The 2022 World Cup qualifying campaign is approaching the business end as we take you through the most exciting match-ups to look forward to on Thursday.
All eyes will be on Cristiano Ronaldo when Portugal meet Ireland. Yet, Portugal’s neighbors Spain are in an equally awkward position heading into the qualifying finale.
Let’s have a quick look at the most intriguing Thursday fixtures.
Germany’s dominance under Hansi Flick destined to go on
Germany’s decision to appoint Hansi Flick as the new chief of staff in September has turned out to be a massive hit.
Under the stewardship of the ex-Bayern Munich manager, Die Mannschaft have returned to their former heights, becoming the first team to qualify for next year’s World Cup.
Since taking over the managerial reins from Joachim Low, Flick has turned the Germans into a force to be reckoned with again, guiding his men to five straight World Cup qualifying victories.
And it’s not only about winning but the way they made it happen.
Germany’s five competitive wins under the new head coach have yielded an intimidating 18-1 aggregate scoreline, including a 4-0 payback victory in North Macedonia last time out.
The Germans are now standing in front of a straightforward task as they go up against minnows Liechtenstein, a side they’ve dismantled in each of their five previous international encounters.
Barring a miraculous turn of events, Germany should maintain their 100% H2H record against Group J whipping boys and continue the resurrection process under Flick.
Can Cristiano Ronaldo step up once again to save Portugal?
Portugal head towards the Aviva Stadium to take on Ireland in a must-win encounter as they aim to secure automatic qualification for Qatar 2022.
The Euro 2016 winners are second in World Cup Qualification Group A, one point adrift of leaders Serbia, though they have a game in hand over the Serbs.
Since the two sides are going to lock horns in a crunch meeting on the final matchday, a victory over doomed Ireland could have paramount influence on Portugal’s qualification hopes.
As ever, head coach Fernando Santos will turn to his headline performer Cristiano Ronaldo to spearhead the line in Dublin.
Ronaldo has taken the scene by storm since swapping Juventus for Manchester United in the summer, saving the Red Devils from embarrassments on multiple occasions this term.
The 36-year-old forward has been equally talismanic for Portugal. He was actually the one to turn the reverse fixture on its head, scoring a late brace to hand the Selecao a 2-1 win at the Estadio Algarve.
It’s likely to be up to him again to pave the way for Portugal’s safe passage to next year’s showpiece.
Nail-biting finish in Group B
With only two points separating top-placed Sweden and second-placed Spain ahead of the last two World Cup qualifying rounds, it’s almost impossible to predict the direct passenger to Qatar.
While the Swedes have a fairly winnable task of beating lowly Georgia on their hands, the Spaniards face an awkward challenge in the shape of Greece.
Thursday’s fixtures should serve as an ideal warm-up ahead of the H2H meeting between the group leaders on the final qualifying matchday, so buckle up.
Despite getting off the mark in Group B last time out, courtesy of a 2-1 away win over Kosovo, Georgia are likely to go down with little fight against in-form Sweden.
Meanwhile, Greece’s hopes of qualifying for their first World Cup finals since 2014 are in the balance, as a victory over Spain on home soil won’t be enough.
The Greeks trail the coveted play-off spot by four points, meaning even a triumph in Athens would warrant the last matchday results to go their way, namely Sweden to avoid defeat against Spain.
Since dreams don’t cost a dime, Greece could do Sweden a favor and inflict irreversible damage on Spain’s quest to book a ticket for Qatar 2022.