This next week or so will see the culmination of the 10-game (8 for those teams in Groups of 5 teams) qualifying competition for European teams for the 2022 World Cup Finals in Qatar.

With just two matchdays left to go, and set to be played from Thursday night through to Tuesday evening, while there are a number of games that don’t have anything riding on them, there are some absolutely vital games set to come across the groups to decide who wins the group, or who makes it into the playoffs.

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Let’s now take a look at the key games coming up in the World Cup Qualifiers this week.

Group A

  1. Serbia (7) – 17 (+8)
  2. Portugal (6) – 16 (+12)
  3. Luxembourg (6) – 6 (-9)
  4. Rep of Ireland (6) – 5 (0)
  5. Azerbaijan (7) – 1 (-11)

Key Fixtures

Matchday 9

  • Azerbaijan v Luxembourg
  • Republic of Ireland v Portugal

Matchday 10

  • Luxembourg v Republic of Ireland
  • Portugal v Serbia

Qualifying Summary

The key game in this group is the Portugal v Serbia clash on Matchday 10, the winner of which will win this group, regardless of the outcome of the Republic of Ireland v Portugal game taking place beforehand.

If Portugal draw or win that game, then they will need just a draw to qualify. If they lose it though, then they’ll need to beat Serbia to qualify as group winners. Either way one of these teams will head to the World Cup as Group Winners, and the runner up will enter the Playoffs with no other team able to catch them.

Group B

  1. Sweden (6) – 15 (+9)
  2. Spain (6) – 13 (+8)
  3. Greece (6) – 9 (+1)
  4. Georgia (7) – 4 (-8)
  5. Kosovo (7) – 4 (-10)

Key Fixtures

Matchday 9

  • Georgia v Sweden
  • Greece v Spain

Matchday 10

  • Spain v Sweden
  • Greece v Kosovo

Qualifying Summary

Greece could force their way into the reckoning here with two wins, but that is unlikely and in truth, it is how they do against Spain that will determine the outcome of this group as I think Sweden will win in Georgia.

That means a draw or defeat for Spain in Greece would make the Spain v Sweden game important only for Spain to confirm a spot as runner up in the group. However, if as expected both teams win, we could have a winner-takes-all showdown on Matchday 10.

Group C

  1. Italy (6) – 14 (+11)
  2. Switzerland (6) – 14 (+9)
  3. Bulgaria (7) – 8 (-4)
  4. Northern Ireland (6) – 5 (-2)
  5. Lithuania (7) – 3 (-14)

Key Fixtures

Matchday 9

  • Italy v Switzerland
  • Northern Ireland v Lithuania

Matchday 10

  • Switzerland v Bulgaria
  • Northern Ireland v Italy

Qualifying Summary

The big game in this group is the Italy v Switzerland game on Matchday 9. A win for either side would likely qualify them for the finals as group winners, especially given their final two fixtures in the group. A draw however would mean the prospect of the teams going into the final game knowing they probably need to win and by enough goals to win the group on goal difference.

At the moment, that is Italy with a 2-goal lead over the Swiss, which sets this group up very nicely indeed.

Group D

  1. France (6) – 12 (+5)
  2. Ukraine (7) – 9 (+1)
  3. Finland (6) – 8 (0)
  4. Bosnia & Herzegovina (6) – 7 (+1)
  5. Kazakhstan (7) – 3 (-7)

Key Fixtures

Matchday 9

  • Bosnia & Herzegovina v Finland
  • France v Kazakhstan

Matchday 10

  • Bosnia & Herzegovina v Ukraine
  • Finland v France

Qualifying Summary

France should claim the qualification place with a win over Kazakhstan on Matchday 9, but all the other games will play a key role in deciding which team reaches the playoffs. Any of Finland, Bosnia & Herzegovina and the Ukraine can earn that spot depending on how results go.

This could be one of the toughest groups to finalises, especially if Finland can win in Bosnia, so there could be a huge amount for teams to play for across all four games.

Group E

  1. Belgium (6) – 16 (+17)
  2. Czech Republic (7) – 11 (+3)
  3. Wales (6) – 11 (+1)
  4. Estonia (6) – 4 (-8)
  5. Belarus (7) – 3 (-13)

Key Fixtures

Matchday 9

  • Wales v Belarus
  • Belgium v Estonia

Matchday 10

  • Wales v Belgium
  • Czech Republic v Estonia

Qualifying Summary

A win for Belgium over Estonia would confirm them as winners of this group and so it will be between the Welsh and the Czechs for second spot. However, there is a caveat here in that both these teams also have strong records in the Nations League and could qualify for the playoffs from that, if they don’t reach it here.

As such, it may not matter who qualifies behind Belgium as the team that misses out here will likely qualify through their Nations League performance anyway, which will reduce the stress on both teams on the final matchday.

