THE DAY REPLAYED – France and Portugal became the final two of nine group winners in European qualifying to join hosts Russia among the continent’s sides already assured of a berth at the 2018 FIFA World Cup™. Sweden, Greece and Switzerland all finished as runners-up on Tuesday in their respective pools. 

Group winners with an automatic place at Russia 2018
France, Portugal, Germany, Serbia, Poland, England, Spain, Belgium, Iceland

Group runners-up qualified for the play-offs (to be played over home and away legs in November 2017 to determine four additional World Cup places)

Switzerland, Italy, Denmark, Croatia, Sweden, Greece, Northern Ireland, Republic of Ireland

Excluded from the play-offs as the lowest-ranked runner-up
Slovakia

Match of the day
Portugal 2-0 Switzerland
It was always going to be an evening of disappointment for one of the two teams. Either the reigning European champions would fail to secure an automatic place at the World Cup, or the team that had recorded nine consecutive victories would lose out. Ultimately, that was to be Switzerland’s fate: despite earning 27 points in their best-ever qualifying campaign they nevertheless failed to cement an automatic World Cup spot. Just before the break and with the game under control, Johan Djourou scored an own goal to hand the lead to Portugal – who needed to win at all costs. Switzerland struggled to create any clear-cut chances in the second half, while at the other end Portugal’s Andre Silva finished off a good move in the 57th minute to decide the game.


Elsewhere
Group A
France 2-1 Belarus

Netherlands 2-0 Sweden 

Luxembourg 1-1 Bulgaria


Sweden’s options were clear going into their match with the Netherlands: they either needed to better France’s result against Belarus in order to finish top, or lose by no more than six goals to stay in second place. France may have had a harder time than expected in their 2-1 home triumph, but as Sweden were 2-0 down before half-time in Amsterdam there was never any real cause for concern for the French. 

Luxembourg looked to be on course for victory for a long time at home to Bulgaria after Olivier Thill’s third-minute goal, but Ivaylo Chochev’s equaliser (68′) ensured each side took a share of the spoils.


Group B
Portugal 2-0 Switzerland

Hungary 1-0 Faroe Islands

Latvia 4-0 Andorra
With Portugal and Switzerland going head-to-head for the top two places in Lisbon, the group’s other matches obviously slipped into the background. Latvia’s comfortable win at home to Andorra helped put some distance between the two sides as they finished in fifth place. Hungary were forced to work long and hard for their 1-0 victory over Faroe Islands, needing an 81st-minute goal from half-time substitute Daniel Bode to secure the points.

Group H
Greece 4-0 Gibraltar

Estonia 1-2 Bosnia and Herzegovina

Belgium 4-0 Cyprus
Belgium became the first European team to qualify for next year’s World Cup a few weeks ago and were able to round off their campaign with a home win over Cyprus in which Eden Hazard scored twice. Their final goal haul of 43 equalled the European qualifying record set by Germany on Sunday.

There was even an injection of excitement in the race for second place. While Greece were widely expected to beat Gibraltar at home and seal the runners-up spot, they needed half an hour to make the breakthrough in Piraeus thanks to Vasileios Torosidis’ strike. And it was not until after the hour mark that the hosts settled the matter with a brace from Konstantinos Mitroglou (61′, 63′). That rendered Izet Hajrovic’s double (48′, 84′) in Bosnia and Herzegovina’s win in Estonia of little consequence.

Player of the day
Arjen Robben (Netherlands) “It’s not possible to get such a big win over Sweden,” said Arjen Robben prior to kick-off. The Oranje needed to beat the Scandinavians by a seven-goal margin to snatch second place from their opponents. With a penalty and another goal before the break, Robben certainly played his part in their endeavours. While he paved the way for a 2-0 victory over Jan Andersson’s side, it was ultimately not enough. After the match Robben announced his retirement from international football, having scored 37 goals in 96 appearances for the Oranje


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