London: Former world champions Italy and Germany are among seven countries who could confirm their places in next year’s World Cup finals in Brazil when the qualifiers swing back into action after a three-month break.
The Netherlands, three time finalists, could also qualify from Europe with wins on both Friday and Tuesday.
Spain coach Vicente del Bosque, on the other hand, has several conundrums to solve before Friday’s Group I qualifier away to Finland, the trickiest of which is choosing between goalkeepers Iker Casillas and Victor Valdes.
Another headache for Del Bosque is the absence of several key outfield players due to injury, including midfield stalwarts Sergio Busquets and Xabi Alonso, while centre back Gerard Pique is suspended.
With Javi Martinez and Thiago Alcantara also sidelined, Javi Garcia and Mario Suarez are in the squad as cover for Busquets and Alonso and could get the chance to impress and improve their chances of selection for next year’s finals.
England will be without injured strikers Wayne Rooney (head) Daniel Sturridge (thigh) and defenders Phil Jones and Glen Johnson for Friday’s World Cup qualifier against Moldova at Wembley but should still easily pick up another three points on the road to Brazil.
In the Latin American matches, Colombia could be without striker Radamel Falcao when they try to edge closer to ending a 16-year absence from the World Cup finals with a home victory over Ecuador in Barranquilla.
Falcao suffered an ankle injury playing for Monaco. (Reuters)