Group F

  1. Denmark (8) – 24 – (+27)
  2. Scotland (8) – 17 (+6)
  3. Israel (8) – 13 (+3)
  4. Austria (8) – 10 (-3)
  5. Faroe Islands (8) – 4 (-13)
  6. Moldova (8) – 1 – (-20)

Key Fixtures

Matchday 9

  • Moldova v Scotland
  • Austria v Israel
  • Denmark v Faroe Islands

Matchday 10

  • Scotland v Denmark
  • Israel v Faroe Islands
  • Austria v Moldova

Qualifying Summary

Denmark have already won this group and the key games here both take place on Matchday 9, if Scotland win, or get the same or better result than Israel, then they will qualify for the playoffs.

However, if the Scots lose to Moldova, and Israel win in Austria then that would set up a very difficult Matchday 10 for the Scots facing Denmark, but that, in all honesty, is unlikely to happen.

Group G

  1. Netherlands (8) – 19 – (+23)
  2. Norway (8) – 17 (+9)
  3. Turkey (8) – 15 (+4)
  4. Montenegro (8) – 11 (0)
  5. Latvia (8) – 5 (-5)
  6. Gibraltar (8) – 0 – (-31)

Key Fixtures

Matchday 9

  • Norway v Latvia
  • Turkey v Gibraltar
  • Montenegro v Netherlands

Matchday 10

  • Gibraltar v Latvia
  • Montenegro v Turkey
  • Netherlands v Norway

Qualifying Summary

Two wins for the Netherlands, or a win over Montenegro and a draw with Norway, would be enough for them to move into the Finals as the Group Winners and I think that this is the least we can expect from a talented Dutch side.

Norway hold second spot at the moment, but they still need at least four points to secure that over Turkey and with Turkey having two very winnable games, and the Norwegians heading to the Netherlands to face the Dutch on the final matchday, that could well be a crucial set of games.

Group H

  1. Russia (8) – 19 – (+8)
  2. Croatia (8) – 17 (+10)
  3. Slovakia (8) – 10 (+1)
  4. Slovenia (8) – 10 (0)
  5. Malta (8) – 5 (-9)
  6. Cyprus (8) – 5 – (-10)

Key Fixtures

Matchday 9

  • Russia v Cyprus
  • Slovakia v Slovenia
  • Malta v Croatia

Matchday 10

  • Croatia v Russia
  • Slovenia v Cyprus
  • Malta v Slovakia

Qualifying Summary

This group will boil down to who wins the Croatia v Russia clash on matchday 10. Barring a disaster for either team against weaker opponents on Matchday 9, it will likely mean Croatia need to beat Russia to pip them to top spot in the group, while the Russians will likely only need a draw to win the group and send Croatia to the playoffs.

Group I

  1. England (8) – 20 – (+21)
  2. Poland (8) – 17 (+17)
  3. Albania (8) – 13 (+4)
  4. Hungary (8) – 10 (+1)
  5. Andorra (8) – 4 (-12)
  6. San Marino (8) – 1 – (-31)

Key Fixtures

Matchday 9

  • Hungary v San Marino
  • England v Albania
  • Andorra v Poland

Matchday 10

  • Albania v Andorra
  • San Marino v England
  • Poland v Hungary

Qualifying Summary

The key game here is England v Albania as if England win that not only confirms them as group winners, but also confirms Poland as being in the playoffs. England should still finish the group with two wins but this should be a formality for England and the Poles.

Group J

  1. Germany (8) – 21 – (+20)
  2. Romania (8) – 13 (+3)
  3. North Macedonia (8) – 12 (+5)
  4. Armenia (8) – 12 (-3)
  5. Iceland (8) – 8 (-4)
  6. Liechtenstein (8) – 1 – (-21)

Key Fixtures

Matchday 9

  • Armenia v North Macedonia
  • Romania v Iceland
  • Germany v Liechtenstein

Matchday 10

  • Liechtenstein v Romania
  • North Macedonia v Iceland
  • Armenia v Germany

Qualifying Summary

Lots of key games in this group surrounding who will finish second to Germany. Any of Romania, North Macedonia, Iceland or Armenia can achieve that, but looking at the fixtures remaining, it will likely be the two games on Matchday 9 that decide which team makes it into the playoffs.

Our Predictions

Here are our predictions for the Group Winners and Playoff Teams.

Group Winners – Denmark & Germany (already confirmed) plus Portugal, Sweden, Italy, France, Belgium, Netherlands, Croatia and England.

Playoffs – Serbia, Spain, Switzerland, Ukraine, Czech Republic, Scotland, Turkey, Russia, Poland, Romania, plus Nations League Qualifiers – Austria & Wales