England secured their place at the 2014 World Cup after defeating Poland at Wembley, whilst Bosnia-Herzegovina will compete in the Finals for the first time in their history.
A 4-1 win against Montenegro on Friday meant three points against Poland would ensure England topped Group H; anything less and they would have had to settle for a playoff spot as Ukraine, who eventually thrashed San Marino 8-0, lurked just a point behind. In a tense yet exciting match at Wembley, Wayne Rooney calmed the nerves of the home fans when he headed Roy Hodgson’s side in front before the break, and Steven Gerrard wrapped things up with a second in the dying minutes.
History was made in Group G as Bosnia-Herzegovina won 1-0 in Lithuania to book their place in Rio. Vedad Ibisevic, the prolific Stuttgart striker, will be regarded as a hero for the rest of his life after netting the all-important goal. Euro 2004 winners Greece finish the schedule in second position, despite their relatively comfortable 2-0 win at home to Liechtenstein.
Goals from Alvaro Negredo and Juan Mata gave Spain the win over Georgia which clinched top spot in Group I, meaning Vicente Del Bosque’s side will have the chance to defend the title they won in South Africa. This win condemned France, who beat Finland 3-0, to a playoff place, and their place in Brazil is further at risk as they are unlikely to be seeded when the draw is made on Monday.
Another side hoping for a first crack at the Finals is Iceland, who recorded an impressive 1-1 draw away to Norway courtesy of a Kolbeinn Sigthorsson goal. Coupled with Slovenia losing to Switzerland, who had already secured first place in Group E, this means Lars Lagerback will lead his team to the playoffs in the hope of booking an unlikely spot in Brazil.
Fabio Capello was made to sweat it out as his Russia side edged into the Finals. They started the day with a three-point cushion over Portugal in Group F and were well on course until a last-minute leveller for Azerbaijan rattled their nerves. They did manage to hold on, though, meaning Cristiano Ronaldo and co have to settle for second-place despite their 3-0 win over Luxembourg.
Romania secured a playoff spot following a 2-0 win over Estonia, thanks to a brace from Getafe forward Ciprian Marica. Turkey, who started the day with hopes of finishing in the playoff position, saw their hopes dashed when Holland, who finished top of Group D without breaking too much of a sweat, beat them 2-0 thanks to goals from Arjen Robben and Wesley Sneijder.
Germany and Sweden had already secured first and second spot respectively in Group C, so the pressure was off and this was evident as they dished up a thriller. The home side went 2-0 up against the group winners, but Chelsea’s Andre Schurrle hit a hat-trick and goals from Arsenal’s Mesut Ozil and Bayern Munich’s Mario Goetze clinched an eventual 5-3 win for Joachim Low’s side.
The in-form Aaron Ramsey, who has been in fine goalscoring form for Arsenal this season, struck a late equaliser to earn Wales a surprise point at Group A winners Belgium. Whether this is enough to give Chris Coleman an extended stay as coach of the national side remains to be seen, but it will certainly have boosted his hopes. Croatia lost 2-0 in Scotland, yet they had already booked a playoff place having finished ahead of Serbia, who whacked Macedonia 5-1.
Spare a thought for Denmark, who made light work of Malta in Copenhagen. The 1992 European Champions recorded a 6-0 win to finish ahead of the Czech Republic in second place, but they have been denied a playoff berth as they have the worst record of the nine runners-up. In the same group, Italy finished top and clearly took the foot of the gas in a 2-2 home draw with Armenia.
In South America, Uruguay beat already qualified Argentina 3-2, but they have to settle for a playoff place as Ecuador pipped them to automatic qualification on goal difference, despite going down 2-1 to Chile in Santiago. Luis Suarez and co will have to get the better of Jordan next month to secure their place in Rio, with Colombia also finishing ahead of them in the group standings, whilst Mexico will take on New Zealand in the second Intercontinental playoff match.
Australia, Iran, Japan and South Korea have qualified from the Asia section, whilst Costa Rica, United States and Honduras are through from North and Central America.
European Qualifiers: Belgium, Bosnia-Herzegovina, England, Germany, Holland, Italy, Spain, Russia and Switzerland
South American Qualifiers: Argentina, Chile, Colombia and Ecuador
Asian Qualifiers: Australia, Iran, Japan and South Korea
North/Central America: Costa Rica, Honduras, United States
Europe (two-legged playoffs to be played on November 15 and 19; draw to be made on Friday October 18): Croatia, France, Greece, Iceland, Portugal, Romania, Sweden, Ukraine
Intercontinental (two legged playoffs to be played on November 15 and 20): Jordan or Uruguay; and Mexico or New Zealand
Africa (first leg scores in brackets; second legs to be played between November 16 and 19): Burkina Faso (3) or Algeria (2); Ethiopia (1) or Nigeria (2); Ghana (6) or Egypt (1); Ivory Coast (3) or Senegal (1); and Tunisia (0) or Cameroon (0)