World Cup Qualifiers: Will Argentina go to Russia 2018?

As the Russia 2018 World Cup Qualifiers reach the business end the race for a spot at next year's showpiece event hots up, some big names are in danger of missing out on the summer event.

Argentina will need a spate of results to go its way if it is to harbour any hopes of making it to next year's showpiece event.   -  AP

As the Russia 2018 World Cup Qualifiers reach the business end, the race for a spot at the showpiece event takes steam with some big names in danger of missing out. Let's look at the situation across Europe and South America.

South America

With only one fixture to go, Neymar's Brazil has already booked its spot in Russia 2018 while Messi's Argentina is closer to the exit door. The South American qualifying zone consists of 10 nations, who play each other home and away, with the top four qualifying for the group stages. The fifth-placed team will play an intercontinental playoff against the winner of the Oceania region.

Argentina occupies the sixth spot currently, behind Peru (25 points) on goal difference. Its catastrophic campaign, so far, can be overturned if Argentina wins the final game against Ecuador and hopes for other results to go its way. Uruguay is second with 28 points, Chile and Colombia are on 26, while Peru (25 points) is ahead of Argentina only on goal difference.

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Europe

While Cristiano Ronaldo's arch-nemesis Messi faces the worrying fate of possibly not qualifying for the World Cup, the Portugal talisman's side is currently occupying second place in Group B. Only the nine group winners in Europe are rewarded with an automatic spot in the World Cup with the eight best runners-up facing a two-legged playoff.

Currently, Switzerland is top of the group with 27 points, three ahead of Portugal, and the final fixtures sees the top two sides facing each other for the automatic spot. Portugal will need to beat Switzerland to grab top spot, thanks to its superior goal difference, while a draw will reward the Swiss a ticket to Russia.

Football fans could see a scenario where both Cristiano Ronaldo (in picture) and Lionel Messi miss out on the World Cup in Russia next year.   -  AP

 

England in Group F has comfortably qualified for the World Cup with 23 points with Scotland (17), Slovakia (15) and Slovenia (14) still in with a chance to make it to next year's summer event. Slovenia will face Scotland in the final fixture, with the three teams having a realistic chance of qualification. 

Group A sees France topping the charts but by only a point with Sweden (19) breathing down its neck. France must beat Belarus in its final game to take top honours, while third-placed The Netherlands (16) is all but out as it needs a win by at least 8 goals to have any hope off toppling the Swedes.

Group C sees Germany (27) comfortably at the top and Northern Ireland (19) has no competition for second place as it is seven ahead of the Czech Republic.

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Group D is a lot tighter with Serbia (18), Wales (17) and Republic of Ireland (17) occupying the top three spots. To make it more interesting, the final fixture pits Wales against the Republic of Ireland with the former having to make do without its talisman Gareth Bale.

While a draw for Poland (22) will see it go through to the World Cup, Denmark (19) and Montenegro (16) will fight for second place in Group E.

Group G sees no drama with Spain (25) booking its spot with Italy (20) having to settle for a play-off.

Belgium (25) cruised to top of Group H and a spot in the World Cup but the play-off spot is still up for grabs as Greece (16) will need nothing short of a win against Gibraltar to ward off any coup attempts from Bosnia and Herzegovina (14).

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There are all possibilities of things going down the wire in Group I. Iceland (19) sits pretty on the top but Croatia (17) is second on goal difference with Ukraine closing on. However, Iceland is favourite to go to Russia 2018 unopposed as it faces lowly Kosovo, which has conceded 22 goals in the 9 games so far, and the second and third-placed are drawn against each other in the final fixture. 

Africa

The top 20 teams, paired in five groups of four, fight it out for a place in the World Cup with only the group winners taking the spots. Traditional heavyweight Cameroon will miss the bus while Ivory Coast (8) will need to beat Group C leader Morocco (9) in the final fixture. Ghana (6) has a mountain to climb in Group E as it needs to beat leader Egypt (9) by two goals and hope Uganda (8) collapses against Congo.

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Asia

With Iran, South Korea, Japan and Saudi Arabia already guaranteed a place in the group stages, Syria will have to battle Australia in the play-off for a match-up against the fourth-place team in the CONCACAF region.