Top nations set for World Cup qualifying showdown

The line-up for the 2018 World Cup in Russia will have more nations added to it over the next few days as the qualifying process reaches its climax.

Eight teams have already guaranteed their place in next year’s tournament, with hosts Russia currently joined by Belgium, Brazil, Mexico, South Korea, Saudi Arabia, Iran and Japan.

England look well-placed to finish top of Group F, needing just two points from games against Slovenia and Lithuania to secure their spot.

Scotland could claim a play-off place with victories over Slovakia and Slovenia, although that duo can also finish runners-up in the group.

Many sports betting sites in the UK make France odds on to win Group A, with Sweden in line to pip Netherlands to a play-off place.

Portugal look a good bet at 4/5 to win Group B, but unbeaten Switzerland currently lead the standings ahead of the final qualifying games.

The pair meet in Portugal on October 10 and a victory there would send Cristiano Ronaldo’s side through on goal difference.

Four-time winners Germany look certain to top Group C, while Northern Ireland are already sure of their place in the play-offs. The Germans are 5/1 favourites to win the World Cup.

Wales still face a battle to qualify for Russia, with victories over Georgia and Republic of Ireland not certain to give them a play-off place.

Five draws in their opening eight qualifiers have left Chris Coleman’s side at the bottom of the second-place table that determines which eight teams make the play-off shoot-out, and they require results elsewhere to go their way.

Serbia, Poland and Spain look in good shape to take their places in Russia, while Italy need just one point to finish second in Group G. The Azzurri will fancy their chances of progressing via the play-off route.

Croatia are 8/11 to finish top of Group I, but Iceland, Turkey and Ukraine are all still in the mix.

Despite being as low as 9/1 to win the tournament outright, Argentina are not certain to progress from the South American group.

Lionel Messi’s side have struggled for consistency throughout the qualifiers and currently lie fifth in the standings.

With only the top four teams going through, Messi will need to work his magic in their final group games against Peru and Ecuador.

If Argentina do finish fifth they will face a two-legged play-off against Oceania winners New Zealand in November.

Nigeria, Ivory Coast and Egypt should be amongst the nations who progress from Africa, while Syria could be one of the most unlikely qualifiers in history if they can overcome Australia in their two-legged play-off. Syria can be backed at 4/1 to seal their place in Russia.

Top nations set for World Cup qualifying showdown

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