What we learned from October's European Qualifiers

Portugal's free-scoring week could prove invaluable this time next year, Greece have found their form while the Netherlands are still searching: the key points from October's matches.

What do you think of our choices? What stood out for you? Let us know using #WCQ on @EuroQualifiers

Watch Ronaldo score four
Watch Ronaldo score four

Portugal in the goals

In itself, Portugal beating Andorra and the Faroe Islands 6-0 is not extraordinary for the European champions against two of UEFA's smaller nations, but those Group B victories may yet prove decisive.

Having lost their opener 2-0 away to Switzerland – who then won twice this month – Portugal know they could go into their final game at home to Vladimir Petković's side still three points behind. Since goal difference, rather than head to head, will separate teams in these qualifiers, those big scorelines for Portugal may become invaluable, especially because Switzerland only prevailed 2-1 in Andorra.

Highlights: Netherlands 0-1 France
Highlights: Netherlands 0-1 France

Netherlands under threat

The Netherlands started the week with a 4-1 Group A thrashing of Belarus but Monday's 1-0 home loss to France leaves them three points adrift of both Les Bleus and Sweden – and in danger of failing to qualify for consecutive major tournaments for the first time in more than three decades. One consolation: after missing the 1982 and 1986 FIFA World Cups as well as the 1984 UEFA European Championship, in 1988 they sealed their only major championship triumph to date.

Iceland's stunning comeback
Iceland's stunning comeback

EURO surprise packages: no fluke

One big question ahead of these European Qualifiers was whether Wales, Northern Ireland, Iceland and Albania could match their breakthrough performances both en route to, and during, UEFA EURO 2016. Iceland's dramatic comeback win against Finland in Group I preceded a 2-0 success over Turkey, and while Wales were held by Georgia, they remain unbeaten and well placed in Group D.

Albania have two victories out of three in Group G and if they feel a disappointment at trailing Spain and Italy by a point, it shows how far they have come. Northern Ireland, meanwhile, lost 2-0 to a Germany side looking every bit the world champions they are, yet had not conceded before then and still occupy a strong Group C position.

Azerbaijan stun Norway
Azerbaijan stun Norway

New underdogs showing bite

The Faroes may have come unstuck against Portugal, but then they were already on four points after holding Hungary and scalping Latvia. Since they still have to play Andorra twice as well as host the Latvians, the Faroes are likely to smash their record points tally of seven in 2002 qualifying, and could well be a threat to reach UEFA EURO 2020 from League D of the UEFA Nations League – assuming their ranking doesn't rise high enough to put them in League C.

Azerbaijan have already made history as their 1-0 triumph over Norway, added to September's victory in San Marino, means they began a qualifying group with two wins for the first time. In fact, they had never previously won two games in a World Cup qualifying group, and their hot streak continued with Tuesday's 0-0 Group C draw in the Czech Republic.

Greece make it three wins
Greece make it three wins

Greece's recovery

Losing twice to the Faroe Islands, going through several coaches and finishing bottom of their group: UEFA EURO 2016 qualifying did not go to plan for Greece. Yet Group H successes over Cyprus and Estonia mean that Greece now have three wins out of three in this 2018 campaign and overall they have pieced together five straight victories. A third straight World Cup appearances is very much in their grasp.

Benteke's record-breaking goal
Benteke's record-breaking goal

Benteke makes history

Although Gibraltar kicked off Monday's Group H match with Belgium, within 8.1 seconds they were behind. Christian Benteke's goal is the fastest in a competitive international since modern timing was introduced, beating by 0.2 seconds Davide Gualtieri's strike for San Marino against England in 1993. The swiftest ever international goal is thought to be Lukas Podolski's effort for Germany against Ecuador in a 2013 friendly, timed at six seconds.

What do you think of our choices? What stood out for you? Let us know using #WCQ on @EuroQualifiers.

Next Week of Football: 11–13 November

Highlights

Friday 11 November: England v Scotland, France v Sweden
Saturday 12 November: Croatia v Iceland, Spain v FYR Macedonia
Sunday 13 November: Greece v Bosnia and Herzegovina, Portugal v Latvia

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