Big Nations Have Work to do to Qualify for Russia
Many continents around the world are heading into the final few months of their qualifying groups ahead of the 2018 World Cup in Russia and a number of big nations have work to do if they are to progress through to the major tournament next year.
In Europe, France looked to be cruising to qualification in Group A until they surprisingly drew 0-0 to minnows Luxembourg. The former two-time winners were as short as 1/100 in the betting for that game but Didier Deschamps’ men were frustrated in Toulouse and are now just one point clear at the top of the standings ahead of Sweden.
France have two tough games to finish off their qualifying campaign. They are next in action on October 7 when they travel to Bulgaria. They are 1/7 with William Hill to win their group now where they should pick up three points in their penultimate game which will give them a strong chance of advancing ahead of their final tie with Belarus. Anything other than six points from their last two games, though, could force them into the playoffs or at worse, they could be out of the competition before the main draw in December.
Elsewhere in Group A, Netherlands are in third place after eight games as they have just 13 points. They were hammered 4-0 by France last month but they did beat Bulgaria recently. They need to win their final two games, the latter of which could have importance when they take on Sweden on October 10, the winner of which is likely to pick up a playoff spot. Sweden would be favoured to win that tie, leaving the 2010 runners-up without a spot in the main draw.
A World Cup without Argentina in would be a weaker tournament, however, the South American side are only fifth in their group with just two games to go. The top four in the table qualify automatically, while the fifth-place side advances through to a playoff game where they will meet New Zealand over two legs. Jorge Sampaoli’s men would be huge favourites to beat the Oceania team over 180 minutes; however, their immediate concern will be that they miss out on the top five as Chile are just one point behind them in the current standings.
Despite concerns about whether they will make the tournament next year in Russia, Argentina are fifth-best in the outright betting at 10/1 with Coral for the World Cup in 2018. With the quality they have in their squad with the likes of Lionel Messi,
Sergio Aguero and Angel Di Maria, they should have too much quality for Peru when they host the fourth-placed team in the standings on October 10. That would then put them back in the driving seat as qualification would be in their own hands again for the final game of their campaign against Ecuador.
The United States have been regulars at the World Cup over the last couple of decades, but they could miss out on an automatic qualification spot in their CONCACAF group. The US national team sit in fourth place on nine points behind Mexico, Costa Rica and Panama respectively. There are two games left in the qualifying campaign and a victory over Panama is a must for the USA on October 6 in Orlando. Bruce Arena’s men then travel to Trinidad and Tobago on October 10. If the United States remain in fourth place, they will go into an inter-confederation playoff.
The 2018 World Cup begins on June 14, 2018 when the hosts Russia play the opening game in Moscow. The final is set to take place on July 15, 2018 at the Luzhniki Stadium.