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Gareth Southgate’s England needed four points to confirm their spot at next November’s showpiece and they picked those up in some style, netting 15 goals in the process.
Harry Kane became the first Three Lions player to score back-to-back hat-tricks since 1957 – his three in the 5-0 home win over Albania were followed up with four in the 10-0 rout of minnows San Marino.
The biggest shock was in Lisbon where – following a 0-0 draw against the Republic of Ireland – Portugal took on Serbia in a winner-takes-all encounter.
Fernando Santos’ Selecao made a dream start through Renato Sanches’ second-minute opener, but they were pegged back when Dusan Tadic equalised shortly after the half-hour mark.
It was a cagey affair at the Estadio da Luz, but the Eagles kept fighting and scored a dramatic 90th-minute winner through Fulham star Aleksandar Mitrovic – sending them to Qatar and Portugal into the play-offs.
Spain On The Plane
There was a similar scenario elsewhere on the Iberian peninsula, as Spain hosted Sweden in Seville.
Luis Enrique’s side may be going through a transitional period, but a promising 2021 ended in style – Alvaro Morata’s second-half strike sending La Roja to the World Cup and consigning their Scandinavian opponents to second place.
Play-Off's For Italy
Joining the Swedes in the lottery of the play-offs will be Euro 2020 champions Italy.
A 1-1 draw against Switzerland in their penultimate game kept the Azzurri’s destiny in their own hands, but a missed Jorginho penalty ultimately proved to be costly.
Roberto Mancini’s men were held to a goalless draw against Northern Ireland and could only put on a brave face as the Swiss breezed past Bulgaria to book their World Cup berth.
Doha Oranje Invasion
Wheelchair-bound after a recent cycling accident, Louis van Gaal’s preparation for the Netherlands’ crunch clash with Norway was far from perfect – but two late goals settled the nerves, with Doha now readying itself for an Oranje invasion.
Without marksman Erling Haaland, the news soon worsened for Norway, after Turkey picked up all three points in Montenegro to take the play-off spot.
Scotland And Wales Keep Hopes Alive
Elsewhere, Croatia defeated Russia in torrential conditions to send the 2018 runners-up to Qatar, while Germany hit nine and four past Liechtenstein and Armenia respectively – Die Mannschaft were already assured of their place at the tournament.
Denmark’s 100% record in qualifying was ended by Scotland, whose 2-0 victory was enough to ensure they will be a seeded home side in March's play-offs.
Wales finished their qualification campaign with a 5-1 win against Belarus and a 1-1 draw against Belgium, securing second-place in Group E behind Roberto Martinez’s side.
Finally, defending champions France wrapped things up with an 8-0 win against Kazakhstan and 2-0 triumph over Finland – the latter result condemning the Finns to third place, one point behind Ukraine.
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