Meanwhile, Turkey’s hopes of at least making the playoffs received a major boost, but after the two match days, only one European team, Belgium, confirmed their ticket to FIFA’s flagship tournament.
Rep. of Ireland 0-1 Serbia
The Serbians went to Dublin, saw and conquered their hosts 1-0, thanks to a 55th minute Aleksandar Kolarov bullet goal, though the Serbians had to endure a difficult final 22 minutes after they were reduced to ten men, following a Nikola Maskimovic’s sending off.
Consequently, with two match days left, Ireland find themselves five points adrift the top in third, though just one point behind the playoffs spot, occupied by Wales who left it late to see off Moldova 2-0 at home, with Robson-Kanu and Aaron Ramsey scoring the goals.
Elsewhere in the group, Austria’s playoffs hopes went up in flames after they only managed a disappointing 1-1 draw with Georgia.
Italy 1-0 Israel
Following their 3-0 demolition in Madrid, the Azzurris bounced back, albeit unconvincingly, to seal a playoffs spot with a 1-0 win over Israel, with Ciro Immobile scoring the winner eight minutes into the second half.
Leaders, Spain, extended their unbeaten run in the World Cup qualifiers to 61 matches without defeat as they followed up their 3-0 win over Italy with an 8-0 annihilation of Liechtenstein, their biggest away win ever, with goals from Sergio Ramos, Isco, David Silva and a brace apiece from Iago Aspas and Alvaro Morata.
The win means Spain stays atop the group, three points ahead of Italy in second, while in the other group matches, Macedonia and Albania, with their dreams all but over, played out a 1-1 draw.
Turkey 1-0 Croatia
This group remained too close to call with just two points still separating the leaders, Croatia and fourth placed team, Ukraine.
Turkey’s world cup hopes were revived with a hard-fought 1-0 win over Croatia, their first win against their visitors, and they really needed that result after the initial loss to Ukraine on match day 7.
However, Turkey wasn’t the only side with renewed hopes, as they were joined by Iceland, who also bounced back from their shock 1-0 loss to Finland to record a morale lifting 2-0 win over Ukraine, thanks to a Gylfi Sigurdsson brace.
So, as things stand in the group now, Croatia remains top on 16 points, level with Iceland in second, while Turkey and Ukraine are two points further behind in third and fourth respectively.
With all to play for in some of the groups when the qualifiers return next month, we leave you with this;
EVEN IN THE FACE OF DISAPPOINTMENT, YOU CAN ALWAYS FIND SOMETHING TO CELEBRATE!
See you soon.
Photo Credit: Twitter/@EuroQualifiers