The main event in the footballing world this coming Monday, 19 October takes place at Home of FIFA in Zurich, with the spotlight focused on the eight European nations who have claimed places in the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™ qualifying play-offs. The draw for the final eliminators, to be played on a home-and-away basis on 14 and 18 November, will be held at 14:00 local time, with France, Portugal, Russia and Greece entering it as the seeded teams.
Fans, media representatives and football lovers around the globe can stay abreast of the very latest developments and follow the draw ceremony as it happens, by tuning in to our FIFA.com live stream here at the world governing body's official website. The eight remaining nations have battled their way through to the play-offs, and will now go head-to-head for the four remaining spots at the 2010 finals:
France, runners-up at the 2006 FIFA World Cup Germany, are determined to book their ticket to South Africa via the alternative route of the play-offs as they strive for a 13th appearance at the game's showpiece event. The French were forced to settle for second place in European Group 7 behind a very impressive Serbia. UEFA EURO 2008 semi-finalists Russia are the second of the continent's heavyweights going into the hat on Monday. The nine-time FIFA World Cup finals contenders, whose best placing was fourth at the 1966 tournament in England, missed out on top spot in Group 4 due to home and away defeats against eventual winners Germany.
The Republic of Ireland have made three appearances at the FIFA World Cup finals, most recently at the 2002 edition in Korea/Japan. With Italian coaching legend Giovanni Trapattoni at the helm, the team spearheaded by John O'Shea of Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur striker Robbie Keane are quietly confident of securing a spot in South Africa. Bosnia Herzegovina were the surprise package in Group 5, as they comfortably held off Turkey and Belgium to finish runners-up behind seemingly invincible European champions Spain. The Bosnians owe their place among the last eight hopefuls to their potent forward line, featuring free-scoring pair Edin Dzeko and Vedad Ibisevic, ably supported by the playmaking guile of Zvjezdan Misimovic. They are also the only one of the eight group runners-up who have yet to appear at the FIFA World Cup finals.
The most experienced candidates in terms of play-offs for a major tournament are Ukraine. The east Europeans and their star name Andriy Shevchenko came up short at the same stage in 1997 (to Croatia) and 2001 (to Germany) in FIFA World Cup qualifying, and in 1999 (to Slovenia) in the battle for places at the EURO, before finally booking a place at the global showdown in 2006. FIFA World Player of the Year Cristiano Ronaldo and his Portugal team-mates picked up form after a poor start to qualifying, ending up second to Denmark in their group. The Portuguese, who finished fourth at the 2006 finals and third back in 1966, now go into the eliminators searching for what would be only their fifth appearance at the world's greatest sporting event.
EURO 2004 winners Greece and their veteran German boss Otto Rehhagel also find themselves needing to negotiate the play-offs after coming off second-best to Switzerland in Group 2. A ticket to South Africa would provide the Greeks with only their second tilt at the world crown. Their sole previous appearance was at the 1994 event in the USA. Finally, Slovenia complete the field for the play-off fray in mid-November. Striker Milivoje Novakovic and Co are also chasing their second finals appearance after sensationally qualifying for the 2002 tournament in Korea/Japan with a play-off triumph over Romania.
Visit FIFA.com next Monday, and watch events unfold live with our coverage of the draw for the European play-offs for the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa.