Spain, Portugal and Croatia are all one match away from World Cup qualification, while Sweden’s hopes have taken a hard blow with an unexpected defeat.
Spain beat Greece 1-0 thanks to a penalty kick from Pablo Sarabia, who overtook Sweden, which lost 2-0 to out-of-bound Georgia. Spain hosts Sweden on Sunday in one of three winner-take-all matches to determine the World Cup seats.
In another decisive match, Portugal will face Serbia after an offensive 0-0 draw away from Cristiano Ronaldo’s team against Ireland. Croatia and Russia will also meet in Qatar after Thursday’s big win.
In Group A, Portugal’s 0-th goal draw in Dublin was less impressive, but it was enough.
The point earned by Portugal in the match with Ireland allowed it to outstrip the rival in the group – Serbia in the standings in terms of goal difference. This means there will be enough draws for Portugal to automatically qualify when they host Serbia in Lisbon on Sunday.
In Group B, Sweden’s fate in qualifying was in their own hands, and she let it go.
This gave Spain a chance to overtake Sweden and take advantage of the showdown against the Swedes on Sunday.
Spain had to work hard to beat Greece 1-0 from the penalty spot, but it was one point ahead of Sweden. Spain only needs to avoid Sweden’s defeat in Seville. The defeat to Spain resulted in Greece not qualifying.
In Group H, Russia and Croatia won big against their superior opponents in games that were just warm-ups for their decisive deciding player. On Sunday Croatia will host Russia and the winner will automatically advance to the World Cup and Russia will be drawn.
Results: Group A: Azerbaijan 1 (Salahli 82) lost to Luxembourg 3 (Rodriguez 67, 90 + 1, Till 78); Ireland 0 drew with Portugal 0.
Group B: Georgia 2 (Kvaratskhelia 61, 77) – Sweden 0; Greece 0 lost to Spain 1 (Sarabia 26-pins).
Group H: Russia 6 (Erokhin 4, 87, Smolov 55, Mostovoy 56, Sutormin 62, Zabolotny 82) bt Cyprus 0; Malta 1 (Brozovic 31-og) lost to Croatia 7 (Perisic 6, Caleta Kar 22, Pashalic 39, Modric 45 + 1, Mayer 47, 64, Kramaric 53); Slovakia 2 (Duda 58-pins, Sagittarius 74) drew with Slovenia 2 (Zajc 18, Mevlja 62).
Group J: Armenia 0 lost to North Macedonia 5 (Trajkovski 22, Bardi 36, 66-pins, 90-pins, Ristovski 79); Germany 9 (Gundogan 11-pen, Kaufman 20-og, Sane 22, 49, Reus 23, Mueller 76, 86, Baku 80, Geppel 89-og) bt Liechtenstein 0; Romania 0 tied Iceland 0…