Culture Learnings of World Cup Qualification

Jak sie masz? For the first time in recent memory, there are actually positive thoughts coming from the England national team's camp on the eve of a World Cup qualifier. A month ago the English journos would be finding any possible way to slag off the Three Lions on the eve of a match with Kazakhstan. Now, after an impressive 4-1 away win to Croatia, it's England-mania all over again. (Naturally, the last time England had a passing connection to Kazakhstan, Borat and his moustache helped lead to Paul Robinson's all-time worst own goal.)

OK, some are worried about Fabio Capello's England being over confident. It seems England is the classic example of a team that plays to the level of its competition. Americans can get to see this for themselves as the qualifier isn't in pay-per-view, instead on Fox Soccer Channel live at noon Eastern. (FSC follows with Estonia hosting European champion Spain.)

Elsewhere in UEFA Group 6, Croatia goes to Ukraine, which has won its first two matches to tie for first place with England.

More highlights around UEFA qualification after the jump.
Group 1 -- Sweden v. Portugal. Will will Cristiano Ronaldo be fit enough to play and where exactly will he play?

Group 2 -- Switzerland v. Latvia. The best of a bad bunch. The Swiss lost to Luxembourg, nuff said. (With Greece, Israel, Latvia, Luxembourg, Switzerland and Moldova, Group 2 is clearly the NFC West of UEFA Groups. Putrid.)

Group 3 -- Poland v. Czech Republic. So, yeah, apparently Poland is going to be allowed to play this after its FA was banned by the government for corruption.

Group 4 -- Germany v. Russia. Probably the best game for fans of attacking soccer and it's live on GolTV on Saturday at 2:45 p.m. Eastern. The game is played in the 70,000 former Westerstadion in Dortmund, which should only increase the atmosphere. The Germans will have to go with either uncapped Tim Weise or Rene Adler in goal, after Robert Enke broke his hand. The potential mix of Andrei Arshavin and Ray Hudson might just blow the speakers out of my television.
Group 5 -- Meh. Nothing that noteworthy as the "big" teams -- Spain, Turkey and Belgium -- don't play each other.

Group 7 -- Romania v. France. Yes, a repeat of the worse game of Euro 2008, the 0-0 draw that put fans from Bucharest to Brest to sleep. Lithuania is your surprise group leader with six points and plays at Serbia. This group will probably go down to the final matchday.

Group 8 -- Bulgaria v. Italy. Only two games on the slate. Italy is without Gianluigi Buffon, Andrea Pirlo, Mauro Camoranesi, Fabio Grosso, Marco Materazzi and Vincenzo Iaquinta. It means U.S.-born Giuseppe Rossi probably plays.

Group 9 -- Scotland v. Norway. Neither team can afford to fall too behind in the standings of the smallest qualification group. The Tartan Army better be out in full voice.

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