With the final set of World Cup 2010 qualifying fixtures coming up for many teams, David Scullion takes a closer look at which teams are on the brink of qualification.
As we all know South Africa have qualified as next years hosts.
Also in Africa, Ghana have qualified for their second consecutive finals appearance, gazumping all the teams in their group with 2 games to spare.
African powerhouses Cameroon top their group as they hope to make up for missing the last finals, but it is wide open as Gabon, Adebayor led 2006 finalists Togo and Morocco are all in close contention.
Group B is slighlty more tricky, as Nigeria trail Tunisia by two points. Will Nigeria miss the finals again?
Over to group C, Algeria lead the African Brazil, Egypt, by a comfy 3 points and look to build on their 2006 appearance.
Finally Ivory Coast look good to make a second appearance, a nice 6 points ahead of their rivals with 2 left to play.
Australia, Japan and South Korea made easy work of their campaigns to qualify again, but the big surprise was North Korea, who impressed way back in 1966, making it to South Africa.
Also, Saudi Arabia will miss their first finals since they sat out 1990 as Bahrain surprisingly ran out the victors in a playoff to face New Zealand, Oceania winners, in another final playoff to qualify.
NORTH, CENTRAL AMERICAN and CARIBBEAN
If usual finalists USA and Mexico win any of their remaining two games they will qualify.
After a terrible start under Sven Goran Eriksson, new coach Javier Aguirre has done well to get Mexico back on track.
Honduras and Costa Rica will battle it out for the third automatic qualification spot, with El Salvador having an outside chance depending on how results pan out.
They have a more realistic place of fourth place however, and that placed team will meet the fifth place South American (Conmebal) team in a playoff for the finals.
Brazil have eased their way to qualification already, along with Paraguay who are looking real quality at the moment and maybe in with a chance at the world cup as dark horses.
Chile are one win away from their first finals since 1998.
While there is an all out brawl for fourth and fifth place. Ecuador currently are in the driving seat, with Argentina a surprising one point behind, who are ahead of Venezuela and Uruguay by a point, while Colombia are a further point behind. Phew!
Group 1: Currently wide open – Denmark are in a great position, but that could all change with difficult matches against second placed scandinavian rivals Sweden and still-in-the-hunt Hungary. The big story so far has been Portugal’s dismal form, but they get to play Hungary at home, who they ercently dispatched in Bucharest, and lowly Albania.
Group 2: Again, a lot to play for. Switzerland have some breathing space at the top, but Greece and Latvia intend on making abit of trouble at the top. Israel are also up there, but they have a more realistic play-off berth to aim for.
Group 3: Any kind of result for Slovakia, or Slovenia failing to win any of their remaining games, will see them qualify automatically for their first tournament since the Czechoslovakia split. Northern Irelands home defeat to Slovakia severely damaged their hopes, and Slovenia are likely to take second. But the resurgence of Czech Republic might see them nick second, and Poland can still mathematically do it, but with tough games remaining, don’t count on it!
Group 4: Germany and Russia have this all tied up, but expect a competitive affair between the two in Moscow to settle the automatic spot.
Group 5: Spain have trailblazed their way to qualification already, the european champions winning all their games and conceeding only 2 goals. Surely they will be favourites for the crown next summer. Bosnia-Herzegovina, spearheaded by the goals of Bundesliga sensation Edin Dzeko, have a four point cushion over Turkey with 2 to play in the race to second spot.
group 6: England (and Wayne Rooney) have dominated this group and qualified by winning all their games thus far. Croatia have a 2 point lead for a playoff place, but if Ukraine win their next two games, they will seal second.
Group 7: Serbia have dominated the group and are one win away from sealing their place. France overcame a stuttering start to place themselves second, and one win will confirm a top two finish, but Austria remain in the hunt.
Group 8: World champs Italy tightened their grip at the top of the table, and a draw at Croke park with the Republic of Ireland will confirm their title defense. Ireland look to have second place booked, but it would take a monumental collapse and Bulgarian resurgence to lose the place.
Group 9: Netherlands were in a different class to their group competitors, winning all their games to become the first european team to qualify for the World Cup. Norway pipped Scotland to claim second place, but they are the favourites to miss out on a playoff opportunity as they are currently at the bottom of the playoff table.
The top 8 runners-up will be drawn into 4 two-legged playoffs, with the winners advancing, but the lowest ranked second placed team will go away empty handed.
South Africa (hosts), Ghana, Australia, Japan, South Korea Rep., North Korea, Brazil, Paraguay, Spain, England, Netherlands.