Heading into their respective World Cup Qualifiers on Friday, both Italy and Belgium knew that wins over their respective opponents would leave them within a point from mathematically qualifying for next summer’s World Cup. While both went about it in very different ways, both Italy and Belgium won their respective games and are all but virtually assured qualification for the World Cup.
Italy took on Bulgaria in a game played in Palermo. Entering the game, both teams were certainly aware that right before their match, Armenia once again pulled off a surprise win on the road by defeating the Czech Republic 2-1 in Prague. With that result, Italy knew a win over the Bulgarians would leave them eight points clear of the Czechs and seven clear of the Bulgarians with two games left to be played in qualification.
In the end, Italy was able to do enough as they would take all three points and are now mathematically qualified for the World Cup. As for Belgium, they too had a chance to put themselves within a point of being mathematically qualified for the World Cup with a win over Scotland in Glasgow.
Unlike the Italians who started off well but were made to suffer, the Belgians showed no such issues. Controlling the game against Scotland while showing a mastery and calmness of a team who appeared to be coming of age in such an important game, coach Marc Wilmots and his team cruised to a 2-0 win.
Belgium now are five points clear of second-place Croatia, whom they play in their next qualifier on October 11 in Zagreb. With a point from that game, Belgium are mathematically assured a spot in the World Cup. But thanks to their performance against Scotland, they have put themselves in a situation where they have virtually qualified.