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European Qualifiers: the story so far

Who looks well set to reach the FIFA World Cup following the last set of European Qualifiers for 2016? We look at the story so far in the nine groups.

Holders Germany are yet to drop a point or concede a goal
Holders Germany are yet to drop a point or concede a goal ©AFP/Getty Images

• Nine group winners advance directly to join Russia at the 32-team 2018 FIFA World Cup.
• Eight runners-up with the best record against the teams first, third, fourth and fifth in their groups proceed to play-offs to decide the remaining four European berths.

Highlights: France 2-0 Sweden

Group A
Leaders: France (10 points)
Second: Netherlands (7)

Story so far
France won 1-0 in the Netherlands in October and 2-1 against Sweden in November to open up a lead. Belarus have held France but drawn with Luxembourg and lost to Bulgaria, who are a point behind second.

Key results
Sweden 1-1 Netherlands, Netherlands 0-1 France, France 2-1 Sweden

Next games
Saturday: Sweden v Belarus, Luxembourg v France, Bulgaria v Netherlands

Highlights: Switzerland 2-0 Portugal

Group B
Leaders: Switzerland (12)
Second: Portugal (9)

Story so far
Switzerland beat newly-crowned European champions Portugal 2-0 in September and have stayed on top with narrow wins against Hungary, Andorra and the Faroe Islands. Portugal have since scored 16 times in three games to give themselves a goal difference edge should they host Switzerland on 10 October still three points behind. Hungary, on seven points, cannot afford to lose in Portugal on Saturday.

Key results
Switzerland 2-0 Portugal, Faroe Islands 0-0 Hungary, Hungary 2-3 Switzerland

Next games
Saturday: Andorra v Faroe Islands, Switzerland v Latvia, Portugal v Hungary

Highlights: Germany 2-0 Northern Ireland

Group C
Leaders: Germany (12)
Second: Northern Ireland (7)

Story so far
With four wins and 16 unanswered goals, it seems unlikely that Germany will not be defending their title in Russia. Azerbaijan made their best-ever start to a qualifying campaign by beating San Marino and Norway before drawing in the Czech Republic, but fell 3-0 in Northern Ireland on Friday. The Czechs beat Norway to go within two points of second.

Key results
Azerbaijan 1-0 Norway, Germany 3-0 Czech Republic, Northern Ireland 4-0 Azerbaijan

Next games
Sunday: San Marino v Czech Republic, Azerbaijan v Germany, Northern Ireland v Norway

Highlights: Austria 0-1 Republic of Ireland

Group D
Leaders: Republic of Ireland (10)
Second: Serbia (8)

Story so far
Having equalised late in Serbia on the opening day, Ireland have since beaten Georgia and won in Moldova and Austria to open up a lead. Wales conceded a late equaliser themselves at home to Serbia in November and are two points off third place after three draws in a row. Wales's trip to Ireland on Thursday looks pivotal to their hopes.

Key results
Serbia 2-2 Republic of Ireland, Austria 0-1 Republic of Ireland, Wales 1-1 Serbia

Next games
Friday: Georgia v Serbia, Republic of Ireland v Wales, Austria v Moldova

Highlights: Romania 0-3 Poland

Group E
Leaders: Poland (10)
Second: Montenegro (7)

Story so far
Just five points separate the top four with Denmark and Romania far from out of it. November's results may well prove crucial as Poland won 3-0 in Romania and Armenia came back from two down to triumph 3-2 in added time against a Montenegro side previously unbeaten, including victory in Denmark.

Key results
Poland 3-2 Denmark, Denmark 0-1 Montenegro, Romania 0-3 Poland

Next games
Sunday: Armenia v Kazakhstan, Montenegro v Poland, Romania v Denmark

Highlights: England 3-0 Scotland

Group F
Leaders: England (10)
Second: Slovenia (8)

Story so far
England may have had an unexpected change of manager but they are yet to concede a goal and their 3-0 Wembley defeat of Scotland left their neighbours six points behind in fifth. Slovenia, who held England 0-0, are proving tough to beat and lead Slovakia by two points thanks to a 1-0 win in October. Lithuania's draws with Slovenia and Scotland have also given them a chance but they are yet to play England.

Key results
Slovakia 0-1 England, Slovenia 1-0 Slovakia, England 3-0 Scotland

Next games
Sunday: England v Lithuania, Malta v Slovakia, Scotland v Slovenia

Highlights: Italy 1-1 Spain

Group G
Leaders: Spain (10)
Second: Italy (10)

Story so far
Spain have a goal difference advantage over Italy, with whom they drew 1-1 in October, with Israel a point behind after November's 2-0 win away to nine-man Albania. FYR Macedonia are without a point despite running Albania, Israel and Italy close.

Key results
Israel 1-3 Italy, Italy 1-1 Spain, Albania 0-2 Spain

Next games
Friday: Liechtenstein v FYR Macedonia, Italy v Albania, Spain v Israel

Highlights: Belgium 4-0 Bosnia and Herzegovina

Group H
Leaders: Belgium (12)
Second: Greece (10)

Story so far
An 8-1 defeat of Estonia means Belgium have 21 goals from their four wins and will look to open up a substantial lead when Greece visit next. Still, Greece are unbeaten and only dropped their first points when held 1-1 by Bosnia and Herzegovina in November, a far cry from their miserable UEFA EURO 2016 qualifying campaign. Bosnia and Herzegovina remain three points off second.

Key results
Greece 2-0 Cyprus, Belgium 4-0 Bosnia and Herzegovina, Greece 1-1 Bosnia and Herzegovina

Next games
Saturday: Bosnia and Herzegovina v Gibraltar, Cyprus v Estonia, Belgium v Greece

Highlights: Croatia 2-0 Iceland

Group I
Leaders: Croatia (10)
Second: Ukraine (8)

Story so far
Another close group with Iceland a point off Ukraine and Turkey two further back. Croatia moved ahead last time out by beating Iceland 2-0 while Ukraine defeated Finland 1-0. Turkey have drawn with Croatia and Ukraine but lost in Iceland.

Key results
Turkey 2-2 Ukraine, Iceland 2-0 Turkey, Croatia 2-0 Iceland

Next games
Friday: Turkey v Finland, Kosovo v Iceland, Croatia v Ukraine