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International Blues

A look ahead to Tuesday's crucial World Cup qualifiers.

International Blues
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The battle for World Cup qualification is intensifying – and the fates of many nations could go a long way towards being decided in this Tuesday’s set of international fixtures.

The Republic of Ireland’s chances took a huge blow when they lost 2-1 at home to Sweden on Friday. James McCarthy and Seamus Coleman’s hopes of participating in next summer’s tournament are hanging by a thread and they are in desperate need of a win when they face third-placed Austria in Group C.

Leaders Germany are five points clear and on course to secure automatic qualification, meaning the Republic are battling it out with Sweden and Austria for second position and a play-off spot.

A win in Vienna for Giovanni Trapattoni’s side would put them back in the mix, should Sweden lose in Kazakhstan. However, if the results turn out conversely it would virtually end the Ireland’s hopes, leaving them six points adrift of second with two games left to play, one of which is away in Germany.

Phil Jagielka, Leighton Baines and Ross Barkley can feel optimistic of England’s chances having moved to top spot in Group H with the win over Moldova on Friday – but qualification is by no means a certainty.

Tim HowardTim Howard and USA could book their place at next summer's World Cup if results go in their favour on Tuesday.

The Three Lions could find themselves three points clear at the close of play on Tuesday or back in second - level on points with third placed Montenegro - if they suffer defeat. Poland in fourth are also expected to close the gap as they travel to rock-bottom San Marino who have shipped 38 goals without reply from their seven previous qualifiers.

England’s remaining qualifiers after the trip to Ukraine are home meetings against Montenegro and Poland in October.

Belgium, featuring Kevin Mirallas and Romelu Lukaku, are five points clear at the top of Group A and aren’t in action - but rock bottom Scotland are. Steven Naismith is part of the squad that will be hoping to register a consolation win in Macedonia.

Across the Atlantic, Costa Rica could all but seal their place at the tournament finals with a win over Jamaica in the early hours of Wednesday morning.

Bryan Oviedo’s nation are six points clear of fourth placed Mexico, with the top three teams progressing automatically from the CONCACAF group. If Costa Rica win in Kingston and Mexico do not take maximum points against USA, their place in Brazil will be assured.

While the Mexicans are battling to stay in the hunt for automatic progression, they can’t expect an easy ride against Tim Howard’s USA, who currently occupy second place. Indeed, if the Americans beat Mexico they have not only smoothed Costa Rica’s passage through to finals but also booked their own place in Brazil.

Elsewhere, a number of Under-21s European Championship qualifiers took place on Monday.

John Stones played 90 minutes in England's 1-1 draw in Finland and Gerard Deulofeu completed the full match as Spain beat Albania 4-0. There was disappointment for Shane Duffy, however, as Republic of Ireland crashed to a 4-0 home defeat to Germany.

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