SATURDAY September 5th

Argentina vs. Brazil 8:30 p.m. at Rosario (all start times in Eastern Standard time)

It’s not code-blue yet but this is certainly crunch time for Argentina, in fourth place and five points back of South America’s other blue-ribbon side. Match kicks off a huge week for Argentina, with a Wednesday date following at third-place Paraguay. Argentine coach Diego Maradona: “We have the dream of playing the World Cup and we’ll be almost in if we beat Brazil.” And if they don’t, Maradona will be that much closer to going back to the talk-show circuit.

Denmark vs. Portugal 2 p.m. at Copenhagen

Since starting with a goalless draw Denmark has won five in a row including a 3-2 decision at Lisbon. No margin of error here for Portugal.

Slovakia vs. Czech Republic 2:30 p.m. at Bratislava

Slovaks stunned Czechs 2-1 in Prague in April. Czechs have since replaced their coach, and injury issues cloud their outlook further, but an away win here against a traditional rival would be an enormous boost.

Gabon vs. Cameroon 10:30 a.m. at Libreville

Cameroon’s Indomitable Lions haven’t scored in their first two matches and manager-for-hire Otto Pfister resigned in June. Now comes a pivotal match, first of a home-and-home with the surprise group leaders who have never qualified for the finals.

Costa Rica vs. Mexico 10 p.m. at San Jose

Three points separate fourth-place Mexico with leaders Costa Rica in a very tight CONCACAF group. Mexico’s road form has been poor, with three losses in as many games this stage, a must win for Mexico here can you say intense.

Switzerland vs. Greece 2:30 p.m. at Basel

It won’t be the most free-flowing of games, but there’s much at stake with Greece ahead on goal differential, the teams holding matching 4-1-1 records.

Poland vs. N. Ireland 2:30 p.m. at Chorzow

Tussle for runner-up spot behind group leaders Slovakia, with the Northern Irish three points ahead of the home squad, so Poland’s hopes on a finals berth rest heavily on a win here.

WEDNESDAY

England vs. Croatia 3 p.m. at London

England, a perfect 7-0 in qualifying, get a chance to avenge a defeat to Croatia that cost them a spot at Euro 2008 and would clinch a WC ticket with a win come Wednesday evening.

Serbia vs. France 3 p.m. at Belgrade

Top two in Europe’s Group 7 square off. Leaders Serbia get a splendid opportunity to wrap up a finals berth in front of the home crowd against a blue-ribbon European side.

Brazil vs. Chile 9 p.m. at Salvador de Bahia

Chile are second in the group right now, but a reality check looms here against a side that dominated them 3-0 at Santiago last September.

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