Friday 8 September 2017

International Reds Round up: Race to Russia 2018 (part 2)

We continue the second part of our International Reds round-up in Group D of UEFA qualifying.

In Group D, Nemanja Matic and Serbia look set to finish top and pip the Republic of Ireland, after a 3-0 victory over Moldova and a 1-0 win in Dublin. 

They are currently four points ahead of Chris Coleman's Wales in second place and five clear of Martin O'Neill's side with matches against Austria and already-eliminated Georgia on the horizon.

In South America, Argentina - including Sergio Romero and Marcos Rojo (even though he's still injured) - face an uphill struggle to qualify from their section.
The 2014 finalists currently occupy the play-off position in fifth, after they suffered frustrating stalemates against Uruguay and Venezuela during the latest round of fixtures.
Jorge Sampaoli's side are level on points with fourth-placed Peru, who they play next month in a contest that will go a long way to deciding their fate. 

However, it's a tall order for Ecuador and their captain Antonio Valencia, who are well off the pace after successive defeats to Brazil and Peru.

Those results left them in eighth place - four points off the play-off position - with difficult fixtures to come against Argentina and Chile.

In the African section, Eric Bailly's Ivory Coast side are on track to reach a fourth successive World Cup finals.
With two games left against Mali and Morocco, Les Elephants hold a slender one-point advantage over the latter in Group C, but suffered a setback in a surprise 2-1 home loss to Gabon last time out.

Henrikh Mkhitaryan's dream of World Cup glory is unfortunately over, with his Armenia side  already eliminated after a disappointing campaign in European qualifying.

Captain Mkhitaryan scored in one of their two wins - a 2-0 success over Kazakhstan in March - having collected only six points from their eight matches so far in Group E. 

The qualification picture will become even clearer during the next round of international fixtures next month, as the pressure ratchets up in the race to Russia 2018.

There looks set to be a strong Reds presence for the World Cup itself, with some still dreaming of their participation in the greatest footballing spectacle of them all. 

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