On Saturday evening Switzerland played their ninth of ten World Cup qualification group games. At St. Jakob-Park in Basel, the Swiss took on Hungary, who were without injured TSG striker, Adam Szalai. Steven Zuber, on the other hand, started for Switzerland.
His team played their ninth game and secured a ninth victory, with Zuber playing a significant role. As he scored two goals – one shortly before and one shortly after halftime – the Hoffenheim man sent Switzerland on their way to a 5-2 win. “I just feel relieved to have been able to contribute two goals, so that I can start repaying the trust people have put in me. I work very hard, so when I can score one or even two goals, then that is always a good thing”, said Zuber after the game.
Next Tuesday will bring the final showdown for Group B qualification. Switzerland will travel to Lisbon to face Portugal. The European champions with Cristiano Ronaldo are sitting on 24 points after nine games; meaning they would win the group on goal difference should they beat Switzerland, guaranteeing their place at the World Cup in Russia. Switzerland would then go into the playoffs. Of course, the Swiss could well beat Portugal, and secure the group win with a perfect record.
Germany’s U21s beat Azerbaijan 6-1 in the European Championship qualifier in the Stadion der Freundschaft. Stefan Kuntz’s team had to manage without TSG’s Nadiem Amiri, but debutant, Ochs, proved to be a more than capable replacement. In fact, his left foot opened the scoring in the 8th minute, and then made it 3-0 in the 37th. Felix Passlack was an unused substitute. This Tuesday, the side will play their next qualifier against Norway in Drammen.
The Netherlands’ U21s also claimed three points in their Euro qualifier, as they beat Latvia 3-0. TSG defender Justin Hoogma was an unused substitute. Keeper Gregor Kobel played for the Switzerland U21s, but couldn’t prevent his side from losing 0-2 to Romania. This was a setback for the Swiss youth side, who now only have four points from their opening four Euro qualifiers. Romania lead the group with ten points.
Last-minute setback for Croatia
Florian Grillitsch won his World Cup qualifier with Austria in the Ernst-Happel stadium, defeating Serbia 3-2. The Austrians’ hopes of qualifying for the competition in Russia next year were over before the game. Therefore, their last qualifier at home was a chance to thank the fans for their support with a good performance. They did that indeed. Grillitsch started for Austria before making way for Valentino Lazaro in the 77th minute. Guido Burgstaller (25’), Marko Arnautovic (76’) and Louis Schaub (89’) scored the goals for the home side in front of more than 42,000 fans.
Andrej Kramaric also started for his country. Croatia faced Finland at the stadium of Kramaric’s former club, HNK Rijeka. On Matchday 9 of qualifying for the World Cup in Russia next year, the teams drew 1-1. Kramaric played 81 minutes, at which stage his country led 1-0 through a Mario Mandzukic goal (57’,) before being replaced by Duje Cop. Kramaric had to watch from the bench, therefore, as Pyry Soiri scored the equaliser for Finland in the 90th minute.
Before the final group match on Monday, Croatia are second in the group on 17 points. Iceland won 3-0 on Friday evening against Turkey and lead the group with 19 points. Iceland play Kosovo in Reykjavik in their final qualifier whilst Croatia have a must-win game against Ukraine, who are also on 17 points in third place. The team who finishes second in the group has the chance to qualify for the finals through the playoffs. Finland’s late goal worsens Croatia’s chances of qualifying significantly.