What to watch for in Monday’s World Cup qualifiers

Group D
Austrian evolution
Monday’s early kick-off pits an Austria side who failed to live up to the promise of their qualifying campaign at UEFA EURO 2016 against Georgia, whose last result was a 1-0 win in Spain in June. Austria coach Marcel Koller has called up uncapped goalkeeper Andreas Lukse, defender Stefan Stangl, midfielder Louis Schaub and forward Michael Gregoritsch, but explained: “This is not a new start, we continue on the same path. Several players are reaching their 30s so you have to start adding young players if you don’t want to replace ten players at once some day.”
Georgia v Austria, 18:00CEST

EURO 2016 highlights: Wales 3-1 BelgiumWatch: How Wales beat Belgium in EURO quarter-finals

Wales go again
One team that did not disappoint at the EURO were Wales, with their memorable run to the semi-finals. Manager Chris Coleman now has his eyes firmly fixed on ending Wales’s 50-year absence from FIFA World Cup final tournaments. “It was so special, but it is gone, that moment is finished,” he said. “We have to create something new.”
Wales v Moldova, 20:45CEST

Ireland without Keane
There will be something odd about the Republic of Ireland line-up in Belgrade – namely the absence of Robbie Keane. The 36-year-old forward bowed out of international football on Wednesday against Oman with his 146th cap and 68th goal, the same number Gerd Müller managed for West Germany. The top scorer in the Ireland squad to take on Serbia is Shane Long on 16.
Serbia v Republic of Ireland, 20:45CEST

David Silva (Spain)David Silva celebrates scoring in Belgium©AFP/Getty Images

Group G
Silva at heart of revamped Spain
For the first time in a decade, Spain launch a qualifying campaign not as defending champions, having lost their World Cup crown in Brazil two years ago as well as exiting UEFA EURO 2016 in the round of 16. Julen Lopetegui has succeeded Vicente del Bosque as coach and began well on Thursday with a 2-0 friendly victory in Belgium inspired by two-goal David Silva.
Spain v Liechtenstein, 20:45CEST

Albania’s new home
Albania performed well at their maiden finals in France, narrowly missing out on the UEFA EURO 2016 knockouts. Their feet are back on the ground, however, and they drew 0-0 in a friendly with Morocco on Wednesday. It was the team’s first experience of their new home, Shkoder’s rebuilt Loro Boriçi Stadium, which will also host FYR Macedonia on Monday.
Albania v FYR Macedonia, 20:45CEST

Daniele De Rossi (Italy)  Antoine Griezmann (France)Italy also lost 3-1 to France in a friendly this week©AFP/Getty Images

Italy’s half-century
You have to go back 51 games since Italy were last beaten in EURO or World Cup qualifying. Their first assignment on the road to Russia, a tricky match in Israel, takes place almost ten years to the day since that most recent loss – a 3-1 defeat by France on 6 September 2006 in what was a repeat of the World Cup final two months earlier.
Israel v Italy, 20:45CEST

Group I
Kosovo debut
Though clubs from Kosovo have already competed (with some distinction) in the UEFA Futsal Cup and UEFA Women’s Champions League over the last month, their first competitive national-team fixture as UEFA members is in Finland. The squad were given a warm reception in Helsinki on Thursday and are expected to have plenty of support in Turku.
Finland v Kosovo, 20:45CEST

EURO 2016 highlights: Turkey 0-1 CroatiaEURO highlights: Turkey 0-1 Croatia

Croatia and Turkey meet again
It was only on 12 June that these sides last met, when Croatia opened their UEFA EURO 2016 campaign with a 1-0 success against Turkey earned by Luka Modrić’s long-range volley. However, there will be some differences on Monday with Croatia forced to play the game behind closed doors and Turkey without Arda Turan among other familiar faces in a radical squad reshuffle by Fatih Terim.
Croatia v Turkey, 20:45CEST

Shevchenko faces Iceland
Ukraine and Iceland are under new leadership after contrasting EUROs. Ukraine were the only team not to get a point in France but have since promoted Andriy Shevchenko to head coach, his assistants including Mauro Tassotti. Iceland, on the other hand, were quarter-finalists on their finals debut, but Heimir Hallgrímsson is now in solitary charge after the departure of Lars Lagerbäck, who had worked alongside him since 2013. Kári Árnason told FIFA.com: “Heimir already played a big role, so I don’t have any fears. But there’s no doubt Lagerbäck set the standard for all of us.”
Ukraine v Iceland, 20:45CEST

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