Judgment day is here for World Cup play-offs contenders| Rob Bagchi and Geoff Pruce

Rob Bagchi and Geoff Pruce: The World Cup play-off contenders are getting ready for decisive week and it's not clear cut who will make it to South Africa

Greece v Ukraine

Shevchenko targets finals glory chance

In what is a hard tie to call, Ukraine are looking to qualify for successive World Cups, while Greece would be appearing for the first time in 16 years. Ukraine were the only side to take any points from the Group Six winners, England, and the Greeks were a point behind Switzerland, who won Group Two. Greece's coach, Otto Rehhagel, five years on from winning Euro 2004, is hampered by the absence through injury of Vassilis Torosidis, Christos Patsatzoglou, Giourkas Seitaridis and Giannis Armanatidis but believes his side will rise to the occasion. "I have confidence in my squad," he said. "They have to go out on the pitch, show their skills and play beyond their limits." Having fallen at this hurdle for the 1998 and 2002 World Cups, Ukraine's captain, Andriy Shevchenko, says he is desperate for "a ticket to South Africa". With only Serhiy Nazarenko missing injured, they perhaps look the better bet.

Portugal v Bosnia-Herzegovina

Portugal ready for 'game of our lives'

Portugal, semi-finalists three years ago, limped into the play-offs after a shoddy campaign in which they drew with Albania and took only one point off the group winners Denmark. That was achieved with a fit Cristiano Ronaldo, who will miss both these games with an ankle injury. Little wonder the coach, Carlos Queiroz, says "this seems to be the game of our lives". Expect the wingers Simão and Nani to try to get as many crosses in as possible for the Brazilian-born striker Liédson to exploit the defensive lapses that led to Bosnia conceding five goals to Spain in their last Group Five match. Although the Bosnians are frail at the back, they hit 25 goals during the group stage and Edin Dzeko, scouted repeatedly by Arsenal, scored nine. The coach, Miroslav Blazevic, has a plan that will look eerily familiar to Queiroz. "The Euro 2004 final, in which Greece beat Portugal 1-0, is the way we should play," he said. "We have to stifle them in midfield and keep going forward whenever possible."

Russia v Slovenia

Miserly Slovenia a real test for Hiddink

Guus Hiddink, the Russia coach, who has taken each national team he has managed to every major tournament, selects from a full-strength squad. As overwhelming favourites to qualify after a group stage in which they lost to Germany home and away but won seven and drew one of the other eight matches, the Dutchman has spent most of the week dampening down the expectation that the game will be a cakewalk for his side. His only real worry seems to be the lack of games his preferred centre-forward, Roman Pavlyuchenko, has played for Tottenham this season. Hiddink may opt for Alexander Kerzhakov or Pavel Pogrebnyak to partner Andrey Arshavin. Slovenia conceded four goals in 10 games during qualifying and have a defence and midfield brilliantly organised by the coach, Matjaz Kek. The main weakness of this disciplined and workmanlike team is their reliance on Zlatko Dedic to create chances for the Köln striker Milivoje Novakovic. If Hiddink manages to marshal his side to block this supply line, Russia's task becomes all the easier.


Rob Bagchi and Geoff Pruce

The GuardianTramp

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