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World Cup qualifiers: 5 issues to be settled

Some big teams could miss out this week

The final round of World Cup qualifiers take place this week and there’s plenty to play for.

Only eight sides have confirmed their spot in Russia for next year’s tournament, which means there are 24 places up for grabs.

The Coral News Team have taken a look at five qualification issues that will be settled in the upcoming international break.

Home Nations

England have almost certainly qualified for Russia with 20 points from eight games in UEFA Group F.

Scotland also have a chance to progress from Group F. Scotland are fourth, though they’re only a point behind Slovakia in the play-off position. Gordan Strachan’s side face the two sides immediately above them, knowing two wins will keep their hopes alive.

Northern Ireland are definitely in the play-offs after a superb qualifying campaign. They’ve only conceded two goals and lost one game so far. If Germany unexpectedly slip up, they could even top Group C.

It’s likely to be one of Wales or the Republic of Ireland to get to the play-offs from Group D. Serbia are top on 18 points, four ahead of Wales and five ahead of Ireland. Wales face Georgia and Ireland take on Moldova next, before they face each other in a huge clash in Cardiff.

Argentina

The 2018 tournament is likely to be Lionel Messi’s last chance to win a World Cup. But Argentina need to make sure they qualify first.

They’re currently fifth and in the play-off spot. Two wins in their final qualifiers against fourth-placed Peru and Ecuador will be enough to seal automatic qualification.

They’ve certainly got the quality to get six points but Argentina are without a win in their last three games and haven’t won back-to-back qualifiers for 18 months.

Chile

Chile were one of the most entertaining sides at the last two World Cups. They’ve also won the last two Copa America tournaments.

They press from the front and play at lightning speed. And they’ve got two world-class talents in Alexis Sanchez and Arturo Vidal.

La Roja face a real battle to make it to Russia though. They’re currently sixth in the qualifying group, though two wins will be enough to secure at least a play-off place.

Juan Antonio Pizzi’s team should have enough to beat Ecuador at home. But they’ll need to be at their best to beat Brazil away in their final qualifier.

USA

Soccer is well on its way to truly establishing itself as a major sport. Nothing would improve the game’s standing more than a good showing from the USA at the World Cup. But the USMNT are under real pressure in CONCACAF qualifying.

The US have only one two of their eight qualifiers so far. They’re currently fourth and in the play-off position, though they’re level on points with fifth-placed Honduras.

Bruce Arena took over from Jurgen Klinsmann following losses to Mexico and Costa Rica. Arena’s side can’t afford to drop any points against Panama and Trinidad & Tobago.

Netherlands

The Netherlands have been one of the most influential sides in the history of the sport, helping to popularise many of the concepts and tactics that today’s top sides use.

However, the current side is a long way short of their former glory. The Dutch didn’t qualify for Euro 2016 and they could miss the next World Cup too.

Dick Advocaat’s side are three points behind second-placed Sweden in UEFA Group A. If they beat Belarus and Sweden beat Luxembourg in their next games, the two nations could be playing for a play-off place when they meet in the final group game.

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