With just over one year until 2022 FIFA World Cup gets underway, the penultimate round of UEFA qualifying saw the creation of several crunch final qualifier showdowns as we round up the penultimate round of qualifiers across Europe.
As several teams looked to wrap up qualification and avoid a final round decider, others looked to keep their Play-Off dreams alive in a packed chaotic penultimate round of UEFA Qualifying for 2022 FIFA World Cup, which is set to get underway in just 12 months time.
All five home nations of England, Northern Ireland, Republic of Ireland, Scotland and Wales were all in action as we start our roundup of all nine groups with Group A.
Portugal moved top of Group A despite finding themselves held to a goalless draw away to Republic of Ireland, in which the visitors were reduced to ten men following Pepe’s red card as they now face a crunch showdown against Serbia in their final qualifier with the winner automatically qualifying for Qatar.
Luxembourg sit third in the group after Gerson Rodrigues’ brace helped The Red Lions to a 3-1 away victory in Azerbaijan.
Pablo Sarabia’s 26th minute penalty helped Spain scrape a narrow away win in Greece and move top of Group B.
Sweden consequently dropped to second after suffering a shock 2-0 defeat in Georgia as Khvicha Kvaratskhelia snatched a second-half brace for the hosts.
Spain and Sweden will therefore meet in La Cartuja in their final qualifier with the winners of that tie qualifying automatically, although a draw would be enough for Spain.
Italy remain top of Group C on goal difference as Giovanni Di Lorenzo’s header cancelled out Silvan Widmer’s opener for second-placed Switzerland, although Jorginho missed a late penalty for the reigning European champions who were forced to settle for a 1-1 draw.
Northern Ireland meanwhile benefitted from Benas Satkus’ headed own goal to defeat Lithuania at Windsor Park, which saw the Green and White Army go third above Bulgaria who weren’t in action.
Four goals from Kylian Mbappe on top of Karim Benzema’s brace and strikes from Adrien Rabiot and Antoine Griezmann saw reigning world champions – France thrash Kazakhstan 8-0 to seal automatic qualification.
Marcus Forss’ 29th minute opener helped ten-man Finland thrash Bosnia & Herzegovina 3-1 in Zenica to climb to second, although they need to beat France in their final qualifier and hope that Bosnia defeats Ukraine to secure the Play-Off spot.
Belgium secured automatic qualification for next year’s World Cup with a 3-1 victory over Estonia as Christian Benteke provided a goal and assist.
Aaron Ramsey’s brace coupled with efforts from Neco Williams, Ben Davies and Connor Roberts saw Wales climb to second with a 5-1 home victory over Belarus, which places their seeding hopes for the Play-Offs into their own hands as they face Belgium in their final qualifier.
Goals from Andreas Skov Olsen, Jacob Bruun Larsen and Joakim Maehle saw Group F leaders, Denmark thrash Faroe Islands 3-1 despite having already qualified.
Nathan Patterson and Che Adams netted in a clinical victory for Scotland away to Moldova to seal a Play-Off spot for Steve Clarke’s Tartan Army.
Louis Schaub’s brace in-helped Austria fight back to defeat Israel 4-2 in Klagenfurt as both eliminated teams contested a dead rubber match.
Late comeback goals from Ilija Vukotic and Nikola Vujnovic saw Montenegro fight back to snatch a 2-2 draw at home to Group G leaders, Netherlands who had taken the lead through Memphis Depay’s brace.
Second-placed Turkey consequently cut their deficit to Netherlands down to two points ahead of their final qualifiers against Montenegro and Norway respectively, as Halil Dervisoglu’s brace helped thrash Gibraltar 6-0 in Istanbul.
Norway meanwhile were held to a shock goalless draw by Latvia as they missed the chance to go top with one match left, which means that they must win their final qualifier away to Netherlands and hope that Turkey slip up in Montenegro if they’re to automatically qualify.
Aleksandr Yerokhin’s brace helped Russia thrash Cyprus 6-0 in Saint Petersburg to stay top of Group H.
Lovro Majer struck twice in a ruthless 7-1 away mauling of Malta as Croatia stayed two points behind Russia, ahead of a crunch showdown in their final qualifier in Split.
Slovakia twice fought back to snatch a 2-2 draw at home to Slovenia despite both teams being eliminated from the qualification battle.
England now need just one point from their final qualifier to secure qualification after Harry Kane delivered a hat-trick in the Three Lions’ 5-0 thrashing of Albania at Wembley Stadium, which saw Kane become England’s highest goalscorer in competitive matches.
Poland remain three points behind in second after thrashing Andorra 4-1 in an away win as Robert Lewandowski scored twice.
Dominik Szoboszlai’s brace alongside goals from Daniel Gazdag and Balint Vecsei saw Hungary thrash rock-bottom San Marino 4-0 in Budapest.
Germany manager, Hans Flick became the first Die Mannschaft boss to win his first six games in charge as the four-time World Cup champions thrashed Liechtenstein 9-0 in Wolfsburg, in which Leroy Sane and Thomas Muller netted twice despite having already sealed automatic qualification for Qatar.
Enis Bardhi struck a hat-trick as North Macedonia thrashed Armenia in Yerevan to put themselves in control of the Play-Off qualification spot of Group J.
Romania were held to a goalless home draw by Iceland in Bucharest which consequently saw them slip to third and out of the Play-Off qualification spot.