Germany are making all of this look very easy. Another 3-0 win, their second in two qualifying games thus far, puts them top of Group C, a position they are simply unlikely to relinquish. The Czech Republic joined Norway in Germany’s trophy collection, swept aside with barely a second thought. Joachim Low was the subject of considerable criticism for failing to win Euro 2016. Unless something extremely surprising happens, he’ll have a chance to make up for that in Russia in 18 months’ time.
Having taken a swipe at Chris Coleman by dismissing his side’s European Championship heroics as “lucky,” it would have been very unfortunate if Marcel Koller’s Austria had then lost to Wales. Fortunately, Marko Arnautovic was on hand to score a much-needed brace of goals and earn his nation a 2-2 draw. Stoke City supporters may have cause to wonder where performances like that have been this season. Koller, by contrast, will just be greatly relieved that Arnautovic saved himself for his country.
After five consecutive defeats at home, finally the Dutch have something to shout about. An emphatic 4-1 victory over Belarus finally got Netherlands’ qualification campaign firing. A creditable draw away at Sweden gave them something of a foundation last month, but this is much more like it. Two goals for Quincy Promes set them on their way and an absolute howitzer from Vincent Janssen capped off a very pleasing night’s work. Are they back? Who knows. But at least they’re getting better.
As any English fan will testify, you write off Iceland at your peril. The stars of the European Championship were at it again this week, losing 2-1 to Finland after 90 minutes and somehow walking away with a 3-2 victory. “After 85 minutes, I’d have taken a draw,” said manager Heimir Hallgrimsson, “but the players kept believing and you reap what you sow.” And how they needed the three points. Up against the likes of Croatia, Ukraine and Turkey, this will be a very tight group.