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Highlights: Spain clinch World Cup place, Serbia made to wait

Spain are through to the 2018 FIFA World Cup after a 3-0 defeat of Albania coincided with a draw for nearest rivals Italy, while Serbia failed to wrap up their own berth away to Austria.

Spain celebrate securing their World Cup place
Spain celebrate securing their World Cup place ©AFP

Qualified: Belgium, England, Germany, Spain, Russia (hosts)

Group D

Highlights: Austria 3-2 Serbia

Austria 3-2 Serbia

Serbia kicked off knowing a win would seal their ticket to Russia and they made a fine start when Luka Milivojević drove in from outside the area after 11 minutes. Austria's hopes were already dashed, but the hosts levelled through Guido Burgstaller and went ahead via Marko Arnautović, before Dušan Tadić's goal prompted a frantic finish. It was Austria who grabbed the late winner, though, Louis Schaub's cross evading everyone to leave Serbia just one point clear ahead of Monday's meeting with Georgia.

Georgia 0-1 Wales

Chris Coleman's side edged closer to a top-two finish with a hard-fought win in Tbilisi, Tom Lawrence scoring his first goal for his country – a terrific angled drive four minutes into the second half – to maintain their unbeaten run in the section. Georgia did not go down without a fight, though, Wayne Hennessey saving from Giorgi Merebashvili in the closing stages. A draw against the Republic of Ireland on Monday would now guarantee the Dragons a play-off place.

Republic of Ireland 2-0 Moldova

Ireland kept themselves in contention ahead of that Cardiff showdown thanks to a blistering start in Dublin, Daryl Murphy pouncing within two minutes following a long throw. The Nottingham Forest striker had scored just once for his country in 28 previous appearances, but he grabbed his second of the night soon after courtesy of a fine header – to leave his side needing a win in Wales to be sure of at least second place.

Group G

Highlights: Spain 3-0 Albania

Spain 3-0 Albania

Spain booked their place in next summer's finals after a devastating opening 27 minutes in Alicante. Rodrigo's well-taken strike, his first for Spain, made it 1-0 before provider turned scorer as Isco fired in his fifth of qualifying. Thiago Alcántara promptly added a third, a thumping header following a cross from debutant Álvaro Odriozola. Spain had chances to add to their lead, but events in Turin proved more telling as Italy's failure to win sealed Spain's passage to Russia.

Italy 1-1 FYR Macedonia

The Azzurri clinched a top two spot but must settle for a play-off as Spain won, while Italy were restricted to a point. Giorgio Chiellini's opportunistic strike just before half-time looked like being enough, until the hosts were undone by a goal made in Italy 13 minutes from time. Genoa's Goran Pandev instigated it, threading the ball through to Palermo winger Aleksandar Trajkovski, who fired past Gianluigi Buffon and into the far corner.

Liechtenstein 0-1 Israel

Maccabi Tel-Aviv defender Eitan Tibi scored a rare goal – his first in international colours – as Israel edged to victory in Vaduz. The visitors managed ten shots on target to the home side's none but, despite Israel leading from the 21st minute, the game was in the balance until the end. Liechtenstein have now lost their last 13 qualifiers.

Group I

Croatia 1-1 Finland


Debutant Pyry Soiri toppled Croatia from the top of Group I, stealing in to score a late goal and leave Ante Čačić's side needing at least a draw against Ukraine next time out to be sure of a top-two place. Mario Mandžukić nudged Croatia in front from close range – his 30th international goal – but his side were left to rue a succession of missed chances in a one-sided game.

Highlights: Turkey 0-3 Iceland

Turkey 0-3 Iceland

Turkey's World Cup dreams evaporated with their worst competitive home defeat since November 2011, while Iceland moved to the top of the section with a masterful counterattacking victory – and are certain of at least second spot as they prepare to welcome bottom side Kosovo. Jón Dadi Bödvarsson laid on Iceland's first-half goals for Johann Gudmundsson and Birkir Bjarnason, with Kári Árnason forcing in their third from close range early in the second half.

Kosovo 0-2 Ukraine

Andriy Shevchenko's men will have one last chance at a top-two finish after subduing a dogged Kosovo side in heavy rain. Leart Paqarada unwittingly headed a Yevhen Konoplyanka cross into his own net to give the visitors the lead, and Andriy Yarmolenko made sure of all three points with a late second. Ukraine trail Croatia on goal difference going into their final-day encounter, and must win to finish at least second.