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A World Cup without the Dutch is looking a possibility

In 2010 the Netherlands lost the World Cup final against Spain, four years later they finished third, but it is looking more and more likely that they will fail to qualify for next years’ finals in Russia.

Ahead of the final round of match-days in the European qualifiers the Oranje are three points and six goals behind the second-placed Swedes in Group A.

With only the top-ranked team from each of the nine groups qualifying directly, the Dutch can probably best hope for a play-off place as one of the eight best second-placed teams, but even that will be incredibly difficult to obtain.

They are away to Belarus next Saturday and then face Sweden in a do-or-die match three days later at home. As Sweden are playing Luxemburg in Solna three days earlier, it seems certain that the group will go down to the wire, with 1998 champions France looking like a good bet to top the group as they are a point ahead of Sweden and four of the Netherlands.

But while the Dutch are likely to become the highest profile team to fall by the wayside, there are others that must be looking anxiously towards the two match-days.

In Group B Portugal are three points behind Switzerland, but a victory in Andorra and a win against the Swiss in Lisbon will see them leapfrog their opponents and send them into the playoffs.

Another big-name team that will need to qualify via the playoffs is Italy as the Azzurri trail Spain by three points in Group G.

Surprisingly, with just two matches to go in the group phase, only Belgium are assured of a place in Russia, having won Group H, with Greece and Bosnia Herzegovina competing for the runners-up spot.

England, Germany and Serbia are well ahead in their respective groups and should book their tickets to Russia with a game to spare.

The most open group is Group I, where just two points separate the leading Croatia and Iceland from Turkey and Ukraine who are ranked third and fourth.

Cole He Xin sees several groups going down to the wire. “European football has changed. In the past so-called bigger teams like Italy, the Netherlands, France, Spain, Germany and so on, could go into qualifying campaigns knowing that they would have an easy ride.

“Now there are countries like Iceland, Cyprus and even Luxemburg, who managed a draw in France in their last game, that can challenge these teams,” the head of the StarTimes Media Division Sports said.

As one of the official FIFA World Cup Russia 2018 broadcasters, StarTimes is showing all European qualifiers live and exclusive, subscribers can already look forward to all the action from the finals next year.

“We are very happy that we will be able to bring the world’s major sporting competition to millions of viewers. World Cup is coming to StarTimes Sports! Get ready everybody!” Cole He Xin said.

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