, the two Group F favourites, will engage in battle out east on 12 October 12 and in Iberia on 7 June 2013.
England, France and Italy are in Moldova, Finland and Bulgaria respectively as European Zone qualifying for the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil™ begins on 7 September 2012, before reigning champions Spain kick off their quest away to Georgia four days later.
Click this ‘European Zone qualifiers’ link to see the full list of fixtures for all Groups except C and D, who have been granted until 16 December to finalise their match calendar.
, the two Group F favourites, will engage in battle out east on 12 October 12 and in Iberia on 7 June 2013.
Craig Levein paid for a poor run of results when he was sacked as Scotland manager by the Scottish Football Association (SFA) on Monday.
"The Scottish FA tonight announces that Craig Levein has been relieved of his duties as Scotland National Coach," said an SFA statement.
"The board of the Scottish FA has taken the decision primarily due to the disappointing results in the FIFA World Cup Brazil 2014™ Qualifiers, which have culminated in Scotland being bottom of the group after four matches."
Former Scotland defender Levein guided the Scots to just three wins in his 12 competitive matches in charge after replacing fellow former international George Burley in 2009. Their chances of reaching the finals of a major tournament for the first time since the 1998 FIFA World Cup in France are hanging by a thread.
Scotland U-21 coach Billy Stark will take caretaker charge of the senior side for next week's friendly away to Luxembourg.
Following a meeting of the SFA board at Glasgow's Hampden Park, chief executive Stewart Regan said in a statement: "We are taking this decision with real sadness. Craig has worked hard to bring success, and has been thoroughly professional in his approach to the job.
"He has achieved a great deal with the team and in other areas, such as the performance strategy. However, he would be the first to agree that football is a results-driven business. For that reason we have relieved Craig of his duties with immediate effect.
"After the Luxembourg match, the board will meet to begin the process of identifying and recruiting the next national coach to take us forward. We will give ourselves time, given our fixture schedule, to find the right person for the job.
Recent defeats by both Wales and Belgium had piled the pressure on Levein. But he'd lost the support of many fans early in his time as Scotland manager by opting for a 4-6-0 formation - playing without a recognised striker - in a 1-0 defeat away to the Czech Republic, Scotland's main rivals for a UEFA EURO 2012 play-off place.
However, the scale of the problem confronting Scotland is that a full-time successor to former Hearts and Dundee United boss Levein will be their eighth manager already this century.
Former Scotland midfielder Gordon Strachan, currently out-of-work, has long been tipped as the favourite to replace Levein. Strachan, who played under Alex Ferguson at both Aberdeen and Manchester United, has previously been in charge of Glasgow giants Celtic and has also managed in the English Premier League at Coventry and Southampton.
Source : Fifa
It is safe to say that Ukrainian football has had a testing past few months. First of all they were one of the two hosts for UEFA EURO 2012, followed by the legendary Andriy Shevchenko hanging up his boots and then the departure of coach Oleg Blokhin, who has taken over the reins of the country's most successful team, Dynamo Kyiv.
It is now up to the nation's remaining experienced players to steer the eastern Europeans into a new era, and one of those with this responsibility on his shoulders is captain Anatoliy Tymoschuk. The 33-year-old, who is the most-capped Ukrainian international of all time, has already enjoyed a storied career both internationally and on the domestic scene, enjoying success with Shakhtar Donetsk, Zenit St. Petersburg and Bayern Munich.
The three-time Ukrainian footballer of the year spoke to FIFA.com about the changes in the national team, his current struggles in Munich and what he still hopes to achieve as his career winds down.
FIFA.com: Anatoliy, last summer's UEFA EURO 2012 ended with Ukraine going out in the group stages. How did you feel about that?
Anatoliy Tymoschuk: Looking at the results, the outcome was somewhat unfortunate for us. However, we must see what the EURO gave to Ukraine. We are satisfied with the standard of the competition and how it went. I talked with players of other national teams and they were all satisfied with the level of competition in Ukraine. Overall our team has taken a lot from this tournament.
You are Ukraine's new captain, following in Andriy Shevchenko's footsteps. What can you say about him?
I played many years with Andriy in the [national] team and only have the best things to say about Shevchenko as a professional. He is one of the best Ukrainian players ever and winner of the "Ballon d’Or" in 2004. He was one of the best players in the world and scored lots of goals for AC Milan and Dynamo Kyiv. We communicate a lot and actually we are good friends.
