Now that the last international break of the weekend is over with, we take a look back at the break and rank the top performing nations in light of the developments in the 2018 World Cup qualification groups.
The worst thing that one can say about this side at the moment is the fact that they managed to concede their first goal in qualifying over the weekend, to Azerbaijan. The fact that they then went on to win the game 4-1 in Baku tells you all you need to know. They’re looking extremely strong at the moment.
Now it might not be looking to good for them in qualification at the moment, but I have faith that they will pull it out of the bag and make it to Russia. This is a side, after all, that has been in the final in each of the last three tournaments that they’ve been in over the last three summers. They’re still a great side, that could probably do with a rest, and a new coach.
The French are marching serenely on to the next World Cup, in spite of having not the easiest group to deal with. A loss in the midweek friendly to Spain may have shown up some shortcomings, but they have some very exciting young players coming through, a good team spirit (for once) and some incredible strength in depth.
The European champions may trail the Swiss in their qualification group, but they have racked up a goal difference that is far superior to their rivals ever since their loss in the first group game. It may all come down to the group’s final match when a Portuguese win at home to them may well see them through.
Like Argentina, the champions of South America have not found it too easy in their qualification group. Defeat in Buenos Aires was followed up by a win at home to Venezuela, meaning they lie in the final automatic qualification spot. This is a team, however, that has won the last two Copa Americas and came so very close to knocking Brazil out at the last World Cup. Underestimate them at your peril.
You could make a feasible argument to say that this side is the most in-form nation out there in international football. Eight victories in a row have ensured that they are the first side to qualify for the finals, other than the hosts, though one will have to actually see how they go in tournament football to see if they can make a comeback from the disappointments of recent years.
They are no longer the best in the world, as the last few tournaments have shown, but their victory in Paris on Tuesday night did show the quality that they still have, in particular in midfield. If they have someone to finish the chances that they create, such as Diego Costa, they are also a far more potent force than Tuesday night or the game against England at the end of last year showed.
With 22 goals scored in five games, the Belgians are the top scorers in the UEFA qualifiers, which isn’t too surprising considering the attacking talent that they have and that Roberto Martinez is the coach. It’ll be interesting to see, however, how they fare when they come up against a good side, that can actually defend and pose a threat going forward.
The Italians have got a number of good, young players coming through for the first time in a few years, and the expectation is that this is a side that is going to be built around PSG’s Marco Verratti. Tied at the top of their group with Spain, all the expectation is turning towards their encounter in September in Madrid, which will most likely decide the group.
Often overlooked for one reason or another, Colombia find themselves in second place in the South American qualifying group and on course for another finals appearance in Russia. WIth some not too difficult fixtures to come, they should be booking their place pretty soon and are definitely a side to watch out for.
Agree with our rankings? Let us know in the comments section below.