The international break and another round of World Cup qualifiers is upon us. In Europe, the race in on to get a spot at the festivities in Russia. Some nations are setting pretty, like reigning champions Germany, while others are already up against the ropes. Here’s a preview of Group A to D.
Group A: Sweden 7pts, France 7pts, Netherlands 4pts, Bulgaria 3pts, Belarus 2pts, Luxembourg 1pts.
Sweden sits at the top of Group A together with France, and the two nations will go up against each other at Stade de France on Friday. Sweden took a 3-0 victory at home over Bulgaria in the last game, while France defeated the Netherlands 1-0 after a goal by Paul Pogba. The Swedes will have a rather inexperienced team take the pitch on Friday after injuries to Martin Olsson, Marcus Berg and Mikael Lustig.
Luxembourg will host the Netherlands, with the visitors looking to close the gap to the top two teams. Fourth-placed Bulgaria will take on Belarus at the Vasil Levski National Stadium in Sofia.
Group B: Switzerland 9pts, Portugal 6pts, Hungary 4pts, Faroe Islands 4pts, Latvia 3pts, Andorra 0pts.
Switzerland is one of three nations that have started the qualification campaign with three straight wins. The Swiss took a 2-1 win on the road against Andorra in their latest game after goals by Fabian Schar and Admir Mehmedi. They will host fourth-placed Faroe Islands on Sunday at the Swissporarena.
Second-placed Portugal takes on Latvia at Estadio Algarve. Cristiano Ronaldo & Co. are three points behind Switzerland after two wins and a loss in the opening three games. The Portuguese are coming off two 6-0 victories over Andorra and the Faroe Islands, while Latvia suffered a 2-0 loss to Hungary.
The Hungarians welcomes Andorra to Groupama Arena in Budapest. With a win, a draw and a loss in the opening three matches, they sit in third place with four points. They grabbed their first win of the campaign against Latvia (2-0) after goals by Adam Gyurcso and Adam Szalai. Andorra are still without a point, and have a goal difference of -8 after three matches.
Group C: Germany 9pts, Azerbaijan 7pts, Northern Ireland 4pts, Norway 3pts, Czech Republic 2 pts, San Marino 0pts.
Reigning World Cup champions Germany sits at the top of the group after picking up three straight wins to kick off the campaign. In their latest match, the Germans picked up a 2-0 win over Northern Ireland after goals by Julian Draxler and Sami Khedira. They will take on bottom of the group San Marino on the road on Friday. San Marino is still looking for their first point, and have a goal difference of -8 after three games.
Azerbaijan has been the surprise so far in the group, as they sit in second place after getting two wins and a draw in the opening three games. They are coming off a scoreless draw against the Czech Republic, after getting 1-0 wins over San Marino and Norway. They will travel Windsor Park to take on third-placed Northern Ireland.
Norway has been a country in decline for a while now, and they are looking to get into their first major tournament since Euro 2000. The Norwegians will travel to Prague to take on the Czech Republic.
Group D: Serbia 7pts, Ireland 7pts, Wales 5 pts, Austria 4pts, Georgia 1pts, Moldova 0pts.
Things are tight in Group D, with four teams battling for the top spot. Serbia tops the group after picking up wins over Moldova and Austria after opening up with a draw against Ireland. They will travel to Cardiff to take on Wales at Cardiff City Stadium on Saturday. The Welsh are sitting in third place after up draws against Austria and Georgia after opening up with a win over Moldova.
Ireland, who are tied on points with Serbia, will travel to the Ernst Happel Stadion in Vienna to take on Austria. The Irish have picked up wins over Georgia and Moldova after getting a draw against Serbia in the opening match. The Austrians suffered a 3-2 loss to Serbia in their latest match.
Georgia will hope to grab their first win of the campaign as they take on bottom of the group Moldova at the Boris Paichadze Dinamo Arena in Tblisi. Georgia’s lone point so far came after they grabbed a 1-1 draw on the road against Wales in the latest match.