World Cup 2022 qualifying: Who is close to qualifying? Who are the surprise packages?

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European teams are well on the road to next year’s World Cup as we reach the halfway stage of qualifying for the tournament in Qatar.

Fifty-five member associations are hoping to progress from their qualifying group, with some closer than others.

England saw their 100% recorded ended in the last round of fixtures but Denmark maintain theirs after six games while Armenia are one of the surprise packages so far as they sit second in Group J, behind Germany.

How are the other Home Nations doing? And who else is looking strong for qualifying? BBC Sport takes a look at the state of play in each of the 10 groups, where the top teams qualify automatically for Qatar 2022.

How many nations qualify?

There will be 13 teams from Europe at next year’s World Cup. As mentioned above, 10 of those will be the group winners with a further three places up for grabs.

Those three will come out of the 10 group runners up and the two highest-ranked teams from the Nations League who have not already qualified or finished second in a group.

Those 12 teams will play in a play-off of two knockout rounds to get down to the three additional teams to make up the 13.

Key dates

Fixtures

How the groups look

Group A

Group A

Portugal are top of the standings and the only team in Group A yet to taste defeat.

Serbia were denied the chance to stay on the same number of points as Portugal as a late own goal by Nikola Milenkovic earned Republic of Ireland their second point in the group.

Group B

Group B

Spain are top of Group B with 13 points from their six games, although they have played two more games than Sweden and Greece, who are second and third respectively.

However, Sweden missed a big chance to keep in touch with Spain as they lost 2-1 to Greece, who are three points behind them.

Group C

Group C

Euro 2020 champions Italy have continued their excellent form and unsurprisingly lead the way in Group C.

They thrashed Lithuania 5-0 in their last outing and are now 37 games unbeaten. The Italians top the standings with 14 points from six games while Switzerland are second on eight points, although they have played two games fewer than Italy.

Northern Ireland have also got two games in hand on Italy and are third with five points, a draw with the Swiss in their last game keeping them firmly in contention.

Group D

Group D

World champions France picked up a much-needed win on Tuesday after their stuttering form of late.

They had gone five games without a win in 90 minutes, a run in which they suffered a surprise early exit in the knockout stages of Euro 2020, but recorded a comfortable victory against Finland with Antoinne Griezmann scoring twice.

France are top of Group D with 12 points from six games, seven points clear of Ukraine who have a game in hand.

Group E

Group E

Belgium are well on their way to winning Group E with five wins and a draw from their six games giving them 16 points.

Czech Republic are second with seven points but have a game in hand on the Belgians.

Wales, meanwhile, have two games in hand but were held to a disappointing goalless draw with Estonia in their last game and have seven points from four games.

Group F

Group F

Denmark were one of the stories of Euro 2020, responding to the shocking scenes of Christian Eriksen’s collapse to reach the semi-finals, where they were knocked out by England.

They have picked up right from where they left off and, like England, have won all their qualifying games so far, scoring 22 goals and, incredibly, conceding none. They just need two more wins to qualify.

Scotland boosted their chances of securing a play-off spot by beating Austria 1-0 on Tuesday and they are second with 11 points from six games.

Group G

Group G

It is tight at the top of Group G with both the Netherlands and Norway on 13 points after six games.

Memphis Depay scored a hat-trick as the Netherlands thumped Turkey 6-1 in their last game and that puts them in first place on goal difference.

Erling Braut Haaland continues his phenomenal scoring form and a hat-trick for the Norway striker in a 5-1 win against Gibraltar takes his tally this season for club and country to 11 goals in eight games.

Despite Turkey’s heavy defeat to the Dutch they remain firmly in the picture with 11 points.

Group H

Group H

It is down to goal difference in Group H also with Croatia and Russia both on 13 points.

Croatia are top thanks to their 3-0 win against Slovenia in their last game. Slovakia are third and four points behind the leading pair.

Group I

Group I

England lost their 100% record in qualifying when they were held 1-1 by Poland, who scored a dramatic late equaliser. The Three Lions remain in pole position, however, with five wins and a draw from their six games.

It was a potentially crucial point for Poland as it keeps them in the hunt for qualifying. They are third with 11 points, one behind the impressive Albania, who have won four of their six qualifiers so far.

Hungary have 10 points and the trio appear to be in a three-way battle for second place.

Group J

Group J

A comfortable win for Germany against Iceland means they top Group J with 15 points from six games.

Armenia were held 1-1 by Liechtenstein but remain second with 11 points having lost just one of their six games so far.

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