European World Cup Qualifiers Set To Get Underway This Week

There has been a lengthy period of nothing but domestic football for a few months now but now we take a break from domestic action and instead focus on the start of the 2022 World Cup Qualifiers in Europe. Ten groups and 55 teams will be competing for a place in the finals in Qatar, which will be played in the European winter of 2022.

Due to the shrunken calendar, this means that many teams will be playing at least three World Cup qualifiers during this current international break. One on Wednesday or Thursday this week (matchday 1), with another game on Saturday or Sunday (matchday 2) and the final game played on Tuesday or Wednesday the following week (matchday 3). Teams that only have two fixtures, may play a friendly on their spare date.

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European World Cup Qualifying

A total of 13 teams will qualify for the World Cup Finals from Europe. The ten group winners will qualify outright.

For the remaining three spots, the ten group runners up will enter a play off tournament along with the 2 Nations League group winners that finished outside the top two of their World Cup qualifying group. These 12 teams will be drawn into three groups of four.

Teams will then play a semi-final (at a venue determined by draw) and the winners going on to contest the final. The three winners from each ‘path’ will then be the final three qualifiers from Europe.

The Group Stage will be played across 10 matchdays in 2021, between March and November 2021, with the playoffs being played on two dates in March 2022.

Group Draw

  • Group A – Portugal, Serbia, Republic of Ireland, Luxembourg, Azerbaijan
  • Group B – Spain, Sweden, Greece, Georgia, Kosovo
  • Group C – Italy, Switzerland, Northern Ireland, Bulgaria, Lithuania
  • Group D – France, Ukraine, Finland, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kazakhstan
  • Group E – Belgium, Wales, Czech Republic, Belarus, Estonia
  • Group F – Denmark, Austria, Scotland, Israel, Faroe Islands, Moldova
  • Group G – Netherlands, Turkey, Norway, Montenegro, Latvia, Gibraltar
  • Group H – Croatia, Slovakia, Russia, Slovenia, Cyprus, Malta
  • Group I – England, Poland, Hungary, Albania, Andorra, San Marino
  • Group J – Germany, Romania, Iceland, North Macedonia, Armenia, Liechtenstein

Fixtures For Matchday 1

Matchday 1 takes place this week on the 24th and 25th March. Games kick off either at 5pm (stated) with all other ties kicking off ay 7.45pm GMT on either of the two days.

Wednesday 24th March

  • Estonia v Czech Republic (5pm)
  • Turkey v Netherlands (5pm)
  • Belgium v Wales
  • Cyprus v Slovakia
  • Finland v Bosnia Herzegovina
  • France v Ukraine
  • Gibraltar v Norway
  • Latvia v Montenegro
  • Malta v Russia
  • Portugal v Azerbaijan
  • Serbia v Republic of Ireland
  • Slovenia v Croatia

Thursday 25th March

  • Bulgaria v Switzerland (5pm)
  • Israel v Denmark (5pm)
  • Andorra v Albania
  • England v San Marino
  • Germany v Iceland
  • Hungary v Poland
  • Italy v Northern Ireland
  • Liechtenstein v Armenia
  • Moldova v Faroe Islands
  • Romania v North Macedonia
  • Scotland v Austria
  • Spain v Greece
  • Sweden v Georgia

What Are Our Best Bets For The Home Nations On Matchday 1?

The four Home Nations, plus the Republic of Ireland are all in action on Matchday 1 and they have a real mixed bag of fixtures. Let’s now take a look at the games each face and give you our top tips for each one.

Belgium v Wales

I don’t think any team has a more difficult task than taking on Belgium in Brussels in this set of games but that is the task facing Wales this week. Gareth Bale’s return to form and fitness is a welcome boost but in truth, this looks a huge task. Belgium are a quality side and will qualify from their group I am sure and as such, I don’t hold out much hope for Wales here. Back Belgium to win this one by a 3-0 scoreline which is a 7/1 shot at bet365.

Serbia v Republic of Ireland

The Irish don’t have a great record against Serbia. In five games against them they are yet to beat them and have draw three and lost two of those games. The last a crucial World Cup qualifier back in September 2017. Serbia on home soil is always a tricky game for even the best Europe has to offer and the Republic are some way from that at the moment. The Irish lack of firepower is a massive problem here and I can’t see them solving it in Belgrade. Take Serbia to win 2-0 at 6/1.

England v San Marino

Of the five nations, England have by far the easiest option as they take on San Marino at Wembley in a game that England should win comfortably. The bookmakers seem to feel a result between 5-0 and 7-0 is most likely but I am a little wary of this as Gareth Southgate’s England teams have not been scoring too many goals of late. As such, I am more prone to err on the side of caution here and back the 10/1 option of a 4-0 England victory.

Italy v Northern Ireland

Northern Ireland have had some memorable campaigns in European Championship qualifying over the last few campaigns, but I think their World Cup dreams look to be very tough to bring to realisation. Italy are the favourites in their group and starting with an away trip to the four-time World Cup winners is a very difficult task. Italy look much more like their old selves nowadays and I am backing them to win this one well. Take Italy to land a 3-0 win at 5/1.

Scotland v Austria

Having been drawn into a group with Denmark and Austria, Scotland will feel they have a chance of finishing in the top two of this group, but if that is to happen, they need to win both their home games against Denmark and Austria and likely pick up a draw or a win away from home against one or both too. This is where the Scots have fallen down lately and Austria are a tricky side. I am backing them to pick up a draw at Hampden this week so the 1-1 at 11/2 is a very good option here.

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