France beat Finland 3-0 in its last Group game, but Spain’s win over Georgia ensured Les Bleus were consigned to second, while Cristiano Ronaldo and his Portugal teammates finished a point behind Fabio Capello’s Russia in Group F. The one UEFA group runner-up that will miss out on a playoff spot due to its worst record against the first-, third-, fourth- and fifth-placed sides is Denmark due to there only being eight spots up for grabs. Group B’s race for second between four teams – Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Armenia and the Danes – went down to the wire, and the way the countries took points off each other worked against them in the end. Sweden was the only team heading into the final round of matches to be guaranteed to be in the playoffs, with Germany a distant Group C winner, no teams challenging for second place and the bottom-placed team already decided. The second team to know its playoff fate was Greece, as Bosnia and Herzegovina won to deny the Euro 2004 winner automatic entry to the World Cup. Croatia already bagged second place in Group A and was able to avoid missing out on the playoffs despite losing 2-0 to Scotland in its final game on Tuesday. Iceland, which has never reached a major international tournament in its footballing history, will be delighted to have a crack at World Cup 2014 qualification after Slovenia was defeated 1-0 by Group E winners Switzerland, meaning the Scandinavians’ 1-1 draw with Norway was enough to finish second. Turkey’s 2-0 defeat to Netherlands ensured that Romania finished ahead of its Group D runner-up challengers, and Fatih Terim’s men slipped from second to fourth, with Hungary hopping into third with its 2-0 win over Andorra. The final spot on Tuesday went to Ukraine, which hammered San Marino 8-0 but was pipped to first place in Group H by England. The draw for the two-legged ties will take place Oct. 21 in Zurich. The seeded sides are Croatia, Portugal, Greece and Ukraine, with France, Sweden, Romania and Iceland set to be the unseeded four sides. Sports & Recreation
France, Portugal among eight nations set for UEFA World Cup qualifying playoffs
Credit: Reuters/Max Rossi By Alberto Sisto and Cyril Altmeyer ROME/PARIS | Tue Oct 15, 2013 8:17pm BST ROME/PARIS (Reuters) – A decision by Alitalia’s biggest shareholder, Air France-KLM, on whether to participate in an emergency share issue for the near-bankrupt Italian airline is evenly balanced, a source close to the Franco-Dutch carrier said on Tuesday. Air France-KLM is crucial to Alitalia’s chances of keeping flying, but the source told Reuters that the Italian carrier’s survival plan fell short of its requirements. “The position of Air France-KLM is 50:50 at this stage,” the source said. “The business plan presented last week was not suitable, the conditions were not fulfilled, particularly in terms of debt restructuring.” However, the source added that Alitalia was “of strategic interest” to Air France-KLM, which owns 25 percent of the airline that has not made a profit for more than a decade. Air France-KLM (AIRF.PA) approved the 300 million-euro ($408 million) share issue along with Alitalia’s other investors during a meeting that lasted until the early hours of Tuesday. But it is not obliged to participate in the cash call, and has always said it would attach strict conditions before giving any help. Analysts suggest Air France-KLM is dragging its feet in order to secure stricter restructuring concessions from the Italian government and other shareholders. The cash call, part of a wider bailout, is seen as only a stop-gap solution before talks on a possible tie-up between Alitalia and Air France-KLM. Massimo Sarmi, the head of Italy’s post office, which has agreed to commit 75 million euros to the capital increase, was flying to Paris to discuss matters with Air France, a second source told Reuters. An Air France-KLM spokesman declined to comment. Alitalia came close to being grounded last weekend after its major creditor Eni (ENI.MI) threatened to cut off fuel supplies. Rome has patched together an emergency 500 million-euro fund, persuading the state-owned post office to take part and banks Intesa Sanpaolo (ISP.MI) and Unicredit (CRDI.MI) to provide guarantees of up to 100 million euros.