Belgium joined Brazil, Iran, Japan, Mexico and hosts Russia in qualifying while several other countries are all but there. England can virtually seal qualification by beating Slovakia at Wembley on Monday night, September 4. But the most awkward guests at Russia 2018 would undoubtedly be Ukraine, considering Crimea's reunification with Russia in 2014 and the tense relations between Moscow and Kiev.
Andriy Yarmolenko, who was born in St. Petersburg, scored twice in the first half as Ukraine beat Turkey 2-0 win to leap from fourth place to second in Group I.Yarmolenko, 27, has spent most of his career at Dynamo Kiev but he joined Germany's Borussia Dortmund last week.
Спасибо всем, кто был со мной на протяжении многих лет, спасибо за исполнение мечты. Динамо Киев ⚪️🔵навсегда в моем сердце.👏🏻✊🏻 pic.twitter.com/EftIbOhImu— Andriy Yarmolenko (@Yarmolenko_9) August 28, 2017
Tweet: "Thanks to everyone who has been with me for many years, thanks for the realization of my dream. Dynamo Kiev forever in my heart."
Ukraine are still behind Croatia, who managed a 1-0 victory over Kosovo.
On September 5, victory for Ukraine in Reykjavik could put them back on top of the group if Croatia lose to Turkey in Eskisehir.
It looks likely that the winner of the group — who will qualify for Russia 2018 automatically — will not be decided until October 9, when Ukraine host Croatia in Kiev in the final match.
In July Russia's Deputy Prime Minister Vitaly Mutko assured FIFA the Ukrainians would be well looked after if they made it to the World Cup.
"I can say that the Ukrainian national team will not have any problems in Russia if it qualifies. Their group is very tough. We wish them luck," said Mr. Mutko.
Russia is issuing special identity cards, which will be needed to enter stadiums and can be used to enter the country as normal visa requirements are being waived.
Other European teams still on course to make it to the World Cup are France (despite failing to beat tiny Luxembourg at home on Sunday night), Germany, Poland, Serbia, Switzerland and Spain. Italy, who lost 3-0 to Spain, look like they will have to settle for a place in the play-offs, as will Portugal.
The Netherlands, traditionally one of Europe's strongest teams, have had a terrible qualification campaign. They sacked manager Danny Blind in March but still lost 4-0 to France on August 31.
But they managed to beat Bulgaria 3-1 on Sunday, with two goals from Brighton midfielder Davy Propper — his first for his country — and kept alive their hopes of making the play-offs.
In South America the three teams set to qualify automatically along with Brazil are Colombia, Uruguay and Chile. Argentina, who have won the World Cup twice, look like they will have to take their chances in a play-off match against a team from the Oceania group.
But they may even lose that play-off spot if Peru can win in Ecuador on Tuesday and then hold avoid defeat to Argentina next month.
Nigeria will become the first team from Africa to qualify for the tournament if they can beat their great rivals Cameroon on Monday and Zambia fail to win in Algeria 24 hours later.