France Among Big Nations Struggling To Qualify for 2018 World Cup
Defeat for Ireland against Serbia recently in Dublin has hampered their chances of qualifying for Russia next year for the 2018 World Cup. Martin O’Neill’s side have dropped down to third place behind Serbia and Wales respectively, therefore they need to win their final two games to give them a chance of at least reaching the playoffs.
Elsewhere in the European qualifying campaign, there are some big nations who also are under pressure with just two games to go. In Group A, France are top of their standings but have just a one-point cushion ahead of second-placed Sweden. The Euro 2016 runners-up are many people’s tip to win the whole tournament next year as their squad is packed full of talent. Another slip up against either Bulgaria or Belarus in October, though, and they face the prospect of a nervy playoff encounter. Didier Deschamps’ men should get the results they need and they do look an excellent bet at 6/1 with Boylesports to win the World Cup for the third time next year.
If France do progress from Group A, that means either Sweden or Netherlands are going to miss out on the playoffs. Those two sides meet in the final game of the campaign on October 10 in Holland. At the moment a draw would be enough for Sweden to put themselves in the draw for the playoffs and it will probably end that way when this group concludes.
Euro 2016 winners Portugal look likely to fail to pick up the automatic qualification spot in Group B as Switzerland have a 100% record with two games to go. Cristiano Ronaldo and co. are a long way clear of the third-placed team Hungary; however, there could be some big teams in the playoffs this year so they are not guaranteed to make Russia.
In Group G, Spain now have the upper hand over Italy after they beat the 2006 winners 3-0 in Madrid earlier this month. Spain are 15/2 with Paddy Power to lift the trophy next year and they have to be considered as serious contenders again after a disappointing Euro 2016. Spain are at home to Albania on October 6 where victory would all but put them through to the major tournament due to their huge goal difference advantage over Italy.
The biggest nation struggling elsewhere around the globe in the World Cup qualifying campaign is Argentina. With Lionel Messi in their ranks, it is difficult to see why the South American team are not in the top four in the group. If the campaign ended today, Argentina would advance into the inter-confederation playoff where they would meet New Zealand. Defeat to Peru on October 5, though, would leave Jorge Sampoli’s men in serious danger of missing out completely on Russia.
In the AFC, Australia could only finish in third place behind Japan and Saudi Arabia and will need to win a playoff game to qualify for the 2018 competition. They will, however, be favourites to defeat Syria in a two-legged tie. The winner of that fixture then needs to win one more playoff encounter to make the main draw.
United States at this moment in time won’t qualify from their CONCACAF group as they are in fourth place. That would be enough for an inter-confederation playoff. The United States face Panama who are in third place on October 7. Bruce Arena’s side should be backed to win that crucial game as they have home advantage in Orlando and given its importance, they are likely to raise their game in the hunt for the three points.
The main draw for the World Cup takes places on December 1 in Russia where the hosts will be in Group A and are set to open the tournament on June 14.