World Cup 2014 qualification as it stands takes a look at the state of play on each continent as nations scramble to reach the showpiece event in Brazil
By Stefan Coerts

With yet another round of international matches being played on Tuesday, the qualification campaign for the 2014 World Cup is slowly reaching crunch time.

In Europe, traditional powerhouses such as Italy, Germany, Netherlands and Spain are all well on their way to making it to next year's showpiece. Nevertheless, others like England, France and Portugal find themselves in serious trouble with only a few games left, and could be forced to go through the play-offs.

Elsewhere, Argentina are among the South American teams that have reasons for optimism, but 2010 World Cup semi-finalists Uruguay are in danger of missing out on qualification.

In Africa and the Concacaf zone, there is still everything left to play for for the majority of the contenders, while Japan are just one point away from becoming the first Asian team to seal their route to Brazil.

Qualification places:

In Group A, Croatia and Belgium are the two teams fighting for top spot, and thus automatic qualification for next year's tournament. They each have 16 points from six encounters and the match between both sides in Zagreb on October 11 will most likely be decisive as to which side will be condemned to the play-offs. Scotland, meanwhile, became the first European team to be eliminated following their loss against Serbia on Tuesday.

Elsewhere, Italy are sitting in pole position to win Group B. They hold a three-point lead over second-placed Bulgaria, while having a game in hand, too. The Bulgarians face a difficult task to hold off Czech Republic and Denmark in the fight for second place.

Germany will fancy their chances of winning Group C, following their double win over Kazakhstan, but Sweden are not out of the race for top spot just yet, as they can close the gap with the Mannschaft to two points if they win their two games in hand. First place seems to be out of reach for Austria and Republic of Ireland, but they could still lay their hands on the play-off spot if they win their remaining games.

Group D is basically decided in Netherlands' favour after Tuesday's results as Louis van Gaal's men need to win only two of their remaining four games. Hungary and Romania will have to fight it out for second spot, while Turkey still have an outside chance of making it to Brazil.

Switzerland will be hopeful of topping Group E come the end of the qualification campaign, but they have a tough task on their hands as Albania and Iceland are trailing the Swiss by only two points. Norway cannot be written off completely, with seven points from five games, but they cannot afford to slip up in their remaining matches.

Furthermore, Russia will be confident of making it to Brazil thanks to a flawless campaign to date. They may hold just a one-point lead over Israel and Portugal, but they also have two games in hand and could pull away from the rest of the group. Cristiano Ronaldo's Portugal salvaged a crucial draw against Israel last Friday, but still have four crucial games coming up if they are to secure second spot.

Group G is a three-horse race between Bosnia-Herzegovina, Greece and Slovakia, with the former sitting in pole position at this point. Nevertheless, there are still five games to go and the away match against the Slovakians on September 10 could prove to be a crucial encounter.

England find themselves in real trouble in Group H following Tuesday's draw against leaders Montenegro. The Three Lions still have four matches left to make amends and close the two-point gap, but they cannot afford to slip up as Poland and Ukraine are ready to take advantage of any minor mistake.

Finally, reigning European and world champions Spain got back on track for qualification on Tuesday as they beat rivals France 1-0. La Roja now top the table again, holding a point-lead over les Bleus with just three more games to go.

Qualification places:
4.5 (inc. play-off)

Things are looking good for Argentina at the moment as Lionel Messi and his team-mates top the table, with 24 points from 11 games, after their hard-fought 1-1 draw against Bolivia.

Furthermore, Ecuador will be optimistic about their chances of making it to the World Cup as well, after beating Paraguay 4-1 on Tuesday, while Radamel Falcao's Colombia are well on their way too, despite the recent loss versus Venezuela.

There is also fierce battle going on for the last automatic qualification place. Chile and Venezuela currently sit joint fourth in the table, but Uruguay and Peru still have every chance of making it to Brazil next year as well. Oscar Tabarez's side were dealt a blow on Tuesday, though, when they were beaten 2-0 by Chile.

Qualification places:
5 (Play-off winners)

Ethiopia and South Africa are fighting for top spot in Group A, with the former holding a two-point advantage in first place. The 2010 World Cup hosts will be hopeful of turning things around in the remaining three games, though, in order to secure a play-off spot.

Elsewhere, Tunisia are leading Group B with nine points from three games following their win over Sierra Leone, with the latter and Equatorial Guinea both having to settle for just four points.

Cote d'Ivoire are leading their section after a comfortable win over Gambia at the weekend, but Tanzania are only one point off the pace in Group C halfway through round two.

Zambia and Ghana are fighting it out for top spot in Group D, and the match on September 6 is likely to decide matters. The Ghanaians will be high on confidence, though, after their 4-0 win over Sudan.

Congo have dominated Group E so far, winning all three games and appear to be on their way to the play-offs without any noteworthy problems.

AFCON winners Nigeria have been struggling in Group F and currently share top spot with Malawi after they were held to a draw by Kenya on Saturday.

Egypt will be confident of winning Group G having collected nine points from three games and they now hold a five-point lead over second-placed Guinea.

Group H is a tighter affair, with Algeria and Mali sitting joint first, and Benin in third place only two points off the pace.

Meanwhile, Cameroon are sitting in pole position to qualify from Group I, with six points from three games after Samuel Eto'o's double helped them past Togo on Saturday, ahead of Libya and Congo DR.

Finally, Senegal sit atop of Group J with five points, but Liberia, Angola and Uganda still have every chance of making it to the play-offs as well, as the gap between first spot and last spot is only three points.

Qualification places:
3.5 (inc. play-off)

Panama have somewhat surprisingly made the best start with five points from three encounters. After a 1-1 draw against Jamaica on Friday, they managed to bag the full three points versus Honduras on Tuesday (2-0).

However, nothing is decided just yet as there are still seven more games to be played, and the gap between Panama and Jamaica in last place is only three points. Costa Rica, USA and Honduras currently sit joint-second, while Mexico complete the section in fifth place following their scoreless draw against rivals USA.

Things will get a lot clearer on matchday four, when Panama host favourites Mexico, and Clint Dempsey's (pictured) USA travel to Jamaica.

Qualification places:
4.5 (inc. play-off)

Uzbekistan are dreaming of making it to the Word Cup for the first time in history as they sit atop of Group A with 11 points from six games after their narrow 1-0 win over Lebanon on Tuesday. Korea Republic have a game in hand and sit second in the table with 10 points, while Iran are the number three in the standings with seven points. Qatar can still make it to at least the play-offs, too, despite their loss to the Koreans this week, while Lebanon have little chance of making it to Brazil.

Elsewhere, Japan are on the verge of sealing qualification for the 2014 World Cup as they need just one point from their remaining two matches. They could have sealed the deal on Tuesday, but a missed spot kick from Yasuhito Endo saw them lose 2-1 to Jordan. Australia will be hopeful of securing second place in the table, but missed the chance to take a big step toward Brazil, as they had to settle for a 2-2 draw versus Oman. Iraq complete the section with five points from as many games.

Qualification places:
Play-off v Concacaf

New Zealand have already won the Oceania qualification campaign after they proved to be too strong for New Caledonia, Tahiti and Solomon Islands.

They will now have to wait and see who finishes fourth in the Concacaf zone, with that side to be their opponents in the play-offs.