UEFA World Cup Qualifying concludes during this international break with each European team scheduled to have two final matches. Thursday sees the action begin, while Tuesday, Oct. 10 is the final day of qualifiers. Several teams are looking to lock up top spot in their respective groups, while others are looking for a late surge of points.
England hosts Slovenia in the must-watch match on Thursday with the Three Lions looking to stamp their place as Group F winners. Gareth Southgate’s side knows a win would book their place for the 2018 FIFA World Cup and would love to do so on British soil. Their opponents on Thursday, Slovenia, are a tough bunch to break down, allowing only four goals so far in qualifying. Midfielder Josip Ilicic is the man to watch for the visitors, with three goals and four assists so far.
Elsewhere, Group C leaders Germany faces a tricky test in Northern Ireland on Thursday, while Scotland hosts Slovakia in Group F. Friday sees Group D leader Serbia travels to Austria, while Turkey hosts Iceland in Group I action. Group A leader France travels to Bulgaria on Saturday, while Sweden hosts Luxembourg in Stockholm.
Here’s a closer look at all of the UEFA World Cup Qualifiers:
Sweden will look to remain in the hunt for the top place in Group A, as they host Luxembourg on Saturday. The Swedes are a point behind France for the top spot and will need to do their job against their fifth-placed visitors. Emil Forsberg (four goals) and Marcus Berg (four goals) will lead the attack for Sweden. Luxembourg held France to a scoreless draw in September, and is capable enough of frustrating the Swedes as well.
Group leaders France will look to remain atop of the group, as they travel to fourth-place Bulgaria. France was held by Luxembourg last time out in September, but will look for a repeat performance against the Bulgarians this weekend. Antoine Griezmann (three goals) and Olivier Giroud (three goals) lead the line for France. Bulgaria has already beaten Sweden and the Netherlands in qualifying, and will have the home-field advantage on Saturday.
- Sweden vs. Luxembourg – Oct. 7th, 12 P.M.
- Bulgaria vs. France – Oct. 7th, 2:45 P.M.
- Belarus vs. Netherlands – Oct. 7th, 2:45 P.M.
The race for the top spot in Group B will come down to the final two fixtures as Switzerland and Portugal are in the running. The Swiss welcome Hungary to Basel on Saturday, looking to remain unbeaten in qualifying. Switzerland won this fixture, 3-2, in Oct. 2016, and will be favorites to win at home. Haris Seferovic (four goals) leads the Swiss this qualifying campaign. Hungary fell 1-0 to Portugal last time out, but will look to spoil the party on Saturday.
Second-place Portugal knows a victory in Andorra on Saturday will keep them in the hunt for the top spot. Since a 2-0 loss to Switzerland back in Sept. 2016, Portugal has won each qualifier, allowing only two goals during that stretch. Cristiano Ronaldo (14 goals) is the man to watch in this one. Andorra fell, 6-0, to Portugal in Oct. 2016, and will look to avoid a huge defeat.
- Faroe Islands vs. Latvia – Oct. 7th, 12 P.M.
- Switzerland vs. Hungary– Oct. 7th, 2:45 P.M.
- Andorra vs. Portugal – Oct. 7th, 2:45 P.M.
The must-watch match in Group C takes place on Thursday between Northern Ireland and Germany. The hosts are five points back of Germany and will look to trim that deficit to two with a win. Northern Ireland have won five qualifiers in a row, since a 2-0 road defeat in Hannover last October. Germany, undefeated in qualifying, have only allowed two goals in eight matches, while Thomas Muller (five goals) leads the team offensively.
- Azerbaijan vs. Czech Republic – Oct. 5th, 12 P.M.
- San Marino vs. Norway – Oct. 5th, 2:45 P.M.
- Northern Ireland vs. Germany – Oct. 5th, 2:45 P.M.
Group D leader Serbia knows a victory on Friday in Vienna against Austria would clinch the top spot. The Serbs have not lost in qualifying yet, posting a 5-0-3 mark. Aleksandar Mitrovic (six goals) and Dusan Tadic (seven assists) are two key players to watch for the visitors. Austria is in fourth, and all but eliminated from qualification. Marko Arnautovic (three goals) will look to help his team pull the upset at home this weekend.
Second-place Wales is in a good spot heading into their Friday matchup with Georgia. Chris Coleman’s side is still in the fight for the top spot, but also will look to keep distant from third-place Ireland. Back-to-back wins have Wales sitting good, while Aaron Ramsey (two goals) and Joe Allen (two goals) look to add to their tallies. Georgia tied Wales back in Oct. 2016, and will look for similar success at home.
