Scotland’s 2-2 draw with Slovenia was not enough to see them qualify for World Cup 2018, whilst England ran out 1-0 winners in a dull tie with Lithuania.
Lithuania 0-1 England
England laboured to a less-than-convincing 1-0 win against Lithuania in a match that looked and felt like a training exercise, not helped the small arena-like stadium and artificial grass surface, rather than a World Cup qualifier.
To best describe it, one of the highlights of the game came early in the second half when referee Orel Grinfeld was forced to halt the game after the children enjoying a casual kick-about on a five-a-side pitch at the open end of Lithuania’s tiny stadium kicked a yellow football over the netting and onto the main pitch.
There was little desire and almost no penetration to England’s attacks, the only goal coming courtesy of a Harry Kane penalty on 27 minutes.
Lithuania, who were never truly going to challenge England’s defence, offered up a few chances but nothing close to what will be faced at the finals in Russia next year.
One good chance did fall to the hosts late on, but substitude Deivydas Matulevicius struck his shot straight at the chest of Jack Butland, who saved it well enough.
In total, the game was another dull affair from Gareth Southgate’s team, and will have done nothing to instill any belief of England doing well at World Cup 2018.
Slovenia 2-2 Scotland
Scotland saw their World Cup 2018 dreams shattered in the final qualifying match in a battling draw with Slovenia.
With Slovakia all but expected to beat minnows Malta, Scotland knew nothing but a win would be enough to keep them in with a chance of qualifying through the playoffs.
Things looked to be going to plan too when Celtic’s Leigh Griffiths opened the scoring for Scotland on 32 minutes.
However, Slovenia showed fight and resilience in the second half and on 52 minutes they got their reward through substitute Roman Bezjak’s goal.
Bezjak, who plays his club football for Darmstadt in Germany, added a second on 72 minutes to complete a turnaround for the hosts and break Scottish hearts.
Robert Snodgrass added a late equaliser for Scotland on 87 minutes to rekindle a small amount of hope, but it would amount to nothing.
Failing to secure all three points, and with Slovakia beating Malta, Scotland saw their World Cup journey come to an end.
Norway 1-0 Northern Ireland
Northern Ireland secured their place in the World Cup 2018 playoffs despite defeat to Norway.
In a largely uneventful game, the main highlight came when West Brom’s Chris Brunt put through his net on 71 minutes to give Norway the lead.
The goal ultimately proved to be the match winner, though with Northern Ireland securing their playoff place anyway, it is likely that some of Brunt’s blushes were spared.
Rest of Europe
Denmark 1-1 Romania
Tottenham’s Christian Eriksen scored for the second international match in a row when he converted his country’s penalty on 60 minutes.
However, midfielder Ciprian Deac – who plays club football for domestic side CFR Cluj – equalised for the visitors late into the game on 88 minutes.
Kazakhstan 1-1 Armenia
Armenia had a large amount of the shots in the game – a total of 20 of the match’s 29 – and broke the deadlock through Manchester United’s Henrikh Mkhitaryan on 29 minutes.
However, despite fewer goal attempts, Kazakhstan equalised through FC Kairat’s Bauyrzhan Turysbek, who scored for the second time in as many matches in this international break.
Poland 4-2 Montenegro
Legia’s Krzysztof Maczynski gave Poland an early lead when he opened the scoring on 6 minutes, before Hull’s Kamil Grosicki doubled the home side’s advantage on 16 minutes.
Stefan Mugosa got a goal back for Montenegro on 79 minutes.
The remaining goals then didn’t come about until an action-packed final five minutes in Warsaw.
First, Oostende’s Zarko Tomasevic got the visitors on level terms with his goal on 85 minutes, before less than a minute later Bayern Munich striker Robert Lewandowski – who became Poland’s record goalscorer in his last match – scored on 86 minutes.
Montenegro’s Filip Stojkovic then put through his own net on 88 minutes to give Poland a more comfortable margin of victory.
Slovakia 3-0 Malta
Despite being all but expected to win, Slovakia still knew they had no option but to win and hope Scotland didn’t to in order to keep qualification hopes for Russia 2018 alive.
Slovakian forward Adam Nemec, who plays club football for Dinamo Bucarest in Romania, helped his country on its way to that goal by opening the scoring on 33 minutes.
Nemec added his and Slovakia’s second of the game on 62 minutes, before Hertha Berlin’s Ondrej Duda added a third on 69 minutes.
The three points, and Scotland’s draw with Slovenia, meant that Slovakia rose to second in the qualifying group on account of their superior goal difference and secured a playoff spot.
Czech Republic 5-0 San Marino
Czech Republic ran out comfortable winners against minnows San Marino, with Viktoria Plzen’s Michal Krmencik opening the scoring after just 8 minutes.
Krmencik then added his and his country’s second on 23 minutes, before club teammate Jan Kopic scored on 27 minutes to make it three.
Filip Novak, who plays his club football for Denmark’s FC Midtjylland, made it four to the Czech Republic with a goal on 71 minutes.
Sparta Prague’s Vaclav Kadlec completed the rout with a goal on 83 minutes.
Germany 5-1 Azerbaijan
Germany coasted to a routine victory against Azerbaijan in the Allianz Arena.
Schalke’s Leon Goretzka fired the home side into an early lead on 8 minutes, before a goal from Azerbaijan’s Ramil Sheydayev – who plays club football for Qarabag, on loan from Trabzonspor – meant that the two teams went into halftime a goal apiece.
While conceding was certainly not in the script, Germany regained their composure and went up the gears in the second half.
Hoffenheim’s Sandro Wagner put them back ahead on 54 minutes, before Chelsea’s Antonio Rudiger scored on 64 minutes.
Goretzka added Germany’s fourth on 67 minutes. Liverpool’s Emre Can completed the rout on 81 minutes.