London, Oct 6 (IANS) Germany remained perfect in the European zone qualifiers while England secured the top place in their group as both sides assured themselves of berths in the 2018 football World Cup in Russia.
Germany and England on Thursday joined host nation Russia and Belgium, who clinched it in the previous round, in the European contingent, which will ultimately include 14 teams in all, reports Efe.
Germany, the 2014 World Cup winners, have 27 of 27 possible points after besting Northern Ireland 3-1 on goals by Sebastian Rudy, Sandro Wagner and Joshua Kimmich in Belfast.
“The fact that we’ve now already qualified shows that we’ve had a great World Cup qualification campaign,” Germany defender Jerome Boateng was quoted as saying by Germany football association’s website.
The Northern Irish side, with 19 points and a lock on the second spot in Group C, will look to increase their total when they face Norway next week in the 10th and final qualifying match.
Eight of the nine second-place finishers will face each other in playoffs for a chance to go to Russia.
A late goal by Harry Kane gave England a 1-0 victory against Slovenia.
Leading second-place Scotland by six points with one match to play, the English are assured of winning Group F.
“We know we have to get better but that’s for tomorrow,” England chief coach Gareth Southgate said in a statement.
“But tonight, as a country, we go to the World Cup. This team has potential, but we’ve got a hell of a lot of work to do,” he added.
“We come off the back of what happened in the last European Championships with the change of coach, a lot of difficulties throughout the campaign, but we’re there and we look to where we can improve all the time.
“This is a young team, they’re still learning all the time and nights like this aren’t straightforward.”
Scotland, who defeated Slovakia 1-0 on Thursday, have only a two-point advantage over the Slovaks and are three points up on Slovenia.
Scotland can secure second place with a victory against Slovenia on Sunday.
Poland moved a step closer to clinching the top spot in Group E with a 6-1 rout of Armenia. Robert Lewandowski had a hat trick, becoming his country’s all-time leader scorer, with 50 goals in 90 appearances for the national squad.
The Poles have 22 points, three more than second-place Denmark, who defeated Montenegro 1-0 on Thursday and look likely to reach the playoff, given that the Montenegrins must contend with Poland in their final match.
Thursday’s other four European qualifiers involved teams already out of contention.
The Czech Republic defeated Azerbaijan 2-1; Romania cruised to a 3-1 win against Kazakhstan; Malta and Lithuania deadlocked 1-1; and Norway pounded hapless San Marino 8-0.