Not long to go with most places for FIFA RUSSIA 2018 to be decided in October and then play offs in November to decide the 32 teams.
So far we have Russia as hosts of course, plus Belgium, Mexico, Brazil, Saudia Arabia, Iran, South Korea, Japan. The favourites in Europe to join them look like Sweden or France, Switzerland, England, Germany, Serbia, Poland, Spain and Croatia or Iceland. The top 8 of 9 runners up will be drawn in 4 home and away ties with the winners going to the finals.
The most interesting recent result was that of Iran 2 v Syria 2 at the Azadi Stadium in Teheran. War torn Syria play their 'home' matches in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia due to the conflict at home, and Iran had already qualified in style. The one point means that the Syrians will playoff against Australia, home and away in Kuala Lumpur and either Sydney or Melbourne. The winners will then have yet another play-off against the 4th place CONCACAF team for a place in the finals.
Iran had already banned two players for life, including their captain, for playing against an Israeli team in the UEFA League which in my opinion ought to been a years suspension including missing out on a trip to Russia. The other obnoxious news was than the authorities banned Iranian women from entering the Azadi stadium(which I think translates as freedom), although Syrian women were allowed entry. Protesters had their banners confiscated and were sent away by the police.
In fact Syria scored first before the home team scored twice. The visitors scored late on for the tie and the one point that sent them into the play-offs.
An embarressing 6-0 away defeat for Norway at the Mercedes-Benz Arena in Stuttgart to group leaders Germany. Die Mannschaft scored six times without reply through Ozil, Werner 2, Goretzka, Gomez, Draxler. Sad to see the Norwegians, who have such a great youth league and national team programme in 5th place above San Marino and below Germany, Northern Ireland, Azerbaijan, and the Czech Republic.
In OCEANIA New Zealnad made easy work of beating Solomon Islands at home and then a surprise 2-2 tie away in Honiara on the island of Guadalcanal at the Lawson Tamu Stadium. The Kiwis will face the 5th place finisher in CONMEBOL home and away to earn a place in the finals. In Auckland Chris Wood, recently transferred from Leeds United to Burnley of the Premier League scored a hat trick in the 6-1 victory.. Aggregate in the two legs was 8-3.
In CONCAF Mexico top the group and have already qualified with Costa Rica, USA and Panama fighting for the 2nd and 3rd automatic spots with 2 matches to play. Costa Rica, who won 2-0 away to USA at Red Bull Arena NJ, has 15 points and looking good while Panama with 10 and USA with 8 points are battling for the last automatic spot. In October USA is at home to Panama in Orlando then away to Trinidad & Tobago in Port of Spain. Panama also has a home match with Costa Rica.
Uruguay and Peru look like joining Brazil in the finals with the the 4th automatic spot is between Argentina and Chile.
Still some exciting matches ahead in October and play-offs in November.