- Georgia vs. Wales – Oct. 6th, 12:00 P.M.
- Austria vs. Serbia – Oct. 6th, 2:45 P.M.
- Republic of Ireland vs. Moldova – Oct. 6th, 2:45 P.M.
Group E leaders Poland will look to strengthen their grip on the top spot as they face Armenia on Thursday. Poland is three points clear of both second and third place, and will be favorites to get the job done on Friday. Robert Lewandowski (12 goals) is the man to watch and is in good form overall. Armenia has lost three qualifiers consecutively, but will look for good support from the home crowd on Thursday.
A huge match takes place in Podgorica on Thursday as Montenegro hosts Denmark. The hosts are in second place with 16 points, while the visitors are third with 16 points as well. Goal differential will also be huge with the teams level on +11. Stevan Jovetic leads the hosts with seven goals and is the target man up front. Denmark is unbeaten in five qualifiers, and playmaker Christian Eriksen is hitting fine form for his country. Eriksen has six goals and three assists in qualifying.
- Armenia vs. Poland – Oct. 5th, 12:00 P.M.
- Romania vs. Kazakhstan – Oct. 5th, 2:45 P.M.
- Montenegro vs. Denmark – Oct. 5th, 2:45 P.M.
The other interesting fixture from Group F takes place in Glasgow as Scotland hosts Slovakia. Scotland is in fourth but know a win paired with a Slovenia loss at England would see them go to second in the group. Scotland is unbeaten in their last four qualifiers, while Slovakia lost their last time out at England in September. Leigh Griffiths leads the Scots with three goals, while Marek Hamsik is the man to watch for Slovakia.
- England vs. Slovenia – Oct. 5th, 2:45 P.M.
- Scotland vs. Slovakia – Oct. 5th, 2:45 P.M.
- Malta vs. Lithuania – Oct. 5th, 2:45 P.M.
Group G leader Spain will look to further stamp their place in the top spot as they host Albania on Friday. Spain’s only dropped points came in Oct. 2016 in a 1-1 road draw at Italy. Three goals conceded in eight matches is pretty astonishing and Spain will look to keep that number the same this weekend. Albania is unbeaten in their last three qualifiers, and will look to leading scorer Armando Sadiku to lead the way.
Second-place Italy will look to remain alive in the race for the top spot as they host Macedonia. The Italians are three points back of Spain, and will need a strong performance on Friday. Injuries to Marco Verratti and Andrea Belotti will hurt the hosts, but they should have no problem at home. Macedonia is unbeaten in their last two matches, and will look to Ilija Nestorovski (four goals) to help spark an upset.
- Liechtenstein vs. Israel – Oct. 6th, 2:45 P.M.
- Spain vs. Albania – Oct. 6th, 2:45 P.M.
- Italy vs. Macedonia – Oct. 6th, 2:45 P.M.
On Saturday, the top match comes from Sarajevo as Bosnia-Herzegovina welcomes Belgium to town. Belgium has already clinched the top spot in Group H, but Bosnia is looking to finish as runners-up in the group. Only four points separates the Bosnians, who are in second, to fourth-place Cyprus. Belgium eased past Bosnia-Herzegovina, 4-0, back in Oct. 2016, and will be favorites to claim three points on the road. Romelu Lukaku leads the Belgians with 10 goals, while Edin Dzeko has five for the hosts.
The late match on Saturday comes from Nicosia as Cyprus hosts Greece at the Neo GSP Stadium. A win for the hosts would see them tied with the Greeks on points, and back in the thick of things for a second-place finish. Greece defeated Cyprus, 2-0, back in Oct. 2016, and will look to do the same again. Cyprus saw a four-match unbeaten run snapped in September, while Greece fell, 2-1, vs. Belgium also last month.
- Bosnia-Herzegovina vs. Belgium – Oct. 7th, 12 P.M.
- Gibraltar vs. Estonia – Oct. 7th, 12 P.M.
- Cyprus vs. Greece – Oct. 7th, 2:45 P.M.
Group I leaders Croatia will look to further distance themselves from Iceland in second, as they host Finland on Friday. The Croatians fell in Turkey their last time out, but will be favorites in Rijeka this weekend. Mario Mandzukic (four goals) and Nikola Kalinic (two goals) are top forwards for the hosts. Finland has won two qualifiers in a row, and will have some momentum coming into this match. Teemu Pukki (two goals) is the man to watch for Finland.
- Croatia vs. Iceland – Oct. 6th, 2:45 P.M.
- Turkey vs. Finland – Oct. 6th, 2:45 P.M.
- Kosovo vs. Ukraine – Oct. 6th, 2:45 P.M.