Top nations target World Cup spot; AFC Champions League down to last four

Top nations target World Cup spot; AFC Champions League down to last four

The world’s top footballing nations are in action this week, with many still aiming to secure their place at the 2018 World Cup in Russia. Brazil have already qualified for next summer’s tournament, but the likes of England, France, Italy and Argentina still have work to do.

Read on to find out more about the climax to the qualifying campaign.

England almost there, Argentina in trouble

England host Slovenia on Thursday knowing that victory will guarantee they seal top spot in Group F and they are priced at 4/11 to get the victory they need.

Harry Kane has been in sparkling form in the Premier League, so check out first goalscorer odds ahead of the game if you fancy the Tottenham star to strike first against Slovenia.

France are as short as 6/1 to win the World Cup and are favourites to qualify from Group A, with Sweden and Netherlands set to contest second place.

The Swedes have a three point advantage over Dick Advocaat’s side with two games to play and their superior goal difference should see them finish as runners-up in the group.

Italy’s 3-0 defeat against Spain earlier in the Group G campaign leaves them looking towards the play-off route to qualify, but the Azzurri should have enough quality to secure their place.

Portugal are 4/5 to finish top of Group B and their final qualifier against Switzerland gives them a great chance of overtaking the current table toppers.

Germany have won eight out of eight in Group C, but still need a point to guarantee their participation in Russia.

The four-time winners are 5/1 favourites to lift football’s ultimate prize and their form during the qualifiers suggests they’ll be a force to be reckoned with next year.

Belgium have already qualified from Group H, while Serbia and Poland are other European nations who look well-placed to join them.

Wales, Republic of Ireland, Denmark and Croatia are amongst the contenders for the play-offs, which will see eight teams battle for the four remaining European places at the tournament.

In South America, Argentina have struggled for form throughout the qualifiers and could face a two-legged showdown against New Zealand to make it through.

Russia, Brazil, Iran, Japan, Mexico, Belgium, South Korea and Saudi Arabia are the eight teams guaranteed their places, with 24 other nations set to join them.

Brazil are the shortest-priced non-European nation, currently rated as 6/1 second favourites to win the trophy for a record sixth time.

Al Hilal close in on AFC Champions League final

Away from the international scene, the AFC Champions League has reached the semi-final stage and three teams still have a realistic chance of making the final.

Al Hilal’s 4-0 first leg victory over Persepolis should be enough for them to progress, while it’s all to play for between Shanghai SIPG and Urawa Red Diamonds after a 1-1 draw.

Omar Khribin was the star of the show for Al Hilal who are now 6/4 to win the competition. The forward grabbed a hat-trick and was a constant threat throughout the game.

Shanghai and Urawa were expected to deliver a goal fest having accumulated 75 goals between them ahead of the semi-finals, so a low-scoring draw was something of a surprise.

Oscar, Hulk and Wu Lei racked up 14 efforts on goal between them, while Urawa goalkeeper Shusaku Nishikawa was busy as he made seven saves during the game.

Urawa are at home in the second leg and are 7/4 to win the trophy, with Shanghai priced at 2/1, but the Chinese side have the firepower to make it through to the final.

Brazilian star Hulk took his tally to nine in the tournament with a superb goal in the first leg and he’ll be amongst the favourites to get on the scoresheet when the teams meet again on October 18.