Before Shevchenko retired, you were already vice-captain. How proud are you now you're the one leading the team?
It is a great responsibility when you wear the captain's armband and take on the role of team leader, even though this is nothing new for me – I've been captain on plenty of occasions for both club and country. The most important thing is to support your team-mates every single minute, and that's particularly crucial for the national team, where you're only together for a limited period of time. You have to set a good example to get the most out of the team.
What can Ukraine achieve in the future?
At the European Championship we showed that we are strong as a team. We now have a new generation of players, while fighting spirit and dedication have always been very important for the Ukraine team. The quality and skill of the players we have could increase our chances of achieving some significant victories. The first task today is to get to the finals of the World Cup. At this stage it would be very good result for our team.
You began your 2014 FIFA World Cup™ qualifying campaign with a 1-1 draw in England, which was surely a good result?
Everyone knows how tough it is to play the hosts in the legendary Wembley. We played our football, we were not afraid, showed some heart and the team worked as a unit. We could have won, but also we could have lost, so generally it was a fair result.
That was followed by a draw in Moldova and a defeat at home to Montenegro...
We have a new generation of players and this is the time for the younger ones to gain experience and grow stronger – by playing matches for the national team and for their clubs. It will be a big plus if we get to the World Cup, but only once we are already there can we set the next target. I am confident that our team has it in them to achieve this result.
In the national team you are one of the key players but at your club you spend most of your time on the bench. This must be a difficult situation for you.
Of course it is difficult, because for the first time in my career I am getting so little game time at my club. There is quite a lot of rivalry for places in the first XI at Bayern. I do my best to prepare so that I am ready to start from the first minute of the game. It depends on the coach – he decides the squad. I can agree with it or disagree. However, I know that I have the potential to play the game from the first to the last minute and help the team.
What can Bayern Munich achieve this season?
In my first year in Munich, we won all the trophies except the Champions League, and this season we have already won a Super Cup in Germany, started the Bundesliga with a national record and been first in the league. Over the past three years, Bayern have played twice in the final of the Champions League. We unfortunately lost twice, though in my opinion we deserved to win at least one of those finals. But football is unpredictable and that's why it's interesting. This season we have every chance to win everything, including the Champions League.
If you do not get to play much in the next few weeks, would you think of leaving Bayern?
I am a Bayern player at the moment – the transfer window has closed and I am not a free agent. During the winter break I will have to think about it, consider all proposals and make a decision. Of course, I disagree with the situation in which I am now.
You are 33 now, so how long do you want to keep on playing? I assume that your last club will be one in Ukraine?
I do not rule that out. In Ukraine, it may be only one club - Shakhtar. I would also gladly finish at Volyn where I started my professional career. Lutsk is my hometown and Volyn is my home club, so I will never forget it. But my best years in Ukrainian football were with Shakhtar, so perhaps that is the only club where I could finish my career as footballer. But I am not thinking about the end of my career yet. As long as I feel good and feel strong, I can continue to help my club and the national team.
Source : Fifa
England boss Roy Hodgson feared his team had lost some of their spark during the 24-hour delay to their FIFA World Cup™ qualifier with Poland. The Three Lions left Warsaw grateful for a point after a 1-1 draw.
Wayne Rooney put the visitors in front and missed a glorious chance to double that lead, but Poland were good value for their draw in the end and could easily have had more to show for their efforts than a Kamil Glik equaliser that came after a mistake from Joe Hart.
Hodgson accepted neither side benefited from the postponement caused by Tuesday's deluge. But he certainly felt it affected his players.
"On Monday, after the training session on the pitch, the players were looking very sharp and lively," he said. "I didn't get that impression today. I don't want to give the impression we were hard done by and our opponents weren't.
"But if a game is postponed it is a little bit easier if you are on home soil," he added. "We had that extra day and night in the hotel."
Hodgson labelled the pitch as "dead", which may have contributed to some uncharacteristically sloppy passing, with Michael Carrick among those most affected. "There was no question the pitch was playable but it wasn't suited to quick passing," he said. "Both teams made quite a few passing mistakes. At half-time we were quite surprised how many passes we had sent astray."
The positive, which cannot be dismissed, is that England did not lose and, that UEFA EURO 2012 penalty shoot-out defeat to Italy excepted, remain unbeaten during Hodgson's 11 games in charge.
