San Nicola, Italy (Sports Network) – The defending World Cup champions did not get off to a great start in qualifying for Euro 2008, earning just one point from two games. However, Italy has won its last two matches and faces a surprising Scotland team on Wednesday that is tied atop Group B with France.

Italy and France were the clear favorites to advance when the groups were announced, but the Italians are currently in fourth place and need to start making up ground. Italy has a chance to cut into their five-point deficit at the San Nicola on Wednesday with a big win.

The Scots have been the surprise of the group to this point, posting a 4-1 record through five games, including a 1-0 win against France. Scotland is coming off of a 2-1 win against Georgia on Saturday and needed a Craig Beattie goal in the 89th minute to grab the maximum points.

Despite having an inferior roster to teams like France and Italy, Scotland has made up for its lack of talent with hard work. However, that will only get the club so far, and Italy’s strike force of Luca Toni, Alberto Gilardino and Alessandro Del Piero could give the visitors problems.

With a number of qualifying matches still to play, Scotland must keep its strong form going to hold off a competitive field, while Italy needs to take all three points to get back into the race and avoid an embarrassing exclusion from the competition next summer.

In the group’s other two contests, third-placed Ukraine tries to keep itself in the race with a home fixture against Lithuania, while the bottom two clubs, Georgia and the Faroe Islands, hook up at Lokomotivi Stadium.

Poland moved to the top of Group A on Saturday with a big 5-0 win, and now tries to keep that momentum going as they welcome Armenia. Finland sits just two points behind Poland with a game in hand and will keep their qualification hopes on track with a win at last-placed Azerbaijan. The biggest game of the group on Wednesday is between Portugal and Serbia. The two clubs are level on points in third place, just three behind leaders Poland, and get together at Stadion Crvena Zvezda.

Group C has been dominated by Turkey, which has won all four of its matches to this point. The club welcomes fourth-placed Norway to Commerzbank Arena on Wednesday with a chance to put further distance between themselves and the rest of the pack. Greece is sitting in second place in the group and visits Malta, while the bottom two clubs, Hungary and Moldova, meet up.

The Czech Republic dropped into second place after Saturday’s 2-1 defeat to Germany and tries to rebound with a win against Cyprus that would bring the team back level on points with the Germans. Ireland also has a chance to move into a tie at the top if they can beat Slovakia on home soil. Lowly San Marino will try to pick up its first points of the campaign when they visit Wales.

Group E features just two contests on Wednesday, as Israel welcomes Estonia to Ramat Gan Stadium and England faces a must-win against Andorra. Israel and England played to a 0-0 draw on Saturday, leaving both teams level on points in third place. Both teams need wins on Wednesday to stay in contention, but England manager Steve McClaren needs a win just to try and avoid being fired.

The top two teams in Group F get together at Windsor Park as Northern Ireland hosts Sweden. Sweden is a perfect 4-0 in qualifying thus far, and holds a two- point advantage over their hosts. Northern Ireland is coming off of a 4-1 thrashing of Liechtenstein on Saturday, but just doesn’t have enough firepower to contend with the powerful Swedes. Liechtenstein will try to avoid its fifth loss in five games when they host Latvia and Spain goes for its second- straight win with a home contest against Iceland.

In Group G, the top three teams meet the bottom three teams and could put even more separation between themselves and the bottom half. Group-leaders the Netherlands travel to fifth-placed Slovenia, second-placed Romania, just three points behind the Dutch, host bottom-feeders Luxembourg and Albania visits Bulgaria, who trail Romania by only one point.

  • Ghost Rider

    Luca Toni comes good with a brace. Bravo Luca! Bravo!

  • Scotty

    Toni remind’s me of the big Dutchman for Madrid he’s hard to knock off the ball, quick on his feet for a big player, & has the nose of a shark when it comes to finding the back of the net. Italy has a good team with a rock on the back line in Cannavaro. Still, they should count their blessings that they have Toni as I don’t think anybody else would have scored for them tonight. I think next up for them if I’m correct is France, but to be played in Italy. That, will be an interesting one. So it was a match watched with mixxed emotions for me as it was hard to pull for either one. My dad’s not to happy but my Mom is so I’ll just sit back to watch the fireworks.

  • Ghost Rider

    Actually Scotty, France plays Ukraine next in France. Italy plays Faroe Islands then Lithuania. If France drop points vs Ukraine. Italy could be back in good position in the table.

  • Stanley

    Italy stinks so far. They are still in thrid place in their group. Faroe Island’s? Since when do they have a soccer team? What a joke!

