After all the matches were completed yesterday, the scenario in the European qualifiers is now much clearer. Three new teams have officially clinched their place in Brazil’s tournament next year while there will be some playoff spots that won’t be decided until the very last minute of action next Tuesday.
Going into Friday’s action, only Italy and the Netherlands have already clinched their place in the World Cup. After yesterday’s results, however, now Belgium, Germany and Switzerland have secured their berth to be part of soccer’s biggest stage the next year.
The Belgian side secured the first place of Group A with a spectacular win against Croatia, who are also locked in the playoffs. An enormous performance from Romelu Lukaku, who netted twice, was enough to secure the Red Devils their return to a World Cup after 12 years.
Group B will decide their playoff representative on Tuesday. Italy is already qualified as the winner of the zone and there are four teams with chances going into the final week of the schedule: Bulgaria (13 pts), Denmark (13), Armenia (12) and Czech Republic (12) will battle for the remaining spot.
Meanwhile, Germany did the same thing on Group C after defeating an Ireland side that have no chances to qualify once again. Sweden clinched a playoff spot following an emotional win against Austria thanks to a goal near the end of the match.
Things were very tight on Group D coming into Friday’s action, and the huge victory from the Netherlands against Hungary cleared things up a bit. Turkey and Romania have 16 points each, and Hungary were left with two units less, so things will be definitively decided next week.
Switzerland, on the other hand, were assured of the top spot in Group E following a 2-1 victory against Albania, and they will also be involved in the decision to see which team goes into the playoff round. The Swiss will host Slovenia (15 pts) while Iceland (16 pts) will go against Norway in a Scandinavian matchup.
On Group F, Russia is only one point away from qualifying directly to the tournament. They have 21 points and only need one more to secure their spot in Brazil in a zone that also includes Portugal. Cristiano Ronaldo and company weren’t able to get past the draw against Israel and will surely appear in the playoffs in November.
Group G already have Bosnia and Greece as their no. 1 and 2 teams. Both sides have 22 points, but there’s a huge goal differential advantage for the Balkan country: +22 against +6. Unless Bosnia suffer a disaster of epic proportions against Lithuania, they will qualify and the Greek side will go into the playoffs.
Group H will decide everything in the last matchday, but England and Ukraine have an advantage. The British side have 19 points and the Ukrainians have 18 as they sit in the two top spots. Montenegro is third with 15 and they need a miracle to get into the playoffs: a Ukraine loss against San Marino, something that’s highly unlikely.
In Group I, Spain also need one more point to qualify as they have 17 points in what has been a somewhat disappointing performance from the current World Champions. France are in second place with 14 positives and if they both record wins on Tuesday, they will both qualify. Spain will host Georgia and the French will do the same thing with Finland.
As it turns out, there are still a lot of things left to be decided in Europe. There will surely be some great matches next week, as the final week will have lots of emotion from start to finish.