Their advantage in Group H is almost certain to have have disappeared by the time they next play again in March as second-placed Montenegro, who are just a point behind, face minnows San Marino next month. However, England's durability is something Hodgson is convinced will stand them in good stead.
"When you are in a qualifying group, or you are with a league club, there are days when things don't always go your way," he said. "On those days it is very important you still come away with a result.
"We would have loved to have won it but we didn't produce good enough football to do that," he added. "But we did do enough to avoid defeat and go away with a point."
So many of England's players failed to perform. Rooney was the most obvious example, despite his 32nd England goal, and following his failure to snaffle a chance provided by Manchester United team-mate Danny Welbeck, it was no surprise he was replaced by Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.
"A bit of both," was Hodgson's response when asked whether the reasoning behind his decision was physical or tactical. "There was an element of physicality because it looked as though he was tiring.
"He couldn't reproduce his excellent performance against San Marino and we wanted to get a little bit more life and energy into the central area, which [Tom] Cleverley was capable of giving us alongside [Steven] Gerrard and Carrick, so Wayne moved wider. Then, when we thought he was tiring we felt it was the right moment to bring on Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, who gave us some fresh legs."
Hodgson believed that move worked, although Poland looked equally likely to snatch a win at the death.
Source : Fifa
Roy Hodgson is not concerned about his England team finding themselves in a 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil™ qualification dogfight.
Wednesday's draw in Poland means the Three Lions will lose their narrow advantage in Group H should Montenegro, as expected, win their game in hand against San Marino in November.
Having already dropped two points against Ukraine at Wembley last month, few now believe England will be able to simply cruise towards the finals in Brazil in 2014.
Indeed, should they lose to Montenegro on 26 March in their only meaningful qualifier before next autumn, there will be a huge question mark over England's presence in South America.
However, Hodgson is confident his players have the character to meet such challenges - and may even be better for it.
"If it's a dogfight, it's a dogfight. There's nothing wrong with that," he said. "The good thing is we know we can stay and take part in a dogfight.
"We took part in a few dogfights during the Euros and we certainly dug in against Poland and showed the right sort of character and determination. "There will be some groups where one team shoots away and others where it's going to be quite close and I still think we will improve.
"But I think you'll find that come November we'll be very much in the mix. And if sometimes you've got to fight your way for something, rather than just sail through, that can help.
"Russia and Holland sailed through to the Euros but neither of them got out of their groups. Italy went there with loads of problems, we were led to believe, not least politically - and ended up in the final."
In fairness to Hodgson, his side have continually shown their battling qualities, and did so again in Warsaw to emerge with a point when they could easily have been beaten.
What they lack, and have done throughout his 11 games in charge, is a touch of class.
Cohesion must also be an issue when you have used 34 players in the space of five months, 25 of them more than once. "It is a lot," said Hodgson. "But it wouldn't be a fair criticism to say we've chopped and changed around.
"It's more a case of looking at several players to see if they can start to worry some of those who are up in 80 or 90 caps. And I think we are quite close to bedding a team down."
There is some truth to Hodgson's words, but in other ways he is miles off.
Italy's UEFA EURO 2012 qualification record was eight wins and two draws from 10 games - Spain won all eight matches and all 10 on the road to South Africa 2010 - so there is a correlation between qualifying form and tournament performance.
Best formation yet to be settled
More pertinently, the age-old question of how to get the best out of Wayne Rooney remains.
In addition, the absence of a physical driving force in midfield was apparent until Tom Cleverley was switched inside, whilst the loss of John Terry has created a massive hole at the back.
Impending returns from injury for Jack Wilshere, Chris Smalling and Phil Jones are awaited with anticipation. On top form, all three would be very useful additions.
As it presently stands though, their ability has to be taken on trust and in Wilshere's case in particular, after 16 months out, he has to prove himself all over again.
There is time though, before that trip to Podgorica, where England lost a two-goal lead and Wayne Rooney lost his head 12 months ago, and Hodgson needs to use it wisely. The alternative is too grim to contemplate.
"It would be teaching my grandmother to suck eggs if I was to stand up in front of the players and tell them what they might be missing," said Hodgson. "They would regard that as slightly insulting.
"There's a lot of football still to be played and the bottom line is that this is not an easy group. It would have been lovely to have got off to a flyer and be sitting here with 12 points.
"But you don't get what you want by asking for it. You get what you want by playing for it. Ukraine played very well at Wembley and deserved their point. Poland played well and deserved their point.
