Spain and Turkey both enjoyed differing fortunes in the last FIFA World Cup™ qualifying campaign after ending up in the play-offs. While the Spanish safely secured their ticket, the Turks, the third-placed nation at the 2002 FIFA World Cup Korea/Japan™, were eliminated by Switzerland.
The two contenders now come face to face in a group in which the Iberians will once again cross swords with Bosnia-Herzegovina and Belgium, two of their opponents on the road to Germany 2006. Whereas the Bosnians have grown in stature in recent campaigns, Belgium's fortunes are on the wane after failing in their three last attempts to reach a major finals.
Estonia and Armenia, neither of whom have progressed beyond the qualifying stage, complete the group and will be anxious to show sign of progress.
Spain and Turkey:LaRoja have been an ever-present at the last eight finals and will have no excuses for failing to make it nine in a row. After their fine showing in 2002, Turkey are sure to pose the biggest threat to them.
Bosnia-Herzegovina: The Balkan outfit beat Belgium when the two were paired together in the qualifying group for Germany 2006 and finished in third place just behind Spain, from whom they grabbed a couple of creditable draws. With that kind of pedigree, the Bosnians could give the section's big guns a fright.
The players to watch
David Villa (ESP), Andres Iniesta (ESP), Cesc Fabregas (ESP), Sergio Ramos (ESP), Nihat Kahveci (TUR), Emre Belozoglu (TUR) and Hasan Salihamidzic (BIH).
The crunch match
Turkey-Spain: These two sides look odds-on to fight it out for first place and Spain's visit to the Turkish fortress could well prove decisive. The red-hot atmosphere of Istanbul is sure to put the Spaniards' nerve to the test.
A look back
Spain v Belgium, 22 June 1986, Puebla: Belgium ended Spanish dreams in an agonising penalty shootout when the two teams met in the quarter-finals of the 1986 FIFA Cup Mexico™. Spain were buoyant after sweeping aside Denmark 5-1, but Belgium were not to be denied and secured their best ever finals placing by reaching the semis, where they went out to Diego Maradona's Argentina.
8: The number of times Turkey and Spain have squared off, with the Iberians winning three, drawing four and losing only one.
Did you know?
The top two seeds locked horns in a play-off for the 1954 FIFA World Cup Switzerland™. After winning a game apiece and drawing the decider in Rome, their fate was decided by a toss of a coin, with the Turks calling correctly.
Which of the two will have to take the play-off route this time? Click on "Add your comment" to give us your view.