World Cup 2018 Qualifiers' permutations for the Home Nations

World Cup 2018 Qualifiers' permutations for the Home Nations

The 2018 World Cup is just eight months away and the final two rounds of fixtures take place over the coming days.

Ryan White

All eyes are set on Gareth Southgate's England side this fortnight as the Three Lions only need to accumulate one victory from two outings to concrete a place in Russia for the World Cup

Scotland, Northern Ireland, Wales and the Republic of Ireland are also in action over the coming days and all have the possibility to make it to the prestigious competition next summer, although some may have to make it via the playoffs. 

Two countries from the European qualifying stage have already slotted their name into the group draw in December as hosts Russia automatically booked a place. Belgium, with Manchester United's Romelu Lukaku firing them into the tournament, are the only other nation from Europe definitely featuring in the forthcoming World Cup. 

Three Lions need one win

Gareth Southgate could guide the England national team to Russia next year with three points over Slovenia in their first international during this break, which will be played out at Wembley on Thursday night in front of a dispersed crowd. 

The three points would definitely ensure the Three Lions top the group but a draw after the full-time whistle means a top two spot in the group is solidified, although most on-lookers are expecting England to grab the victory at the first time of asking. 

If that doesn't occur then the trip to Lithuania will certainly be a lot more stressful than necessary. However, any win over the international break ensures Southgate and his squad have solidified a plane journey to the training camp in Russia in 2018. 



Scotland to make first major tournament appearance in 20 years?

Manager Gordon Strachan had the unfortunate task of competing with fierce country rivals England in World Cup qualifying as both were drawn in Group F, and the northern home nation sit on fourteen points, behind the Three Lions, Slovakia and Slovenia. 

The Tartan Army have outings with the latter two at home and, in realistic terms, need two triumphs to ensure a playoff spot. Three points against Slovakia on Thursday could make it an easier task for Strachan's men but it's an enduring task nevertheless if Scotland want even a distant opportunity to make their first major tournament appearance since the 1998 World Cup in France

Coleman's Wales could make history

We all have fond memories of the moments created by the Welsh at the European Championships last summer. It was the nation's first major tournament in 58 years and it may very well be Wales' first World Cup outing since 1958 when they made it to the quarter-finals. 

Chris Coleman's team lie second in Group D, which also contains neighbours Republic of Ireland, behind leaders Serbia who are on 18 points - four ahead of the home country. 

They can solidify a spot in the top two of their table with a victory on Friday as Wales face a trip to the far eastern depths of Europe to visit Georgia; an encounter which ended one-apiece in the Cardiff tie last October. 

Could Northern Ireland make it to Russia?

Northern Ireland faced one of the strongest opponents in the continent and, therefore, had an extremely difficult task to top Group C as current world champions Germany lead the pack in that table. 

The Green and White Army have helped make Windsor Park an absolute fortress during their World Cup qualifying campaign, following the heroics the country achieved in France last summer having defied the odds and made it out of the group stages of the Euros. 

Michael O'Neill's Northern Ireland, captained by Southampton midfielder Steven Davis, welcome the Germans to Belfast on Thursday but have already ensured a top-two finish, although they are yet to concrete a playoff spot for qualifying. 

A short plane journey to Norway follows and the squad will be eager to end the season on a high with all three points as a real confidence booster if they are to make it into the playoffs.