World Cup 2018 qualifying: Final standings, play-off seeding revealed
We now know nine of the 13 European teams who will join hosts Russia at next summer’s World Cup finals – with eight of nine runners-up (sorry, Slovakia) set to contest the play-offs.
A quick reminder of how the process works: the nine group winners all advance to the World Cup finals. The eight runners-up with the best record against the teams placed first, third, fourth and fifth in their groups will go into the play-offs.
That means one unlucky runner-up has to miss out entirely – and, with four defeats to their name, Slovakia are the poor souls who will not feature in the play-offs.
Courtesy of Wikipedia, here’s how that mini-league finished:
Belgium, Germany, England, Poland, Iceland, Serbia, Spain, France and Portugal are the teams to have won their groups, while Italy, Denmark, Republic of Ireland, Croatia, Northern Ireland, Sweden, Switzerland and Greece are the teams in the play-offs. Slovakia, runners-up in England's Group F, needed Greece to slip-up against Gibraltar on Tuesday night to sneak into the top eight. It didn't happen.
|Croatia||Republic of Ireland|
Perhaps harshly, the play-offs will be seeded, keeping apart Italy, Switzerland, Croatia and Denmark. The draw takes place on October 17, with the two-legged ties taking place from 9-14 November.
The seedings aren't officially announced until Monday, but we - and plenty of other trustworthy sources - have done the maths in advance.
Here are the final standings from all the groups.
Antoine Griezmann, FranceGetty Images
France went into their clash with Belarus chasing a victory to guarantee them a place in Russia, but Sweden’s defeat in the Netherlands ensured they would have progressed regardless of their result. Still, Didier Deschamps' side won 2-1 anyway.
Portugal players celebrate.Eurosport
Portugal snatched top spot off Switzerland with a 2-0 victory on the final day. Somewhat ridiculously, the Swiss have to go into the play-off despite winning nine out of their 10 games. Imagine if they missed out now...
Mats Hummels of Germany after the FIFA 2018 World Cup Qualifier between Germany and NorwayGetty Images
Germany sealed qualification in style with a 3-1 win in Belfast and a 5-1 win against Azerbaijan. Northern Ireland have finished as one of the eight best second-placed teams - despite their 1-0 defeat to Norway - and they'll have a great chance in the play-offs.
Serbia welcomed Georgia to the Stadion Rajko Mitic in the knowledge that a win against the second-from-bottom side would be enough to win the group, and so it proved with Aleksandar Prijovic hitting a 74th-minute winner in a 1-0 win.
Republic of Ireland’s James McClean celebrates scoring their first goalReuters
That meant it was a straight shootout between Wales and the Republic of Ireland in Cardiff – a shootout settled by a James McClean strike with 57 minutes gone that saw Martin O'Neill's men made the play-offs.
Poland's forward Robert Lewandowski (L) celebrates scoring his sides's third goal during the FIFA World Cup 2018 qualification match between Poland and KazakhstanGetty Images
Poland secured qualification following their 4-2 win over Montenegro on Sunday. Denmark's point against Romania made sure of a play-off place.
Harry Kane of England (R) in discussion with team mate Raheem Sterling of EnglandGetty Images
England secured qualification with a dour 1-0 win against Slovenia but Scotland's 2-2 draw with Slovenia handed second spot to Slovakia - 3-0 winners over Malta - but results in other groups meant that they missed out on a play-off spot.
Spain's midfielder Asier Illarramendi (L) celebrates his goal with Spain's forward Aritz Aduriz and Jose Callejon.Eurosport
Spain were already certain of a top-two finish and confirmed their place at the World Cup finals on Friday night when they beat Albania 3-0, and a 1-0 win against Israel made it nine wins in 10 games for Julen Lopetegui's men.
Italy, who drew 1-1 with Macedonia on Friday, beat Albania 1-0 but had already been handed a guaranteed play-off place when Bosnia lost to Belgium on Saturday night.
Hazard celebrates victory.Getty Images
Belgium topped the group, dropping just one point en route to Russia, with Greece completing their journey into the play-offs with a 4-0 win over Gibraltar.
Croatia's Luka Modric attends a training sessionReuters
This looked an extremely competitive group before a ball had been kicked and so it proved, but it was Iceland who emerged as group winners courtesy of a 2-0 win over Kosovo.
Croatia, who sacked Ante Cacic and replaced him with Zlatko Dalic on Saturday, beat Ukraine 2-0 courtesy of a double from Andrej Kramaric to grab a play-off spot.