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What to look out for in Thursday’s European Qualifiers

The European Qualifiers are back from Thursday, with the likes of France, Switzerland – one of only two teams with a perfect record – and Belgium looking to edge closer to a FIFA World Cup berth.

France must dispel doubts     
With four wins and a draw, France looked like they were cruising to a World Cup berth until Ola Toivonen’s 93rd-minute goal condemned les Bleus to their first defeat of the campaign on 9 June. Instead, France could now be relegated to third place with a home defeat against a resurgent Netherlands side. “We have to be better than them, we have to win. We all have the same goal in mind,” explained centre-back Samuel Umtiti.
France v Netherlands

Other games in Group A
Bulgaria v Sweden
Luxembourg v Belarus

 

Perfect Swiss look to the future
Switzerland may have a perfect qualifying record to protect for now, but – even with the FIFA World Cup moving into view – they are already looking further into the future. Coach Vladimir Petković has extended his contract for another two years and will be in charge of mounting a challenge for UEFA EURO 2020. “Anything we have done together has turned out positive,” he said. “We have made a lot of progress physically, mentally and in terms of results. I still see potential to be unlocked in this team.”
Switzerland v Andorra

Other games in Group B
Portugal v Faroe Islands
Hungary v Latvia

Belgium braced for Gibraltar
In the away match against Gibraltar, in October last year, Belgium equalled their all-time record away win (6-0) and Christian Benteke scored the quickest ever competitive international goal (8.1 seconds). Coach Roberto Martínez wants more of the same in Liege. “We will certainly not take this match lightly,” he said. “This game should give us a lot of information. It is in these kind of matches that the right motivation has to be found. I want us to play like in the away game; our attitude was fantastic and we scored very quickly. That is the level I want to see.”
Belgium v Gibraltar

Other games in Group H
Greece v Estonia
Cyprus v Bosnia and Herzegovina

 

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