"If you'd said to me at the start, given the circumstances, that we'd have eight points and be unbeaten at this point, I'd have been happy to accept it."
Source : Fifa
Sevilla striker Alvaro Negredo hopes his two-goal salvo against Real Mallorca caught the attention of Spain coach Vicente del Bosque.
Negredo twice netted equalisers as Sevilla battled back to beat Mallorca 3-2 in last night's La Liga clash at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan.
Those goals took Negredo's tally for the season to six in eight La Liga matches and the 27-year-old hopes his form has not gone unnoticed by Del Bosque.
Negredo was part of Spain's successful UEFA EURO 2012 squad but has not been called up by Del Bosque for the last five internationals.
Negredo told reporters: "This is the only way to get into the national squad, scoring goals and working well. I'll be hoping for a call from Del Bosque, and if not, I'll continue working hard."
Source : Fifa
Poland failed to pull off an historic win over England on Wednesday, a day after their FIFA World Cup™ qualifier had to be rescheduled due to a waterlogged pitch, but for home fans the 1-1 draw had a taste of victory.
Wayne Rooney sent the Poles' morale sinking 15 minutes from half-time, heading in a corner from Steven Gerrard for his 30th goal in an England shirt. Poland's answer came in the 70th minute, thanks to Torino defender Kamil Glik, courtesy of another header from a corner.
Conscious of their underdog image, they stand 54th in the FIFA rankings to England's fifth, Poland took the game to their rivals from kick off.
The game had been billed as a personal battle between Poland's Borussia Dortmund striker Robert Lewandowski and England's Manchester City keeper Joe Hart, who recently did battle in the UEFA Champions League.
But with Lewandowski failing to shine in the half, it was midfielder Kamil Grosicki who first sent home fans' pulses racing in the 58,000-capacity Kazimierz Gorski Stadium in the eighth minute, though poor control stymied his effort.
England had their chance after 15 minutes but James Milner's lateral pass failed to find a team-mate before Polish goalkeeper Przemyslaw Tyton smothered the ball.
Working hand-in-hand with fellow midfielder, French-born Ludovic Obraniak, Sivasspor's Grosicki continued to seek weak links in the England defence, to no avail.
Manchester City's Milner fed Tottenham Hotspur striker Jermain Defoe up front in the 26th minute, only for the latter to lose the battle with Poland captain Marcin Wasilewski, standing in for the injured Kuba Blaszczykowski.
Two minutes later, Poland powered back, with Grosicki finding Lewandowski in the box, only for newcomer Pawel Wszolek to fail to latch onto the pass.
A minute after Rooney's goal put England up, Grosicki again came up empty.
For the remainder of the half, both teams failed to capitalise on corners and free kicks, while strikes from Glen Johnson and Grosicki went wide minutes from the whistle.
After the interval, Poland upped the pace in a drive to close the deficit, with corner-taking stalwart Obraniak firing over the bar in the 49th minute, followed by Lewandowski ten minutes later.
A lone run by substitute Danny Welbeck then found Tyton floundering, but Rooney failed to make it two.
Poland's traditionally unforgiving fans began to harangue their team, but were suddenly silenced when a 70th-minute Obraniak corner found Glik, who earned his second Poland goal, as Hart came for the ball and was left stranded.
Ten minutes later, they were inches away from pulling ahead, as yet another Obraniak corner found Glik.
Three minutes from time, Milner found himself free, only for Tyton to beat him, before Obraniak pounded at Hart twice, the second time forcing the England keeper into a lunging save.
The Poles had been aware that history was against them having beaten England just once, in the race to qualify for the 1974 FIFA World Cup, when they deprived the English of a berth at the finals, and drawn six times in a total of 17 previous meetings.
Source : Fifa
Just a few weeks ago, Wales were hailed as the Best Mover of 2011 in the FIFA/Coca-Cola World Ranking. For the first time in years, Welsh fans are looking to the future with a degree of justifiable optimism.
John Toshack, one of the nation’s genuine footballing icons, rates as a dyed in the wool Wales fan, but the former Liverpool star will have observed the startling progress of recent months with mixed feelings. His heart and soul are of course devoted to his home country, but on the other hand, he has to show full commitment to his current job.
As FYR Macedonia coach, Toshack will face the Welsh in 2014 FIFA World Cup™ qualifying. “It's a remarkable situation, but I hope we'll see two very good matches,” he exclusively told FIFA.com.