The 2022 World Cup qualifying campaign is entering the crunch period, with several top European nations looking to book their tickets for Qatar 2022.
Let’s have a quick look at the most exciting match-ups to watch out for on Saturday.
France to lock down a place at Qatar 2022
Fresh from becoming the first-ever nation to win five different international titles with UEFA Nations League success in September, France will welcome minnows Kazakhstan to the Parc des Princes.
Undefeated in all six World Cup Qualification Group D fixtures to date (W3, D3), Les Bleus are one win away from claiming a place at next year’s showpiece.
Kazakhstan’s visit to Paris should seal the deal for France, who have struggled to impress in the ongoing qualifying cycle, averaging a measly 1.33 goals per match.
Didier Deschamps’ men won the reverse fixture in Nur-Sultan 2-0 and have racked up three consecutive triumphs ahead of the kick-off, netting 2+ goals on each occasion.
Therefore, the reigning world champions are widely expected to make light work of this encounter and paint automatic qualification for Qatar 2022 with flying colors.
Louis van Gaal to maintain his eye-catching Netherlands run
The Netherlands’ underwhelming Euro 2020 experience accelerated Frank de Boer’s departure, with Louis van Gaal swooping in to replace him in August.
Van Gaal came out of retirement to take charge of the Dutch national team for the third time with one single purpose – bring the Oranje back to the World Cup finals.
Led by the 70-year-old tactician, the three-time World Cup runners-up have rediscovered their mojo, winning four consecutive qualifying matches by an aggregate score of 17-1.
Sitting two points clear of second-placed Norway, the Netherlands could secure a top-two finish with a win here ahead of their crunch meeting with the Scandinavians on the final matchday.
An overwhelming 4-0 victory in the reverse fixture in Eindhoven served to get Van Gaal’s third managerial stint at the national team underway and initiate the Netherlands’ purple patch.
Wales can ill-afford to drop points against Belarus
Wales’ efforts to reach their first World Cup finals since 1958 are hanging by a thread as we approach the business end of the ongoing qualifying cycle.
Rob Page’s men are currently third in Group E, level on points with the second-placed Czech Republic, though they have a game in hand over Jaroslav Silhavy’s side.
Overthrowing section leaders Belgium looks well out of the realm of the imagination, but securing the coveted play-off spot is still very much a possibility.
Since the Dragons are unlikely to stand a chance against FIFA’s best-ranked nation in the World Cup qualifying finale, beating group whipping boys Belarus in Cardiff is a must-win affair in the strictest sense.
Wales had to come from a 2-1 half-time deficit to beat the Eastern European minnows 3-2 in the reverse fixture in Kazan back in September, which should be a warning not to take this opposition lightly.