What do the home nations and Republic of Ireland have to do to qualify for the Russian World Cup?

Luke Brown
Which of the home nations are on course to qualify?: Getty

World Cup qualifying in Europe is approaching its conclusion, with just two games remaining in each of the groups.

In Group C, Northern Ireland have booked their spot in the second round and could even leapfrog Germany at the top of the table, albeit the chances of that are exceptionally slim.

While in Group F, England have all but qualified and will make certain of their place in Russia next summer with a win over Slovenia at Wembley on Thursday night.

But the other home nations are all fighting hard to join them at the 2018 World Cup. Scotland are fourth in Group F and need to win their remaining matches to finish ahead of Slovakia and Slovenia in a playoff place.

And in the particularly competitive Group D, both the Republic of Ireland and Wales still have hopes of qualifying for a playoff place behind group winners Serbia.

Here each team's chances of reaching the finals in Russia next year is analysed.


Games remaining: October 5 v Slovenia (h), October 8 v Lithuania (a).

Southgate's side are yet to lose a match in Group F (Getty)

With the exception of away draws in Slovenia and Scotland, England have coasted their way through Group F, conceding just three goals and picking up 20 points.

Gareth Southgate’s side sit five points ahead of Slovakia in second place and will book their place in Russia as group winners with a win against either Slovenia or Lithuania.

If England lose one of their games and draw the other one – and Slovakia wins both of their remaining fixtures – they could yet finish in second place. Likewise, if England lose both of their remaining matches and Slovakia and Slovenia win all of theirs, they could miss out on qualification altogether. But it’s hard to see that happening.

Northern Ireland

Games remaining: October 5 v Germany (h), October 8 v Norway (a).

Northern Ireland beat Azerbaijan and the Czech Republic to a playoff place (Getty)

Northern Ireland are guaranteed at least a playoff spot as they sit nine points ahead of third place Azerbaijan with just two qualification matches remaining.

They could even leapfrog Germany at the top of the group. But for that to happen they would have to beat the world champions in Belfast before winning their remaining match against Norway and hoping Germany lose at home to Azerbaijan.

A draw wouldn't be enough for Germany to slip into second: they currently have a goal difference of +33.


Games remaining: October 5 v Slovakia (h), October 8 v Slovenia (a).

Scotland need to win their remaining two matches (Getty)

Of all the home nations attempting to qualify for the World Cup next summer, Scotland are in the most precarious position.

They currently sit fourth in Group F, behind both Slovakia and Slovenia – who they play in their remaining two fixtures. Considering Slovakia host Malta in their final fixture, Scotland almost certainly have to beat Ján Kozák’s side in their next match if they are to finish in the playoff position.

They then face Slovania – perhaps with a three point advantage if England do them a favour at Wembley on Thursday night. But a draw wouldn’t be enough given Slovakia’s easy match against Malta.

Simply put, Scotland have to win both of their remaining matches if they are to finish second in the group behind England.


Games remaining: October 6 v Georgia (a), October 9 v Republic of Ireland (h).

Wales will be without Gareth Bale for their crunch fixtures (Getty)

Wales have rallied and after wins against Austria and Moldova now sit second in Group D, although they have the Republic of Ireland breathing down their necks.

They play Georgia away from home in their next match before hosting the Republic of Ireland in what is likely to be a direct playoff for second place, behind Serbia.

If Wales fail to beat Georgia, they will have to beat the Republic. If they beat Georgia, a draw would be good enough. It’s in their hands.

(One more thing. Wales may finish second, but they currently sit bottom of the 'ranking of runners-up' table, used to work out which eight teams from the nine group-stage runners-up progress to the play-off round. They could really do with putting some goals past Georgia to boost their goal difference.)

Republic of Ireland

Games remaining: October 6 v Moldova (h), October 9 v Wales (a).

The Republic of Ireland have to beat Moldova (Getty)

The Republic of Ireland have one easy fixture and one difficult fixture remaining. Whether they need to win both to guarantee a playoff spot depends entirely on the outcome of Wales’ match against Georgia.

Victory over Moldova, who are ranked 156th in the world and have picked up just two points in Group D, is practically a certainty. But if Wales beat Georgia, the Republic will also have to win in Cardiff which is a difficult proposition. If Wales lose or draw, Martin O'Neill’s side need only to avoid defeat at the Cardiff City Stadium.

There is still a chance Austria can leapfrog both Wales and the Republic of Ireland, although for that to happen Wales would have to lose to Georgia and the Republic of Ireland at home to Moldova, with the two nations drawing in Cardiff.

The Republic also have the ranking of runners-up table to worry about although a big win over Moldova would ease their fears of finishing second but still missing out.

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