Lukaku heads Belgium into Russia; Netherlands secure big win vs. Bulgaria

Romelu Lukaku and Belgium secured their place in the 2018 FIFA World Cup with a thrilling victory over Greece.

Romelu Lukaku’s 74th-minute header confirmed Belgium’s spot in the 2018 World Cup with a 2-1 victory over Greece in Group H on Sunday.

An uneventful game sprang to life in the second half, with Jan Vertonghen opening the scoring for the visiting team only to see Greece draw level three minutes later when Zeca smashed home a first-time volley from Georgios Tzavellas.

But a minute after that, Lukaku rose highest to head a Thomas Meunier cross into the back of the net and secure top spot in their group to make Belgium the first UEFA team besides the hosts to book a spot in Russia.

Although Belgium cannot be caught in the group, the race for second and a playoff spot remains wide open.

Bosnia-Herzegovina are the current incumbents after they jumped a point ahead of Greece with a 4-0 win in Gibraltar, Edin Dzeko scoring twice.

France’s qualification hopes suffered a setback as they were held to a shock goalless draw at home to minnows Luxembourg.

Didier Deschamps’s side, who thrashed the Netherlands 4-0 on Thursday, were expected to win convincingly in Toulouse but they were unable to break down a country positioned 126 places below them in the FIFA world rankings.

Midfielder Paul Pogba headed against the crossbar in the second half while Luxembourg goalkeeper Jonathan Joubert produced some fine saves to earn his side a memorable draw.

The result could have been even worse for Les Bleus, with Luxembourg midfielder Gerson Rodrigues striking an upright late on.

Portugal ensured they cannot finish lower than second in Group B after they ground out a 1-0 win over 10-man Hungary.

Former Watford forward Tamas Priskin was sent off after half an hour for an elbow on Pepe but it was only Andre Silva’s header from Cristiano Ronaldo’s cross that sealed all three points.

The loss ends Hungary’s hopes of reaching the World Cup.

With World Cup qualifying nearly finished, Switzerland remain at the top of Group B after a dominant win over Lativa.

Switzerland’s comfortable 3-0 win in Latvia means they stay three points clear at the top but automatic progress is not beyond Portugal, who host Switzerland in their final fixture. 

Second-half goals from Blerim Dzemaili and a Ricardo Rodríguez penalty  padded the Swiss lead after a first-half own goal from Latvia’s Andris Vanins had given the visiting side the lead on nine minutes.

Davy Propper and Arjen Robben gave the Netherlands hope in Group A with a 3-1 victory over Bulgaria.

Davy Propper scored a brace as Netherlands kept alive their hopes of qualifying with a 3-1 victory over Bulgaria.

Propper broke the deadlock in the eighth minute when he converted Daley Blind’s cross from close range and Robben then made it two after 67 minutes as he slid in to meet another Blind delivery.

Ivelin Popov pulled one back for Bulgaria two minutes later as he guided a header into the bottom corner, but Netherlands grabbed a third 10 minutes from time through Propper, who headed home Quincy Promes’ cross for his second of the evening.

The win sees Netherlands leapfrog Bulgaria into third in Group A, keeping them in sight of Sweden and France.

Sweden now trail France by just one point after their 4-0 rout of Belarus.

Emil Forsberg opened the scoring in the 18th minute, rounding Sergey Chernik before slotting home, before Christoffer Nyman netted six minutes later after taking advantage of a Belarus mistake at the back.

Marcus Berg then made sure of the result eight minutes before the break with a simple finish after being teed up by Forsberg, with Andreas Granqvist scroing a fourth from the penalty spot six minutes from time.

Domagoj Vida scored Croatia‘s winner as they beat Kosovo 1-0 in Group I, with the game resuming on Sunday following its suspension on Saturday due to heavy rain.

The match in Zagreb resumed after 21 minutes, with Vida’s goal — his first for Croatia in four years — coming after 74 minutes when he headed home Luka Modric’s free kick into the bottom corner.

The result ensured Croatia returned to the top of group, two points clear of second-placed Ukraine, with Kosovo remaining bottom.

In Group B, Gilli Sorensen scored Faroe Islands‘ winner as they recorded their second victory of the campaign with a 1-0 defeat of Andorra.

Sorensen struck just after the half-hour mark with a low drive into the bottom corner for Faroe Islands, who remain fourth in the standings, one position ahead of their opponents.

Mattias Kait netted a last-minute winner as Estonia beat Cyprus 1-0 in Group H.

Kait struck from outside the box to secure Estonia a second win of the campaign, though the result keeps them one place behind Cyprus in fifth.

Follow @ESPNFC on Twitter to keep up with the latest football updates.

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