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5 UEFA World Cup Qualifiers to watch this week

Wednesday 4th October 2017
The UEFA World Cup Qualifiers enter a decisive stage this week. Here are five matches you absolutely cannot miss. 

England vs Slovenia (Group F) - Thursday

Gareth Southgate's men have completed an impressive qualifying campaign; the Three Lions sit atop the Group F standings with 20 points after eight matches. A win against Slovenia will clinch a berth in the 2018 World Cup but this opponent is not going to be an easy one.

In fact, Slovenia has a lot to play for this Thursday. They sit third in the standings with 14 points, squeaking past Scotland due to their superior goal difference. Srecko Katanec's side can't be taken for granted. Slovenia could potentially reach second place with a win over the Three Lions.

England will remain top of the standings whatever the result. Yet, it is one thing to clinch their World Cup berth at home and something completely different to have to do it in Lithuania. Both sides certainly have something to play for in this match.

Scotland vs Slovakia (Group F) - Thursday

England and Slovenia might steal most of the headlines when it comes to Group F but there is no question the game between Scotland and Slovakia is just as important. In fact, there is a chance this contest might be bigger than England's simply because it could produce a massive shift in the standings. For starters, Slovakia sit in second place with 15 points, while Scotland is in fourth with 14, level with Slovenia but with a worse goal difference.

It is clear why this game is so important, not only for Scottish and Slovakian fans, but also for England and Slovenia supporters. Scotland could move up to second place with a win, or Slovakia could clinch the playoff berth,  eliminating Scotland and Slovenia if they and the Three Lions win their respective matches.
If this encounter ends in a draw, we could witness some real confusion. Slovenia could potentially reach up to 17 points, while Slovakia would end up with 16 and Scotland with 15... with only one game left on the schedule.

In one word? Madness.

Austria vs Serbia (Group D) - Friday

Friday will also have many compelling matches. There is one that could potentially seal a World Cup return for an Eastern European side with an interesting roster, top to bottom. We are talking Serbia, Group D's leaders with 18 points. They hold a four-point lead over Wales. A win over Austria would clinch a direct berth into the 2018 World Cup.

Austria might be almost out of the World Cup race but they still have something to play for. They only have nine points. Aside from needing a win, several results must also go their way to win a playoff berth. David Alaba and Marlo Arnautovic must be at their best to keep Austria's hopes alive for a few more days.
It is going to be a huge game for both nations. Their fates could be decided after 90 minutes of football.

Turkey vs Iceland (Group I) - Friday

Among the remaining groups, no others will bring the excitement present in Group I. To put things into context, Croatia and Iceland currently top the standings with 16 points. Croatia have the edge when it comes to the goal difference (+9 over +4) but to make things more complicated, Turkey and Ukraine sit close behind with 14 points, both +4 in the goal differential department. Turkey have the edge on goals scored, though, so they're in third.

With all that in mind, Friday's match between Turkey and Iceland appears pivotal for both countries. The hosts won't have Hakan Calhanoglu, due to suspension, but they will have the advantage of intense home support. While Iceland is in a better position in the standings, they can't afford to get complacent. It remains to be seen whether a relatively young, inexperienced side crumbles in such a hostile environment.
The standings itself make this game a must-watch contest. But if we add the fact these two teams have been on the rise of late, there is no question this match has the potential to be one of the best in the entire qualifying round.

Bulgaria vs France (Group A) - Saturday

France is coming off an awful result in their last game; Les Bleus drew 0-0 at home to Luxembourg. While they remain top of the Group A standings with 17 points, both Sweden (16) and Netherlands (13) have edged closer. The same could be said for France's opponent, Bulgaria, but a meager 12 points place the hosts in a complicated situation. If they lose this game, their World Cup dreams are officially over.

France could qualify with a win but would also need Sweden to lose against Luxembourg. Because Didier Deschamps' men can't clinch their berth this Saturday, winning is imperative. They must quickly regain their confidence or matters could become complicated for Les Bleus.
Juan Pablo Aravena

29-year-old sports analyst and journalist with over three years of experience in the industry. Writes about all kinds of sports from football to golf, but there is no question his biggest passion in life is football. Manchester United, Borussia Dortmund and Colo Colo fan.

Total articles: 190

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