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Weekend Boxset: World Cup Qualifiers, UEFA Matchday 5

Seven great matches to take you from Friday to Sunday. It’s the Sound of Football Weekend Boxset.

Times for Friday and Saturday are GMT, times for Sunday are GMT+1 (BST)


World Cup Qualification, UEFA Group D: Republic of Ireland v Wales
19.45 on S4C and Sky Sports 1
Group D looked tough on paper before a ball was kicked and it’s already proved to be so. Concerns of a hangover for the Welsh following their heroics at Euro 2016 seemed unfounded when they comfortably beat Moldova in their opening game. However, they’ve since gone on to draw their next three games, including a home tie against the Pot 6 side Georgia. The Aviva is not a place you want to go needing a win: the in-form Irish top the group and are unbeaten in their last eight home qualifiers. The only other serious contenders in this group, Serbia and Austria, play the supposed whipping-boys on the same evening, so the table could look very different at the final whistle.


National League: Lincoln City v Forest Green Rovers
12.15 on BT Sport 1
Speaking of hangovers, Lincoln need to recover from theirs pretty quickly if they want to take something from what has been up until recently a fairy-tale season for them. The week after their FA Cup Quarter Final defeat at Arsenal, the Imps were again denied a Wembley appearance when they lost out in extra time in their FA Trophy semi-final against York. A midweek defeat to Boreham Wood has now seen them lose their top place in the National League to today’s visitor’s, Forest Green. Victory for the Cowley Brothers’ side will see them go back level on top with Rovers with three games in hand. Defeat could see them having to rely on a third attempt to get to Wembley.

World Cup Qualification, UEFA Group A: Sweden v Belarus
17.00 on Sky Sports 1
With Zlatan gone it’s fair to say Sweden have the appearance of a team in transition. The player touted by many to replace him is a recent Dortmund signing, 17 year old Alexander Isak but he has been left out of this squad despite having already scored an international goal in a friendly against Serbia in Abu Dhabi. France are the favourites in this group with the Netherlands expected to recover from their embarrassing qualifying failure for Euro 2016, to take the play-off berth. As the Pot 5 team of the group, Belarus shouldn’t present much of a problem, and with the French and Dutch both playing away later in the evening, it could be an opportunity for the Swedes to apply pressure on the top sides.

World Cup Qualification, UEFA Group B: Portugal v Hungary
19.45 on ITV4
Over the last decade, Portugal have had some tough qualifying groups for major tournaments, so they probably feel, as newly crowned European Champions, they are due a group that includes the Faroe Islands, Latvia and Andorra. They’ve certainly taken advantage of playing against the minnows, scoring 16 in their three games against them. Those results came after losing their opening match to Switzerland - who top the group with a 100% record. Hungary probably don’t have what it takes to cause an upset in this group but if they get anything in today’s game it could see Portugal having to yet again get to a major tournament through the playoffs.


League One: Scunthorpe United v Bradford City
12.30 on Sky Sports 1
At the start of last month, Scunthorpe were top of League One and had an eight point buffer in the automatic promotion places. Since then it’s all gone wrong for the Iron. No one seems to know exactly why things have suddenly gone to pot but it seems to be a ruinous mix of bad luck, bad play and bad decisions; culminating a couple of weeks ago with former player Josh Wright scoring a 9 minute hat-trick of penalties against them for Gillingham, turning a two goal lead into a 3-2 defeat. Bradford now sit one place above in the playoff spots and have lost fewer games than any other side in the division. With Millwall and Bolton to come next for Scunthorpe, they will certainly need something here to get anything out of this season.

World Cup Qualification, UEFA Group F: England v Lithuania
17.00 on ITV
The first half of the midweek friendly with Germany could give a fair amount of encouragement for England fans (well, maybe only those with incredibly short memories). The evening was largely an over-indulgent international testimonial for Lucas Podolski, but Gareth Southgate’s experimental side put on an impressive performance without spoiling the party. The new-shaped England should perform even better against what is a very average Lithuania side - and no, you shouldn’t read too much into the point they won at Hampden Park. The Lithuanians provide somewhat familiar opposition for England, having, along with Slovenia, shared the same qualification group for Euro 2016. They met at Wembley almost two years ago to the day with the Three Lions running out 4-0 winners with goals from Rooney, Welbeck, Sterling and a debut-making, 70th minute substitute Harry Kane.

You can stick with Group F action later into the evening as Scotland take on Slovenia (19.45 on Sky Sports 1 and Sky Sports 5) but I’ll be switching to...

World Cup Qualification, UEFA Group C: Northern Ireland v Norway
19.45 on Sky Sports 2
Lars Lagerbäck is, err, back. The man in charge of Iceland’s Euro 2016 campaign has been coaxed out of retirement to take over the omni-shambles that is the Norwegian national team, and this is his first game. Their attempt to qualify for a tournament for the first time this century has already seen them being beaten in Azerbaijan and their only win came in a game at home to San Marino, which was 1-1 with quarter of an hour to go. Northern Ireland have every right to be confident going into this game; they haven’t lost a home qualifier since 2013. With Germany dominating this group, it’s a scramble for the play-off spot and as it stands at the moment, Northern Ireland’s only real competition for that place is the faltering Czech Republic.

Whatever you watch, have a great weekend


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