FIFA World Cup 2018

FIFA World Cup 2018 Qualifiers: France Almost There, Looks Impossible for the Netherlands & Portugal


Saturday was a defining day for the teams from Europe. The teams from the continent battled it out to book a berth for the next years FIFA World Cup in Russia. For some it was a day of success, for some it was disappointment while for some the wait for a ticket to Russia continues.

Euro 2016 runners-up France are almost certain to be playing the next edition in Russia. An early goal from Blaise Matuidi saw the French side beat Bulgaria 1-0 on Saturday. With this win, France is now top of their European World Cup qualifying Group A. It was, however, a mixed day for the Netherlands who despite beating 3-1 Belarus have slim chances of qualifying. Second, in the Group A, Sweden thrashed minnows Luxembourg 8-0 and looks all set to qualify from the Group behind France.

At Sofia, France took an early lead after Blaise Matuidi netted a beautifully crafted shot into the far corner just in the third minute. Bulgaria, however, didn’t look to give away any easy balls. France goalkeeper and captain Hugo Lloris was forced to make a point-blank save off a powerful shot by Georgi Kostadinov. Coach Didier Deschamps’s men held their nerves and secured the crucial three points. The team now looks to seal the deal at home when they play Belarus on Tuesday at the Stade de France in Paris.

Dutch fans were waiting anxiously for their team to win at Barysaw. Anything less than a win would mean elimination from the qualifying stages of another consecutive major event. With an attempt to claim the second spot in Group A the Netherlands team came to all guns blazing. Davy Propper, Captain Arjen Robben, and Memphis Depay scored for the Dutch as they beat Belarus 3-1. The post-match celebrations were cut short as the job was half done. Sweden thrashed Luxembourg 8-0 earlier in the day. Sweden now has a 12 goal advantage over Dick Advocaat’s men. The task now looks impossible as only a massive victory over Sweden can ensure qualification for the Dutch side. The three-time World Cup runners-up are now facing eventual elimination.

Meanwhile, Portugal struggled against Andorra at the Estadio Nacional in Andorra La Vella. Portugal needed Cristiano Ronaldo special strike to break the shackles after 63rd minute. The striker came on as a substitute in the second half and scored a crucial goal. The lead was doubled in the 86th minute by Andre Silva. With this win, Portugal set up a winner-takes-all clash with Switzerland in Lisbon on Tuesday. Portugal is currently second in their qualifying group behind leaders Switzerland. Switzerland is currently cruising and further cemented their dominance in the group by thrashing Hungary 5-2. The Swiss team now has nine wins out of nine games.

In Group H, Greece looks set to qualify behind Belgium who has already qualified. Greece came from behind to secure a crucial 2-1 win over Cyprus while Bosnia and Herzegovina suffered a 4-3 home defeat at the hands of already-qualified Belgium.