After a week of qualifiers, with only the play-offs and some African places still remaining, the list of the 2018 World Cup participants is much clearer. Iceland, who triumphed 3-0 in Turkey, became the smallest nation ever to qualify for the World Cup while Croatia upset hosts Ukraine 2-0 to reach the play-off where they will be joined by the Irish who broke Welsh hearts 1-0 in Cardiff. Northern Ireland also reached the play-offs despite losing 1-0 in Norway as did Denmark who could only draw 1-1 at home to Romania. The Danish draw gave Poland automatic qualification as a Rebert Lewandowski hat-trick a few days earlier had given the Poles a 6-1 victory in Armenia while Serbia, who lost 3-2 in Austria, also qualified for the finals. Italy suffered a 1-1 draw at home to Macedonia and will need to rely on the play-offs while the Dutch bowed out with some dignity after an Arjen Robben double gave them a home win over Sweden and Latvia enjoyed a meaningless 4-0 win at home to Andorra.
In South America Paraguay’s inconsistent results led to their downfall as their 2-1 triumph in Colombia was followed by a shock 1-0 home loss to bottom team Venezuela who continued to rise in the football rankings while Argentina hit back from an early goal down in Ecuador with a Lionel Messi hat-trick to win 3-1 and qualify for yet another World Cup. The United States of America put 4 past Panama without reply in Orlando but were eliminated after losing 2-1 away to bottom-of-the-table Trinidad and Tobago while in Africa a Youssef Msakni hat-trick in Guinea gave Tunisia a 4-1 victory and left them on the brink of qualification and South Africa kept their hopes alive with a 3-1 home win over Burkina Faso.
The Asian Cup qualifiers got under way with Bahrain losing 2-1 in Taiwan and North Korea suffering a 5-0 humiliation in Lebanon while Afghanistan drew 3-3 with Jordan in Tajikistan.