Northern Ireland secured second spot in Group C with two games yet to play after overcoming Czech Republic 2-0 at Windsor Park on Monday. The West Brom duo of Jonny Evans and Chris Brunt bagged the all-important goals in a jubilant night in Belfast, where Northern Ireland won five matches in a row for the first time in their history. The small yet boisterous nation are now essentially guaranteed a playoff spot as they aim to reach their first World Cup finals since 1986, while also aiming to compete in successive major tournaments for the first time in their history. Two tough ties remain, with a home test against world champions Germany followed by a trip to Norway, both games taking place in early October.
Meanwhile, England came from a goal behind at home to Slovakia to win the affair 2-1, with goals from Eric Dier and Marcus Rashford. The side reacted well after conceding just three minutes into the game, and are in a comfortable position in Group F, five points clear of Slovakia in second. England now sit on the brink of World Cup qualification with two games left, a home test against Slovenia in third and an away trip to fifth places Lithuania.
Scotland’s 2-0 home victory over Malta kept them in contention for a playoff spot as goals from Christophe Berra and Leigh Griffiths were enough in the crucial tie at Hampden. Scotland now sit joint third with Slovenia on 14 points, one point off Slovakia in second in a group that will undoubtedly go right down to the wire. The Scots now have a vital meeting with Slovakia in early October, followed by an equally significant tie away to Slovenia three days later.
Group D meanwhile turned dramatically as firstly Wales overcame Moldova 2-0, while the Republic of Ireland lost their first match of the campaign in a tense 1-0 with Serbia. Goals from Hal Robson-Kanu and Aaron Ramsey sent Wales second in the group on 14 points, four off top placed Serbia, while Ireland slipped to third and now sit one point off Wales. Ireland host Moldova as Wales face a trip to Georgia in early October, yet the grudge match in Cardiff three days later between the two will more than likely settle this extremely competitive group once and for all.