The penultimate round of European World Cup qualifying came to a conclusion on Saturday, with France, Switzerland and Portugal all ensuring qualification is their own hands, but the Netherlands now need a miracle to have any hope of qualification.
The early kick off in Group A saw
Marouane Fellaini substituted after 29 mins of Belgium's qualifier with Bosnia after picking up a knee injury. Mourinho will be thrilled.— Rob Dawson (@RobDawsonESPN) October 7, 2017
Italy guaranteed playoffs, while Croatia, Scotland and Wales know they are GUARANTEED playoff with a win. IN FULL: https://t.co/YysbEprKtf— Dale Johnson (@DaleJohnsonESPN) October 7, 2017
The other early kickoff in that group saw qualifying rookies Gibraltar suffer yet another thrashing, loosing 6-0 at home to Estonia.
The early kick off in Group A saw Sweden keep the pressure up on group leaders France with an 8-0 thrashing of Luxembourg, with Marcus Berg scoring four and captain Andreas Granqvist netting twice from the penalty spot. That result meant that France went into their match with Bulgaria two points behind the Swedes at the top of the Group.
France did however get the win they needed to keep qualification in their own hands, Blaise Matuidi's third minute goal was enough for a 1-0 win to retake top spot. It was a nervy performance from the French, who endured long spells of pressure from the Bulgarians and saw N'Golo Kante pick up a hamstring injury after just half an hour, although victory at home to Belarus on Monday will secure their place in Russia.
All that means that the Netherlands are all but certain to miss out on a second consecutive major tournament despite a 3-1 win over Belarus. The Dutch can no longer top the group and would need to beat Sweden by seven goals when the two meet on Tuesday to finish second and have any hope of a playoff place.
In Group H, Switzerland and Portugal set up a winner takes all meeting in Lisbon on Tuesday after both emerged victorious from their penultimate matches. Arsenal midfielder Granit Xhaka opened the scoring for the Swiss as they comfortably beat Hungary 5-2.
Portugal meanwhile had a less than convincing result against minnows Andorra. Presumably wanting to rest their talisman, coach Fernando Santos started with Cristiano Ronaldo on the bench. But after a goalless first half Ronaldo was brought on to inevitably rescue the situation, opening the scoring after 63 minutes before Andre Silva added a late second.
Portugal go into that game with Switzerland three points behind their rivals but with a much better goal difference meaning the winner will be guaranteed a place in Russia nest summer.
The early kickoff in that group saw the Faroe Islands draw 0-0 with Latvia.