where each group stands and how England can qualify

Germany and Denmark have become the first European teams to qualify for the World Cup. As far as home nations are concerned, England’s draw with Hungary leaves them needing four points in their final two international fixtures to guarantee a spot. Wales and Scotland, meanwhile, remain firmly on track for the play-offs. 

After a night which ended hopes of Northern Ireland’s qualification, here is how each group stands for the run-in:

Who qualifies from Europe?

A total of 13 teams Europe feature at next year’s World Cup – the top teams in each group, with a further three through play-offs. Under a complicated system, 10 group runners-up fight for those three places in a knock out with the two highest-ranked teams from the Nations League who have not already qualified or finished second in a group.

Group A 

Having taken just five points from their opening six games, the Republic of Ireland are doomed. The group winner will be from the current top two of Portugal and Serbia, who both easily brushed aside Luxembourg and Azerbaijan respectively on Tuesday.

Group B 

Sweden’s 2-0 win over Greece helped them leapfrog Spain on Tuesday night. The Greeks, four points off second place, are also hoping for a miracle to seal a play-off place in their final two games.

Group C

It’s all over for Northern Ireland after 2-1 defeat in Bulgaria left them nine points adrift of second place. Italy tasted defeat for the first time in 38 matches after Spain claimed a 2-1 win in their Nations League semi-final, but the Euro 2020 champions remain unbeaten in World Cup qualifiers, and are on equal points, with two games remaining.

Group D 

Ukraine’s 1-1 draw with Bosnia failed to turn up the heat for France, who have been relatively underwhelming by dropping points in three games. The former Soviet state’s faint hopes of overhauling the pool leaders would require France to lose their remaining two matches. Finland, a point behind second, and Bosnia, two points behind second, still have play-off hopes.

Group E 

Wales are firmly in the hunt for a play-off place – victory at home to Belarus next month would take them clear of Czech Republic in second place. Belgium are on the brink of qualifying in November, having dropped just two points in their opening six matches.

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