BRUSSELS: Belgium secured Group E victory and their place in Qatar with a comfortable 3-1 win over Estonia. The Belgians, semi-finalists in Russia in 2018, climbed to an unassailable 19 points as Christian Benteke scored early and Yannick Carrasco and Thorgan Hazard added second-half goals.
They join Brazil, Denmark, France and Germany among the first five countries to qualify for next year’s finals, and travel to Cardiff on Tuesday to face Wales, who beat Belarus 5-1. Wales need one point to ensure second place in the group and a play-off slot.
Kylian Mbappé scored his first international hat-trick inside 32 minutes as France picked apart Kazakhstan 8-0 in Group D and booked their place in the finals.
Karim Benzema added two in the second-half, Adrien Rabiot headed a sixth, Antoine Griezmann made it seven with an 84th-minute penalty – and there was still time for Mbappé to hit his fourth as Kazakhstan crumbled.
Mbappé, who was instrumental in winning the 2018 tournament in Russia, added: “We wanted to give ourselves a chance to defend our title. Even for those who have played in it and won it, it’s an ultimate dream to play in a World Cup. The fans enjoyed it, so did we. We respected the game and our opponents. We wanted to keep going right to the end.”
Ten-man Finland rekindled their hopes of reaching Qatar with a gritty 3-1 victory at Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Marcus Forss put the visitors in front before Jukka Raitala was sent off in the 37th minute for a poor tackle on Sead Kolasinac, but more slack defending allowed them to double their lead in the 52nd minute – Robin Lod rifling a fierce shot inside the near post.
After the home side pulled one back Daniel O’Shaughnessy tapped in from close range to make it three. The result leaves the Finns second on 11 points from seven games.
Norway being held to a surprise 0-0 Group G draw at home against Latvia meant the Netherlands needed a win against Montenegro to seal their place – but two late goals denied them.
A Memphis Depay double had them two up at the break but goals from Ilija Vukotic and Nikola Vujnovic meant the Netherlands must wait. Their captain, Virgil van Dijk, called their second-half display “scandalous”, Depay branded it “super dumb” and coach Louis van Gaal “inexplicable”.
Van Gaal said he had to take some blame for his late substitutions, aimed at resting some players who had picked up knocks, but added: “I cannot really explain what happened. This leaves a bad aftertaste but I’m not going to criticise my players. They also really want to go to the World Cup. We are still in the best position.”
Turkey are second on 18 points after Halil Dervisoglu struck twice in three first-half minutes on the way to a 6-0 thrashing of 10-man Gibraltar, who are still searching for their first-ever points in World Cup qualification, having lost all of their 19 outings to date.
Sadio Mané, meanwhile, will return to Liverpool for X-rays on a rib injury he sustained on Thursday in Senegal’s match against Togo in African qualifying.