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  • Writer's pictureStuart Kavanagh

UEFA World Cup Qualifying Update

Italy, Portugal fail to qualify automatically, England hit San Marino for 10

The UEFA section of World Cup qualifying is coming to a head this international break. With the final fixtures of the group stages being completed, the automatic qualifiers and second place getters are being decided. For the automatic qualifiers, a spot in the World Cup in Qatar is guaranteed. For the national teams who finish in second place in their groups, the dreaded playoff fixtures loom.

There has been plenty of eye-popping results, let’s take a look at some of the major surprises in the UEFA section of World Cup qualifying.


In Group A it came down to the final matchday as Portugal hosted Serbia at the Estadio da Luz in Lisbon. The star-studded Portuguese were expected to make the home ground advantage count, and things started well for them. Renato Sanches found the back of the net in the second minute to send the home crowd wild with World Cup qualification seemingly a foregone conclusion. Serbia had other ideas. Serbian captain Dusan Tadic scored in the 33rd minute to level the scores. The goal gave the visitors belief as they began to boss proceedings. Then in the 90th minute, Aleksandar Mitrovic silenced the Portuguese faithful as he headed past Rui Patricio in the Portuguese goal. A deflated Portugal had no response and the game finished 2-1. A result that saw Serbia automatically qualify for the World Cup whilst the star-studded A Selecao must now navigate a tricky playoff tie.


It also came down to the last day in Group C. With both Italy and Switzerland locked on 15 points at the top of the group, the Italians seemed to have a slight advantage with their superior goal difference. However, the Azzuri had to travel to face a Northern Ireland side who hadn’t conceded a goal at home in their last 3 World Cup qualifiers, whilst Switzerland hosted a hapless Bulgaria who had been poor throughout qualifying.

Switzerland did their part as a second-half avalanche of goals saw them secure a 4-0 victory over the Bulgarians. Italy, on the other hand, surprisingly seemed to let the pressure get to them as they failed to create a chance of any real consequence and drew with the Northern Irish 0-0. Pundits and fans alike have commented that they were lucky to escape with a draw, with the Green and White Army having the best chances during the 90. These results saw Switzerland automatically qualify for Qatar ‘22, whilst the Italians must now navigate a playoff tie. The Euro 2020 champions will hope it is nothing like the playoffs for the 2018 World Cup where they failed to qualify.


Finally, in group I, England stamped their ticket to the World Cup next winter with an incredible 10-0 victory over San Marino. Harry Maguire got the ball rolling for the Three Lions when he headed home Phil Foden’s cross in the sixth minute. It was a procession from there. An own goal less than ten minutes later compounded the pain for San Marino before Harry Kane got himself a 15-minute double hat-trick. That made the score 6-0 at halftime. The second half saw goals from Arsenal youngsters Bukayo Saka and Emile Smith Rowe. Tyrone Mings and Tammy Abraham found the back of the net also as England romped to their first 10-0 victory in over 50 years. Poland fell to a surprise 2-1 defeat at home to Hungary but still managed to seal a playoff spot.

With one matchday left to go until all the groups are completed, things are certainly heating up in World Cup qualifying. We will have a complete recap of all the results including who qualified and who will enter the playoffs draw on Friday, November 26 at 4 pm GMT.

Stuart Kavanagh is an emerging sports journalist from Melbourne, Australia, and Editor In Chief of His passion for the world game, in particular, shines through.

Always keen to discuss footballing matters, you can follow him on Twitter at stueyissickofit

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