Wales seal home advantage in playoffs after holding Belgium in Cardiff

Qualifiers round-up: Dutch delight in Rotterdam; Ukraine book playoff slot

Wales 1 Belgium 1

Wales drew 1-1 with Belgium to secure home advantage in their World Cup playoff semi-final.

Kevin De Bruyne silenced a noisy Cardiff crowd inside 12 minutes, but Kieffer Moore equalised before half-time to give Wales the point they craved.

Already guaranteed a playoff spot through their Nations League results, Wales were determined to secure a home tie in March by finishing second in Group E.

The point was enough to finish above the Czech Republic and take their place among the six seeded teams in the playoffs.

Turkey needed to win by four goals in Montenegro to deny Wales a home tie but could only manage a 2-1 victory.

Netherlands 2 Norway 0

Netherlands forwards Steven Bergwijn and Memphis Depay struck late to send their country into the 2022 World Cup finals with a 2-0 home victory over Norway in Rotterdam.

The Dutch return to the finals after missing out on the 2018 tournament in Russia but with little conviction after limping through their last two qualifiers.

They had been eight minutes from securing early qualification on Saturday before giving up two goals to draw in Montenegro but Tuesday’s victory in an empty stadium due to Covid-19 restrictions was enough to top the group.

The Netherlands finished Group G with 23 points from 10 games, two more than Turkey. Norway ended third in the group with 18 points.

Bosnia 0 Ukraine 2

Ukraine's Oleksandr Zinchenko and Artem Dovbyk scored second-half goals to secure a vital 2-0 win over Bosnia in Zenica in their Group D qualifier that clinched a playoff berth.

The result lifted Ukraine into the runners-up spot on 12 points from eight games, one ahead of Finland who slipped to third after a 2-0 home defeat by group winners France, who had already secured an automatic berth with a match to spare.

Ukraine dominated the first half, with Roman Yaremchuk twice going close while Zinchenko and Andriy Yarmolenko also missed chances before visiting goalkeeper Georgiy Bushchan clawed out a Dennis Hadzikadunic header at the other end.

Zinchenko broke the deadlock in the 59th minute when he tapped the ball into an empty net from three metres as a fine run and cross from the left by Viktor Tsygankov left the Manchester City player with a simple finish.

Substitute Dovbyk sealed Ukraine's berth in the March playoffs when he raced clear from the halfway line and steered his shot from inside the area past home keeper Nikola Vasilj in the 79th minute.

Finland 0 France 2

Karim Benzema and Kylian Mbappé were on target again in a sharp second-half performance as France completed their World Cup qualifying campaign with a 2-0 away win against Finland in Helsinki.

The French attack stuttered until Benzema came on as a second-half substitute and Mbappé set him up for the opener.

Mbappé then scored France’s second as the world champions, who had already qualified for Qatar 2022 after Saturday’s 8-0 demolition of Kazakhstan, finished Group D with 18 points from eight games.

Finland, who were hoping to secure a playoff spot, ended up third on 11 points, one behind Ukraine.

“We wanted to finish on a high and we’re happy we did it. Now we’re looking forward to the World Cup. With the team we have it’s natural to think about [winning] it,” said Benzema.

France have now scored in their last 18 games, matching a record that dates back to 1999-2000.

Finland were the last team to manage a clean sheet against Les Bleus and it seemed they may repeat the feat, but Benzema’s entrance in the 57th minute signalled the end of their hopes.

2022 World Cup – Automatic European Qualifiers


Draw to be held on April 1st, 2022

12-teams to qualify for playoffs


North Macedonia
Austria (via Nations League)
Czech Republic (via Nations League)

Playoff draw to take place on November 26th