Italy's hopes of automatically coming to Germany from the groups hang by a thread

Italy’s hopes of automatically coming to Germany from the groups hang by a thread

Ukraine put on a spirited show and can seal qualification with a victory over Italy on home soil

Ukraine put on a spirited show and can seal qualification with a victory over Italy on home soil

The equation for them is simple. Regardless of how their match against North Macedonia goes, if they beat Ukraine, they will advance.

If they lose, they will have to face the play-offs, deserved because of their victory in the Nations League group.

A draw would be enough if they beat North Macedonia and draw level with Ukraine.

Failing to qualify for a major tournament would be a significant failure this early in Spalletti’s reign, especially after leaving the comfort of Serie A-winning Napoli. However, he inherited a struggling side from Mancini and will be aware that this is a rebuilding project.

The Netherlands has to tie up loose ends while Greece hopes for a miracle

The Netherlands and Greece are level on points, but the Netherlands have a match in hand and are ahead of their opponents in the head-to-head ratios.

All sensible predictions point to the Dutch getting the three points they need given their last matches against Ireland and Gibraltar, who have never achieved a point in European Championship qualifying.

The Netherlands would have to make a serious mistake to throw away the automatic qualification

The Netherlands would have to make a serious mistake to throw away the automatic qualification

Greece has lost both matches against the Netherlands and is looking forward to a play-off campaign

Greece has lost both matches against the Netherlands and is looking forward to a play-off campaign

Greece’s only chance to get points is against France and then they ask for the Netherlands to make a mistake, so there’s a good chance the 2004 champions will have to endure a tough play-offs campaign.

They get that chance because they are top of their Nations League group, but the fact they are in League C means they have a tough task and Germany reaching 2024 could be a tall order.

Yet they have a surprising reputation in this competition.

Heated running races for qualification

A few of the lesser-known groups present some intriguing storylines.

Group E is wide open, with Albania, Czech Republic, Poland and Moldova all within four points of each other.

Poland faces a struggle to qualify automatically and it would be embarrassing if he fails to do so

Poland faces a struggle to qualify automatically and it would be embarrassing if he fails to do so

Poland is at real risk of missing out as they only have one match left to play, but they should get an edge in the play-offs.

Still, not qualifying automatically would be a shame for the group favorites, but could a team like Moldova take advantage of this and qualify for their first ever tournament? They have close ties with Albania and the Czech Republic to gain their place.

Meanwhile, Kazakhstan is trying to qualify for their first international tournament but is four points behind Slovenia and Denmark. A match against San Marino should give them three points. If they pull off an upset against Slovenia in their last match, they could make history.

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