So with that in mind here are the key games in Friday's UEFA 2012 fixtures.
I am probably in the minority but I don't mind International breaks as long as they are filled by qualifying matches that actually mean something as opposed to mostly annoying friendlies!
9 a.m ET/ 6 a.m. PT --- Group F, Israel vs. Greece. This is the first kickoff in UEFA qualifying. The Greeks have a game in hand on Israel and share the group lead with Croatia. Israel's next game is at Croatia so they have to win. And if Greece wants to win the group then a win here is probably necessary since the Croats face Malta today.
1:30 p.m. ET/10:30 a.m PT --- Group D, Belarus vs. Bosnia-Herzegovina. These are the two teams chasing France in this group and this is the first of a doubleheader between the two in this round of games. Belarus (12 points_ has played a game more than the Bosnians (10) so they probably need 4 points from these two fixtures to ensure they go through (though Romania on 8 points is still a threat to grab the runner-up spot).
2:45 p.m. ET/ 11:45 a.m. --- This is when most of the games will be played and there are some real beauties in here. Germany-Austria is a local derby but mainly the most interesting thing about this game is that a Germany win will make them the first team to qualify for the tournament. Northern Ireland has a must win game at home with Serbia. Both teams have a game in hand on Slovenia in the race for second behind Italy in Group C. I would also put up Cyprus-Portugal up as one to watch in the hopes this happens again.
The absolute game of the day for me is in this time slot and it's in wide open Group B. Ireland vs. Slovakia. These are two of the teams tied at the top of the group with 13 points. The other co-leader, Russia, is at home with Macedonia. This really is a make or break week for the Irish with a trip to the Luzhniki to play Russia on Tuesday. Kirsten's beloved Repre get Armenia at home next so even though a draw would leave both teams likely trailing Russia, a draw probably suits the Slovakians more than the Irish. That said, I think Giovanni Trappatoni will know how the group sets up and he knows a win is pretty necessary for their chances to qualify. If the Irish are a bit more expansive then Slovakia certainly has the attacking intent to take advantage. If there is one game I wish was on TV it would be this one.