Belgium, the Republic of Ireland, Iceland, Portugal, Wales, Croatia, Spain, Sweden, Austria, Finland and the Netherlands are among those who impressed this month.
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- For the first time, there will be 12 teams in the final tournament
- Hosts Poland will be joined by 11 qualifiers in the finals in June 2017
- The nine group winners qualify automatically
- The four runners-up with the best records against the sides first, third, fourth and fifth in their group will go into the play-offs for the remaining two berths
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Belgium added to their 2-1 win against Moldova in March by prevailing 2-0 in Latvia and lead the way. The Czech Republic began their campaign by dispatching Malta 4-1 but on Tuesday needed a late goal to draw 1-1 in Latvia, who thus got off the mark. Also on four points are Moldova, from four games, and Montenegro, after three. However, in second are Malta with five points from four outings, having drawn 0-0 in Montenegro to add to an away victory in Latvia and goalless result in Moldova.
The Republic of Ireland are top; having edged Andorra 1-0 in March they repeated the trick in Tuesday's return. Level on six points are Slovenia, who had scalped both the Andorrans and Lithuania but tonight were beaten 1-0 away to an Italy side opening their campaign. Serbia also got under way, defeating Lithuania 4-0.
Iceland have played three of the five games so far completed in this section and have seven points to show for them. This week they squeezed past France 3-2 and then drew 1-1 at home to Northern Ireland, who had previously succumbed 2-1 at home to Scotland. The team that lost to Iceland in June, FYR Macedonia, pipped Ukraine 1-0 on Saturday with an added-time Marjan Radeski goal.
No shortage of goals this week as Hungary won 6-0 in Liechtenstein and Portugal prevailed 6-1 in Albania, who had previously drawn 1-1 with Israel. Greece opened with a 2-0 success in Liechtenstein, who now have four losses from four home matches.
Three sides head the table on six points: Wales, Bulgaria and Romania. Wales are the only one to have got that tally from two fixtures, winning 3-1 in Luxembourg on Friday to match their March defeat of Bulgaria, who bounced back this month to triumph 2-0 in Romania and brush off Luxembourg 3-0. Romania themselves have twice beaten Armenia, including a 3-2 away victory on Tuesday. Denmark begin their campaign on 9 October at home to Wales.
Croatia are the early pacesetters having won both their opening matches against Georgia and Estonia without conceding, Antonio Milić and Aleksandar Pašalić each scoring two goals. Title holders Sweden and four-time winners Spain also made positive starts, seeing off Estonia and San Marino respectively, with their meeting on 13 October set to be the first key contest of the pool.
Austria have made a bright opening, winning 2-0 in Azerbaijan and then on Tuesday outlasting Russia 4-3 despite being pegged back from 2-0 and 3-2 up. Finland also have six points from two matches, overcoming Russia 2-0 and the Faroe Islands 3-0, while Germany began on Tursday with a 3-0 victory in Azerbaijan.
Just three games have been played so far in this section and the Netherlands are dominating, pasting Cyprus 4-0 on Friday and winning 1-0 in Turkey on Tuesday. In between, Belarus overcame Slovakia 1-0.
England and Switzerland top the section despite having played a match less than all their rivals, 1-0 away successes over Norway and Kazakhstan respectively putting them ahead of the pack. Both the sides defeated this week also have three points, with Bosnia and Herzegovina having lost both their fixtures. The sole team in Group 9 to have won this competition, England welcome Switzerland on 16 November.