England moved another step closer to sealing FIFA World Cup qualification on Friday thanks to a dazzling victory against Albania that featured a perfect first-half hat-trick from Harry Kane. There was high drama in Rome, meanwhile, as Switzerland held Italy to leave top spot up for grabs in Group C, and Scotland secured a play-off spot to raise hopes of a first World Cup finals since 1998.
Spain, Russia, Croatia and North Macedonia were among the teams that earned crucial victories in Thursday’s qualifiers, while a point was enough for Portugal to move top of their section.
UEFA.com wraps up all the action from the Matchday 9 fixtures.
Who has qualified?
All Friday’s results
Group C: Italy 1-1 Switzerland, Northern Ireland 1-0 Lithuania
Group F: Austria 4-2 Israel, Denmark 3-1 Faroe Islands, Moldova 0-2 Scotland
Group I: Andorra 1-4 Poland, England 5-0 Albania, Hungary 4-0 San Marino
England in cruise control
Harry Kane’s treble helped England secure a top-two finish thanks to a devastating first-half performance. The Three Lions’ skipper netted a goal with his head, left foot and finally his right to complete a perfect treble just before half-time, with Harry Maguire having notched the opener and Jordan Henderson also providing a neat finish – from a Kane pass. Myrto Uzuni spurned the visitors’ best chance, firing a low effort at Jordan Pickford after pouncing on Kyle Walker’s under-hit back pass just minutes after England’s opening goal, with Albania’s faint hopes of qualification snuffed out by this defeat and Poland’s victory.
Group C hinges on final matches
Both Italy and Switzerland will go into Matchday 10 with hopes of topping Group C after drawing once again in Rome. A ferocious opener from Silvan Widmer gave the visitors a deserved early lead, but Giovanni Di Lorenzo’s header had the teams level at half-time. Jorginho could have won it a minute from time but sent his penalty over the crossbar. The two sides remain level on points and separated by just two goals, with Italy narrowly still top.
Best of the Rest
- Nathan Patterson fired in from a slick move and Ché Adams steered home the second as Steve Clarke’s energetic Scotland side impressed against Moldova to book a top-two spot. With that, they reached a major competition play-off from a qualifying round for the first time since the preliminaries for UEFA EURO 2004.
- Elsewhere in Group F, already-qualified Denmark maintained their perfect record by seeing off the Faroe Islands 3-1 for their ninth win from nine games. However, they did concede the first goal of their campaign (F30 A1).
All Thursday’s results
Group A: Azerbaijan 1-3 Luxembourg, Republic of Ireland 0-0 Portugal
Group B: Georgia 2-0 Sweden, Greece 0-1 Spain
Group H: Russia 6-0 Cyprus, Malta 1-7 Croatia, Slovakia 2-2 Slovenia
Group J: Armenia 0-5 North Macedonia, Germany 9-0 Liechtenstein, Romania 0-0 Iceland
Spain earn key success in Greece
La Roja need only avoid defeat at home to Sweden on Sunday to guarantee winning Group B as they ended Greece’s hopes of a top-two finish courtesy of Pablo Sarabia’s penalty – Spain’s first goal from the spot in a World Cup qualifier since October 2009. Greece will finish third irrespective of their result at home to Kosovo on the same night.
Rampant Russia stay top
Russia will qualify for the finals if they can avoid defeat in Croatia on Sunday after a big win over Cyprus. Aleksandr Erokhin’s goal was all that separated the teams at the break, but three more in seven minutes from Fedor Smolov, Andrey Mostovoy and Aleksey Sutormin gave the hosts a cushion, with Anton Zabolotny and Erokhin rounding off the victory late on.
Best of the rest
- Zlatan Ibrahimović returned to the Sweden starting XI but the 40-year-old was given a rude awakening as Khvicha Kvaratskhelia scored both goals to give Georgia a famous victory. Spain’s victory later in the evening pushed Jan Andersson’s side down to second place.
- Portugal moved above Serbia to the top of Group A despite being held to a goalless draw away to the Republic of Ireland. First place will be decided on Sunday when the pair meet in Lisbon.
- North Macedonia boosted their chances of appearing at a maiden World Cup finals by recording a 5-0 win in Armenia. Enis Bardi struck a hat-trick, with the three points catapulting the visitors into second place after Romania were held by Iceland.
- Croatia and already-qualified Germany racked up the goals against Malta and ten-man Liechtenstein respectively. Lovro Majer scored two of the Vatreni’s seven at Ta’ Qali while Leroy Sané and Thomas Müller grabbed two apiece as the Mannschaft struck nine in Wolfsburg.