Germany qualified for the 2022 World Cup after crushing North Macedonia 4-0 on Monday to secure the top spot in their qualifying Group J with two games to spare.
A second-half double by Timo Werner and one goal each from Kai Havertz and Jamal Musiala secured Germany’s fifth win in their fifth game under new coach Hansi Flick and lifted them to 21 points, with Romania in second place on 13.
All group winners in European qualification automatically secure a place at the tournament in Qatar.
The Germans, who were eliminated in the first round of the 2018 World Cup and the last 16 at this year’s Euros, had an early chance with a Thomas Mueller header.
But, as in their 2-1 home win over Romania on Friday, the Germans lacked precision with their final pass and finishing, creating only a handful of chances in the first half until Timo Werner hit the post with a low drive in stoppage time.
Germany, beaten 2-1 by North Macedonia in Duisburg in March, broke the deadlock in the 50th minute when Serge Gnabry split the defence with a superb through ball for Mueller and he laid it off for Havertz to tap in.
Forward Werner then scored twice in three minutes, first drilling in from another Mueller assist in the 70th and then curling a shot home from 15 metres three minutes later.
Substitute Musiala completed the victory seven minutes before the end with his first international goal.
Group G: Depay double ensures easy Netherlands win
Memphis Depay continued his goalscoring spree for the Netherlands as they thrashed Gibraltar 6-0 to stay on course for automatic World Cup qualification.
Depay scored twice, including one from the penalty spot while squandering another spot-kick, to take his goal tally in the World Cup qualifiers to nine – more than any other player from a European team.
Virgil van Dijk opened the scoring with a header from a Depay corner after nine minutes and there were also second-half goals for Denzil Dumfries, Arnaut Danjuma and Donyell Malen.
The result left the Dutch two points ahead of Norway in the Group G standings with two matches left to play. The Netherlands complete their qualifiers next month away against Montenegro and at home to Norway.
Depay had a 19th-minute penalty saved by Gibraltar debutant Bradley Banda but then made up for it with a tap-in from close range two minutes later before netting his second penalty effort on the stroke of half-time.
It was a fourth win in a row for veteran coach Louis van Gaal, who was brought back to help ensure World Cup qualification after Frank de Boer resigned following the team’s Euro 2020 failure.
Elsewhere in Group G, Norway‘s Mohamed Elyounoussi struck twice while a heroic defensive effort ensured a 2-0 win over Montenegro to keep alive the home side’s hopes of making the finals for the first time since 1998.
The win leaves the Norwegians in second spot on 17 points, two points behind leaders Netherlands and two ahead of third-placed Turkey with two games left.
Group H: Croatia lose ground after draw with Slovakia
Croatia dented their hopes of qualifying automatically for the 2022 World Cup after a 2-2 home draw with Slovakia in their Group H clash on Monday left them trailing Russia by two points in a two-team race for the top spot.
The Russians, who have 19 points from eight games, beat Slovenia 2-1 away to leapfrog Croatia, who came from behind twice against the Slovakians and had a late goal scrapped after a VAR check.
Both Russia and 2018 World Cup runners-up Croatia are assured of at least a play-off berth as third-placed Slovakia are on 10 points and have no chance of breaking into the top two.
Winger Ivan Schranz headed the Slovakians into a 20th-minute lead before Andrej Kramaric glanced in the equaliser five minutes later and the visitors struck again on the stroke of halftime through Lukas Haraslin.
Croatia captain Luka Modric levelled with a 71st-minute free-kick before substitute Nikola Vlasic was denied a winner in the 83rd as his close-range effort was ruled out for an infringement.
Croatia next visit Malta while Slovakia host Slovenia and Russia host Cyprus on November 11.
Russia defenders Igor Diveyev and Georgy Dzhikiya netted first half goals to secure a 2-1 win away to Slovenia.
Diveyev opened the scoring with a header off a free-kick that flew past Slovenian goalkeeper Jan Oblak in the 28th minute. Four minutes later, Dzhikiya scored with an impressive left-footed bicycle kick to increase Russia’s lead.
Slovenia quickly responded with a low strike by Josip Ilicic that beat goalkeeper Matvei Safonov in the 40th minute.
Kieffer Moore’s early strike was enough to earn Wales a vital 1-0 victory in Estonia on Monday to keep a playoff spot in World Cup Qualification Group E in their sights.
Wales started well and raced into a 12th-minute lead, with Moore prodding home following a goalmouth scramble from a corner.
As Wales tired it became a matter of holding on rather than looking for a second, with the hosts almost levelling through substitute Vlasiy Sinyavskiy, who was denied by a brilliant save from goalkeeper Danny Ward.
The third-placed visitors survived some nervy moments late on to move onto 11 points in the group, level with Czech Republic in second, although Wales have two games left compared to the Czech’s one. Belgium are top with 16 points.