In group, A Sweden and France lie on top with 13 points each with the Netherlands struggling to keep up with 10 points. They desperately need a result against France in the Stade de France on Thursday night. Sweden are looking comfortable so far and with a win in Bulgaria they could be hard to catch. Meanwhile in group B Switzerland have a 100 percent record with Portugal only a bit behind. Hungary on 7 points look too far behind and the race for first will be down between Portugal and the Swiss. The rest in the group are very far behind, Faroe Island with 5, Andorra and Latvia with 4 and 3.
Germany are running away with it in group C with also a 100% record. Northern Ireland are doing very well in second place but are 5 points behind the leaders and they could be the unlucky second place finisher to not qualify. Czech Republic are 4 points behind and are not looking convincing, as well as the other contenders, Azerbaijan, Norway and San Marino. Northern Ireland have an easy trip to San Marino while Germany will be hosted by the daring Czechs on Friday. Then on Monday the Germans will host Norway while the Czechs travel to the North of Ireland. Group D is one of the interesting groups since Serbia and Ireland both lie level on points on top. Wales and Austria also lie level in third and fourth on 8 points, 4 points behind the leaders. So, this group is still very much open. Wales host Austria in a crucial game for the two sides. A loss for one of them will mean they will have slim chances of qualifying. Ireland travel to Georgia in an interesting encounter, always a close match between the sides. Serbia face an easy task against Moldova before heading to face Ireland in the most crucial fixture of the group.
Poland are certainly taking advantage of their easy group in group E with 16 points in total, Montenegro 6 points behind who are the least likely country to qualify into the playoffs. Poland visit Denmark on Friday and a win there would sure them qualification into next year’s world cup. Montenegro need a win in Kazakhstan to keep their chances alive for what will be their first world cup appearance ever.England are on top in group F but only by 2 points. Slovakia and Slovenia are not far behind and England must not make any mistakes at this stage of the campaign. They have an easy game against Malta before hosting Slovakia which will be a tasty game.
Group G is an interesting group with Spain and Italy but it already decided that these two will both be taking top spots, only a matter of who will take the first spot as they are both square on 16 points. Italy are undefeated in Euro and World cup qualifiers dating back to 2006. Spain has not lost since 2014.Unbeaten Belgium are cruising it in group H, with also 16 points, Greece 4 points behind and Bosnia on 11. The battle for second is still going, Greece will host Estonia while Bosnia visit Cyprus, one slip and either team can be gone from the race.Group I is turning out to be a very interesting to watch as there remains 4 countries with qualification hope. Croatia and Iceland have been good so farm both on 13 points. However, Turkey and Ukraine, very strong teams, are on 11 points each and still fancy themselves qualifying. It is all over for Finland and Kosovo who both remain on 1 point. Iceland are looking for their first world cup participation.
Other groups around the world
In Africa, there will be 6 countries qualifying. There are 20 teams in total, divided into 5 groups of 4 and only the winner of the group qualifies. It is still early days as all teams have only played 2 out of 6. Nigeria is looking confident in group B with already a 4-gap margin over Cameroon, who are a good team. DR Congo, Ivory Coast, Burkina Faso and Egypt are al looking good so far in these early stages on top of their groups. In North America, there are 6 countries remaining 3 qualifying and the 4th battling it out in a playoff against an Asian country. Mexico, Cosa Rica and USA look comfortable in qualifying, with Panama in the spot for the play-offs.
In South America Brazil has already qualified for the World cup. 4 qualifying with the 5th place country added to the play-offs. New Zealand will face the Solomon Islands in a two-legged tie in the OFC final, only one from Oceania qualifying. The last remaining group is AFC, containing the Asian countries. 4 teams qualify with one team added to the play-offs. Iran has already qualified with 2 games remaining. Japan, Saudi Arabia and South Korea are looking likely to qualify while Australia are struggling in their group and may have to settle for a play-off spot.