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From the Faroes to Korea

Thirteen FCB stars on international duty

The new season is five games old, with four league fixtures and one cup tie out of the way, but it is already time for the first ten-day international break. Just under nine months ahead of the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil, qualifying for the global showdown is entering a decisive phase. Thirteen Bayern players are representing their countries this time round, and some could make potentially significant progress towards next summer’s tournament. reviews the match schedule involving FCB men.

Germany and Manuel Neuer, Philipp Lahm, Jérôme Boateng, Toni Kroos and Thomas Müller are aiming to cement their grip on top spot in European Group C. The Germans have 16 points, five ahead of joint second-placed Austria and David Alaba, who visit the Allianz Arena on Friday. Four days later, Lahm and company travel to Torshavn for the meeting with the Faroe Islands, last in the group with no points as yet. On the same day, Austria entertain Ireland in Vienna; the teams are level on points going into the international break.

In Group A, an exciting race for top spot features current leaders Belgium with Daniel van Buyten on 19 points, ahead of Croatia (16) and striker Mario Mandzukic. The Red Devils visit Glasgow on Friday to meet fifth-placed Scotland (5), while Croatia travel to Belgrade for the potentially explosive clash with Serbia (7). The group is likely to be settled on 11 October when the top two meet in Croatia. The Belgians have only the one match this time, but Mandzukic and his team-mates face South Korea in Jeonju next week.

The Netherlands and Arjen Robben can seal their place in Brazil over the next few days. The Dutch, who have a perfect record in Group D with 18 points from six matches, play Estonia (6) on Friday in Tallinn, and travel to La Vella for the meeting with Andorra (0) four days later. If Louis van Gaal’s team win both matches, they will become the first European nation to qualify for next summer’s finals, although Robben is struggling with a knee injury and is doubtful for the qualifying double-header.

The position is almost as good for Xherdan Shaqiri and Switzerland, who lead Group E from Albania (10) and Iceland (9), the next opponents for coach Ottmar Hitzfeld’s team in Berne on Friday, before a trip to Oslo and the clash with Norway (8) four days later. The Swiss currently have 14 points, so two wins and favourable results in the parallel group fixtures could see them through to the World Cup finals by the close of play next Tuesday.

By contrast, Franck Ribéry and France still have work to do before calling a ticket to Brazil their own. Les Bleus and the freshly-crowned European player of the year contest two away matches in Group I, against Georgia (4) in Tbilisi, then in Homel against Belarus (4). The French are currently a point behind reigning world and European champions Spain (11), who are without injured FCB duo Thiago and Javi Martínez.

The men with a long way to travel on this occasion are Dante und Claudio Pizarro. The centre-back is set to feature in two friendlies for Brazil, against Australia in Brasilia this Saturday, and against Portugal in Foxborough (USA) three days later. National captain Pizza and his Peru team-mates are battling for vital points in qualifying. Peru (14 points) take on Uruguay (16) in Lima, before travelling to Puerto La Cruz to face Venezuela (16). Two wins would see the Peruvians firmly back in the race for a place at next summer’s showdown.