On the menu on 10 June are seven matches spanning five groups in European Zone qualifying for the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™. And though no more of the region's sides can seal their ticket to the 19th edition of the competition, the day's encounters do feature an intriguing Group 4 duel between Germany's closest pursuers Russia and Finland.
Finland and Russia, on ten and 12 points respectively, collide determined to reduce the gap between them and section leaders Germany, on 16 points having played a game more. A play-off place would appear the most realistic aim for the Finns, who have still to travel to Germany, though Russia, who host Joachim Low's team on 10 October in their penultimate qualifier, have every chance of finishing in top spot. The form book also favours Guus Hiddink's charges, who beat Finland 3-0 in Moscow on 15 October 2008.
The other matches
Over in Group 1, Sweden appear out of contention for an automatic qualifying place after their 1-0 home defeat by Denmark on Saturday. This qualifying phase could therefore spell the end of an era for Lars Lagerback's charges, who have reached every European and world finals since 2000. The Swedes reached the Round of 16 at both Korea/Japan 2002 and Germany 2006, as well as the quarter-finals at UEFA EURO 2004, and need a win over Malta to boost their play-off hopes.
England, who are flying high atop Group 6, will expect to beat Andorra at Wembley to extend their lead over second-placed Croatia to ten points. Section rivals Ukraine, for their part, can draw level with the Croatians with a home win over a Kazakhstan side that have conceded 20 times in six qualifiers so far. And given the Three Lions may have qualified by the time they visit the Ukraine on 10 October, Andriy Shevchenko and Co will harbour hopes of pipping Slaven Bilic's charges to a play-off berth.
In Group 7, Serbia should have an easier time away to Faroe Islands than they did in Saturday's laboured 1-0 home win over Austria. They can extend their advantage over second-place France to eight points, though the French will have played two games fewer. Serbia host Les Bleus in a vital showdown on 9 September.
Finally to the Netherlands, who, after becoming the first European nation to guarantee qualification, will be aiming for their seventh victory from seven Group 9 games when they host a Norway side still without a win.
Player to watch
After being little-used this season by AC Milan, Andriy Shevchenko was on target for Ukraine against Croatia on Saturday (his 41st strike in 87 senior appearances), and will be keen to show he still has the hunger to succeed at the highest level.
Heading into the home straight which leads to South Africa 2010, England are the highest scorers in European Zone qualifying to date, with 20 goals from six matches, followed by Germany (18) and Slovakia (17). Reigning world champions Italy, for their part, remain in top spot in Group 8 despite a relatively meagre tally of nine goals in six games.
What they said
"We're still in with a good chance of taking second place and getting into the play-offs. Anything is possible," Sweden coach Lars Lagerback.