Friday 8 September 2017

International Reds Round up: Race to Russia 2018 (part 1)

The first international break of the season saw countries across the globe continue their bid to qualify for next summer's World Cup.

In total, 17 United players left the club to represent their respective nations in the last round of qualification matches, and others will be looking to play in October's and November's matches.

The heat is on to reach Russia, and with 32 places up for grabs, we take a look at the United men who have already made it, who is close to booking their spot and those out of contention.

A star-studded Belgium squad are the only European team already assured of a World Cup berth, having taken 22 points from a possible 24 available so far and look set to top Group H.

Romelu Lukaku has led their charge with 10 goals in the campaign to date, and he continued his superb early season form with a hat-trick against Gibraltar (9-0) and the winner in Greece (2-1).

Marouane Fellaini has played his part with some influential displays in midfield, and - such is the array of talent at Roberto Martinez's disposal - Belgium will be expected to make a real impact at the finals.

There are still a number of countries who have work to do in the games that remain in the qualifying campaign, although some are very close to that place in Russia.

Phil Jones, Chris Smalling, Luke Shaw, Ashley Young, Michael Carrick, Jesse Lingard and Marcus Rashford could all be in contention for England as Gareth Southgate's side took a step closer to the tournament with a pair of wins over Malta (4-0) and Slovakia (2-1) - as Rashford scored the winner in the latter.

Elsewhere, Paul Pogba and Anthony Martial's France are locked in battle with Victor Lindelof's Sweden to finish top of Group A.
Les Bleus sit a point ahead of the second-placed Swedes in the standings with only two matches remaining.

Dick Advocaat's Netherlands side - including United duo Daley Blind and Palace loanee Tim Fosu - Mensah - remain in contention for the play-offs.
The Dutch are three points further back and set to face the Swedes in a potentially decisive clash in Amsterdam in October.

In Group G, 2010 winners Spain are assured of at least a play-off place, and currently lie three points ahead of Matteo Darmian's Italy after they beat the Azzurri 3-0 and thumped eight past Liechtenstein for the second time in the campaign.

David De Gea played in both games while Juan Mata and Ander Herrera will look to earn recalls under Julen Lopetegui for the next round of fixtures. 

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