November 12 – Russia and Croatia each recorded big wins in World Cup qualifying Thursday to set up a weekend winner-takes-all encounter for an automatic spot at next year’s tournament.
Russia’s trounced Cyprus 6-0 followed by 2018 World Cup runner-up Croatia hammering Malta 7-1, adding extra spice to Sunday’s fixture with the winner qualifying automatically and the loser going into the playoffs – a draw would send Russia to Qatar.
Wales are officially guaranteed at least a place in the play-offs after Spain beat Greece 1-0.
Wales started the final week of qualifying knowing they had all but secured a play-off spot having won their Nations League group. Spain’s win in Athens against Greece formally sealed it, even if Wales finish outside the top two in their qualifying group.
Spain’s victory, secured by Pablo Sarabia’s goal, means they need a single point from their showdown with Sweden at the weekend to secure a place at next year’s finals.
Sweden had led Group B going into the final two games but a shock 2-0 loss at already eliminated Georgia has handed Spain a crucial advantage ahead of the crunch weekend fixture between the pair.
In what is the final series of qualifiers, another decisive fixture will pit Portugal against Serbia. The point Portugal earned against the Republic of Ireland in a 0-0 draw saw Cristiano Ronaldo’s team sneak ahead of group rival Serbia on goal difference. That means another draw will be enough for Portugal to qualify automatically when it hosts Serbia in Lisbon on Sunday.
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