  • wolfen

    dear stanley,i know everyone has their opinion,but how does Italy stink right now? they stumbled against a revengeful France after the serie A was a month behind (thus France was more prepared,but no excuses),and have since won three straight,lastly against scotland and it could have been worst than 2-0,regardless it’s Italy and France advancing as anticipated,PS I ‘ll bet the Italians will return the favor on France when they play in Italy.take care

  • Stanley

    Well wolfie the only way it could have been worse for the Scots’ is if Toni bagged more goals as I watched that game & Toni was the only Italian player that I saw that had a nose for goal. Scotland didn’t play that bad it’s just they played lack luster up front & couldn’t find the back of the net if their lives’ depended on it. You say no excuses, but what’s funny is you put your foot right back in your mouth with the first Euro France/ Italy encounter saying France was more prepared. Yeah right!… Wrong again on your part! Italy still being in 3rd place in their group being it’s the defending world champions, Italy does mean they stink! By the way, what’s with this revengeful France nonesense? Keep politics’ out of it. It’s just a game.

  • Zoltan

    Italy, France, England, whatever. They all have not been playing at the level they should. They all stink & are lazy as well as overpaid dunces. All three teams, they are exactly the same. I hope they all do bad & crash & burn. They are not hungry for glory anymore. Watching these teams play is about as exciting as watching golf.

  • wolfen

    dear Stanley: the only one who put his foot in his mouth is you, I suggest you read before you criticize,obviously you need to grow up. First of all the revenge I talked about is for losing the world cup on penalties to Italy, I never talk about politics,sencond if you knew anything about soccer the Italian serie A started a month later than the others due to the scandal clean up and I STILL STATED THAT IT WAS NOT AN EXCUSE!(France deserved it),so do your self a favor and read!!I love the game and I give credit where it’s due, I’m not Italian but I give them credit for such a small country to win 4 World cups is not easy,you’ll see who will be there at the end, as always Italy,France,Spain,England,Germany and Holland,they are all good and any of them can win the european cup,and by the way, if I’m not mistaking,Italy is only two points away from first place,I won’t be surprised if they win the group.Whatever take care, and enjoy this great game.

  • Stanley

    What does (sencond) mean? & for the record. Italy, England, Spain, France all stink at the moment. That’s …STINK!

  • giova * * * *

    Actually Stanley, none of the teams you mentioned stink. Your ignorance of the game baffles me. Yes, England isn’t playing that great but watch them to reach the Euro semi-finals. Italy is back on track and just manhandled Scotland and for the record DiNatale had 2 clear cut chances on virtual breakaways and missed the net both times by a whisker. On a good day DiNatale would have scored both times. The final score should have been at least 4-0. Spain looks pretty good and you can never count out a country like France although Henry being out to injury will probably hurt their place in the division. Stanley I think the word stink is too harsh for the 4 teams who are in the top 10 in the world. It seems to me you just want to incite arguements.

  • Stanley

    All four teams are still ranked near the bottom of their groups, no excuses. This means they …Stink!

  • U. Albert

    So you love & respect we English now giova? Is that so? Hmmm, your work in progress then I take it. I’ve seen your post here lad regarding English football mate & I must say they had nothing to do with respect for the English. I happen to have a real & honest view of how my country has played so for to qualify for Euro. Other than a bright ray of light with Stevie G’s performance the other day my country has played very poor. Just as your’s has as well & also Spain, even Holland being at the top of their group have not shown all they can do. I think what people here have said with coming down on the known European powers not doing so well as being the known powers people expect more from them all the time as they have all the so called best players’ in their national sides. When your considered the best you have to prove it day in & day out. If you can’t you will catch stick. It matters not where these players’ come from. England, Spain, Italy, Holland. They are professionals & being professional they are in the public eye & taking heat now & then is part of the package so no excuses for any of them to be anything but top of their groups.

  • Stanley

    Albert put things in a very real & clear way. When a team, or a group of teams’ are considered the best they have to prove it everyday. When you have a slump & poor form your going to catch heat. All this goes with the high profile multi million dollar contracts the players’ from all the heavy hitting teams of Europe get. When I said teams like England, Italy, Spain stink at this point is because they are sitting low in their groups & should be doing much better.

  • Santiago

    Italy, England, & Spain all have to win the remainder of their games in Euro qualifying to come out on top of their groups & I do not see that as being as easy task when we consider how tough some of the smaller European countries are playing. I’m keeping my eye right now on both Northern Ireland & also the Republic of Ireland as they both keep coming out of games with win’s. You people should take a good look at Northern Ireland’s David Healey. He’s already netted nine goals & it’s still just the middle stages of Qualifying. He’s on fire right now.