Home Sports Football 2018 World Cup qualifiers Group D offers tight qualifying battle
Group D offers tight qualifying battle

Group D offers tight qualifying battle

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At the midway stage of European qualification for next summer’s World Cup, there are a few surprise packages looking strong and some major nations facing elimination.

The most intriguing pool at this stage is Group D, with four countries battling it out still for the one automatic qualification spot and one potential place in the play-offs.

Serbia currently top the group, following their weekend win over Georgia, on goal difference and are 7/5 to finish qualifying as group winners.

Republic of Ireland (2/1) are second following their 0-0 draw with Wales, which means they remain unbeaten to this date but have Wales and Austria chasing from behind.

Euro semi-finalists Wales (7/2) have drawn too many games and have four points to make up. With three of their remaining five games away from home, Chris Coleman’s men face a tough ask to make it to Russia – especially with talisman Gareth Bale missing their trip to Serbia through suspension.

Austria are the fourth-placed team in the group but with trips to Ireland and Wales in their next two games, their aim of a top-two finish is looking an outside shot (13/2 to win the group).

The biggest upset of qualifying could take place in Group A, where the Netherlands find themselves fourth and staring a second consecutive missed major tournament.

Danny Blind was sacked following their 2-0 defeat to Bulgaria at the weekend, which leaves them six points behind group leaders France. With a trip to France still to some, Holland’s chances of even making second are hanging by a thread.

Euro 2016 winners Portugal find themselves second in their Group, despite scoring 19 goals in their opening five fixtures. Cristiano Ronaldo and co are three points behind leaders Switzerland in Group B, with the pair due to meet in Portugal in the final group game.

Group F looks like England’s to win, after they made it four wins and one draw in their opening five qualifiers and have not yet conceded a goal – giving them a four-point cushion.

Gareth Southgate’s men will face a trip to their old rivals Scotland next time out – with the Scots (22/1 to win the group) back in the hunt for a top-two finish after a last-gasp win over Slovenia (18/1).

Group G sees two European powerhouses battling it out to see who goes through automatically, with Spain and Italy both level on points at the midway stage. Spain, who lead the way on goal difference, are 4/11 to win the group, with Italy 21/10.

Belgium, Poland and Croatia are all in strong positions to make it through automatically, but everyone else will be looking towards Germany with concern.

Joachim Low’s men have played five, won five in Group C and lead second-placed Northern Ireland by five points – scoring 20 and conceding just one. With Germany in such good form, there’s little surprise that they are 5/1 favourites to lift the trophy next summer.

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Warren Ashurst Warren has been a sports journalist for over 25 years, both written and broadcast. Having worked as a radio commentator, he has a wealth of experience of seeing top-level sport first hand and specialises in football, golf and cricket.