World Cup Qualifying wrap-up: Blind gets the boot, England march on
Another international break has come and gone, and Gareth Southgate’s impressive start as England manager continued with another three points picked up in Group F and a solid performance against reigning World Cup holders Germany.
They’re now as short as 1/33 to top their group come the end of the campaign, but plenty happened elsewhere over the last three days.
Ladbrokes News runs through the major talking points from an action-packed weekend of international football…
A convincing 3-1 victory in Luxembourg ensured France remained top of their group, while Arsenal striker Olivier Giroud snuck into France’s top 10 all-time leading goalscorers with a brace.
The Netherlands have it all to do if they’re to turn things around in their final five games and as things stand they’ll have to leapfrog both Sweden and Bulgaria for second-spot to give themselves a chance of qualifying for Russia. They’ve also sacked Danny Blind, and it’s likely Louis van Gaal will replace him.
Euro 2016 champions Portugal continue to play catch-up with Switzerland, who are yet to drop a point in this group. The pair both recorded home wins against Hungary and Latvia respectively, and they’re beginning to edge clear of the rest of the group.
No huge shocks in this group, although Andorra did end an 11-year and 58-game wait for a competitive point with a hard-fought draw against the Faroe Islands.
Germany conceded their first goal of this qualifying campaign against Azerbaijan, although they still managed to storm to a 4-1 victory.
That puts them five points clear of Northern Ireland in second-place, who comfortably defeated a struggling Norway side 2-0 in Belfast. Norn Iron’s hopes of making Russia remain very much alive.
Just four points separate the top four here and victories for Austria and Serbia this weekend have made this arguably the tightest group. We’re anticipating a tense second-half to the campaign for all the countries involved.
Republic of Ireland and Wales played out a 0-0 draw on Friday night, but the main talking point was Seamus Coleman’s horrific injury.
Hopefully he’ll be back to play a part in ROI’s road to Russia!
Poland scraped past Montenegro on Sunday evening, in turn stretching their lead at the top of this group to six points.
It’s hard to see anyone catching them, and plenty of points shared amongst those behind them make it unlikely that whoever finishes in second will qualify for Russia.
England are now the only side yet to concede a goal in this qualifying campaign, and Southgate’s men looked comfortable in their victory over Lithuania.
That means the Three Lions are now four points clear at the top, while Scotland will be looking to leapfrog Slovenia and Slovakia into second-place over the coming months.
That 1-0 win for the Scots could be crucial to their chances of progressing out of the group.
Spain and Italy both won on Friday night and are locked on 13 points, with Israel four points off them in third place.
Providing we don’t see a major meltdown in either camp, it’s hard to see a way past the leading pair here. The battle will be for top spot.
No side has scored more than Belgium in this qualifying campaign, but they were surprisingly held to a draw by Greece, despite playing against 10-men for much of the second-half and nine for the final few minutes.
Those two points dropped have allowed Bosnia and Herzegovina a chance to edge closer to the top after thumping Gibraltar 5-0.
Greece themselves remain in with a shot at winning this group and are just two points off the Belgians.
Euro 2016 heroes Iceland are going strong here and have a great chance of qualifying for another major tournament.
That’ll likely be in second-place though, as Croatia continue to impress at the top of the group. They’ve conceded just one goal and won four of their five games so far, so it’s unlikely they’ll budge any time soon.
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