Tuesday 05 September 2017, 01:19

Europe's big names close in on automatic qualification

  • Germany and England on the verge of qualifying for Russia 2018

  • Poland maintain top spot, Northern Ireland well placed in their group

  • Intriguing battle for second in Group F intensifies

THE DAY REPLAYED – Although no teams managed to advance directly to the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia™ from the eighth round of European qualifiers held on Monday, the leaders of the three groups involved will certainly have a smile on their faces when they look at the standings.

Germany, England and Poland all picked up three precious points that take them one step closer to booking tickets to Russia. The Germans handed Norway their worst defeat since 1972, the Three Lions came from behind to beat Slovakia, and the Poles comfortably saw off Kazakhstan.

In addition, Northern Ireland’s dream of starring on the World Cup stage for the first time since 1986 remains intact.

FIFA.com takes a look back at another eventful day of qualifying.

Results *4 September *Group C: Azerbaijan 5-1 San Marino, Germany 6-0 Norway, Northern Ireland 2-0 Czech Republic

Group E: Armenia 1-4 Denmark, Montenegro 1-0 Romania, Poland 3-0 Kazakhstan Group F: England 2-1 Slovakia, Scotland 2-0 Malta, Slovenia 4-0 Lithuania

Match of the day England 2-1 Slovakia The crunch match in Group F between first and second at Wembley lived up to expectations, as the Slovakians shocked England early on, only to see the home side fight back for a deserved victory that brings Russia 2018 within touching distance.

It was Stanislav Lobotka who silenced the English crowd after just three minutes, latching onto Adam Nemec’s chipped pass to slot the ball past Joe Hart. Gareth Southgate’s men did not let their heads go down, however, and they got back into the match courtesy of a delightful near-post half-volley by Eric Dier.

Halfway through the second half, Marcus Rashford scored what would prove to be the winner for England with a fine dipping shot from the edge of the area. The English need just one point from their final two games to ensure themselves a place at next year’s tournament.

ElsewhereGroup CDespite the overall brilliance of their 6-0 triumph over Norway in Stuttgart, Germany were forced to share the Group C headlines, as Northern Ireland’s win over the Czech Republic guaranteed them second spot in the section and almost certainly a place in November’s play-offs to boot. Azerbaijan, meanwhile, were mathematically eliminated from contention, but they gave their fans something to shout about by overcoming San Marino 5-1 – their largest-ever success.

Group EPoland bounced back from their resounding defeat (0-4) at the hands of Denmark to earn their sixth victory of the campaign and retain first place in Group E, three points ahead of the Danes and Montenegro. With Age Hareide’s charges having thrashed Armenia in the early kick-off, the pressure was on both Poland and Montenegro – who needed a 75th minute Stevan Jovetic goal to beat Romania – to respond, and they did just that.

Group FSlovakia’s reverse in London provided a welcome boost to Scotland and Slovenia, who both won at home versus Malta and Lithuania respectively. The three teams are now separated by just one point, and they can all still entertain realistic hopes of finishing second. The Scots, who are unbeaten in four matches, play Slovakia and Slovenia in the final two matchdays.

Player of the dayThomas Delaney* *created a bit of history against Armenia on Monday night, when he became just the second Danish player to score a hat-trick in a World Cup qualifying match. The only other Dane to ever achieve such a feat was Ebbe Sand in a 5-0 over Malta in March 2001. Curiously, in 18 previous international matches, the Werder Bremen midfielder had only scored one other goal, which came in Friday’s 4-0 defeat of Poland.