WC qualifier Preview: Russian test delays holiday for Portugal
Image: Cristiano Ronaldo (left) with teammate Pepe
Photographs: Gonzalo Arroyo/Getty Images
Czechs seek good news against Italy after floods
The Czech Republic hope a rousing performance against leaders Italy on Friday can cheer up a nation hit by serious floods and re-energise their faltering push for World Cup qualification.
Michal Bilek's side complicated their World Cup hopes after drawing against Bulgaria and losing to Denmark in their last two home games with a 3-0 win in Armenia in March at least keeping them third in Group B.
Friday's match in Prague is expected to go ahead despite floods that have left swathes of the country submerged and threatened parts of the capital's historic centre.
"We will try to raise the spirit of the people by beating Italy," goalkeeper Petr Cech told a Czech newspaper.
Euro 2012 runners-up Italy lead the group with 13 points from five games, ahead of Bulgaria on 10 from six and the Czech Republic with eight points from five matches with five more to play.
The top side qualify directly for Brazil 2014 with the runners-up facing a playoff.
Image: Head coach Michal Bilek of Czech Republic issues instructions during a Czech Republic training session
Photographs: Christof Koepsel/Getty Images
Belgium out to prove they are a top European side
Belgium will seek to prove visiting Serbian coach Sinisa Mihajlovic right on Friday with his view that the hosts are among the three strongest soccer nations in Europe.
Much-fancied Belgium have not qualified for a major tournament in more than a decade, but lead European World Cup qualifying group A, albeit only on goal difference from Croatia.
The Belgian camp is not short of confidence after an impressive 4-2 friendly victory over the United States last week and the squad were kept busy taking questions about possible club transfers and Mihajlovic's comment.
"Individually, only Germany and Spain are better than us," was the view of defender Jan Vertonghen.
Coach Marc Wilmots sought to downplay comparisons, saying Croatia, fourth in FIFA's rankings, could say the same thing, with Belgium only 15th.
With four matches remaining, a victory would guarantee Belgium at least second place in the group and a likely spot in the European playoffs for the World Cup finals in Brazil.
Image: Belgium's coach Marc Wilmots (left) looks on next to Thorgan Hazard during a training session
Photographs: Laurent Dubrule/Reuters