The Hard Tackle brings to you a roundup of the last batch of the 2018 FIFA World Cup Qualifiers from Europe

The European Qualifiers playoffs for the 2018 FIFA World Cup came to an end this week, and the qualification picture from the continent is now completely clear. The Hard Tackle now brings to you a brief roundup of the final four playoff ties that were played in the latest international break.

Switzerland vs Northern Ireland (Aggregate: 1-0)

Switzerland clinched their fourth successive World Cup berth by beating Northern Ireland by a slender one-goal margin. Vladimir Petkovic’s men scored just the solitary goal in the first leg in Belfast, with Ricardo Rodriguez converting from the spot, before the two sides played out a goalless draw in Basel.

The narrow win means that Switzerland will be appearing in a FIFA World Cup tournament for the eleventh time, and will be hoping to improve on their showing from 2014, when they reached the Round of 16, only going down to eventual runners up Argentina after extra time.

Croatia vs Greece (Aggregate: 4-1)

The second qualifiers from the playoffs were Croatia, who comfortably beat Greece over two legs. The first of these two legs saw the Balkan nation put one foot into the finals by enjoying a resounding 4-1 win in Zagreb, with captain Luka Modric leading the charge.

The return leg was a sombre affair, ending in a goalless stalemate, with the Greeks looking like they had already admitted defeat. The aggregate result means Croatia will be appearing in only their fifth finals in Russia, when they will look to make the knockout stages for the first time since their debut campaign in 1998.

Sweden vs Italy (Aggregate: 1-0)

The most talked about result came in the third playoffs tie, with Italy failing to qualify for the next summer’s tournament after narrowly going down to Sweden. The Scandinavian nation, who bowed out of the qualifiers at the same stage for the 2014 FIFA World Cup were the victors this time as they produced a huge shock.

The tie was still evenly poised after the first leg, despite Jakob Johansson’s goal midway through the second half. But, Janne Andersson’s men resolutely stood strong against the threat of the Italian attack over both legs, with the aforementioned goal eventually being the difference between the two sides.

Thus, the 2018 FIFA World Cup will be without one of world football’s traditional powerhouses, while Sweden will appear in their 12th finals.

Denmark vs Republic of Ireland (Aggregate: 5-1)

The final berth in the 2018 FIFA World Cup was taken by Denmark after thrashing Republic of Ireland over two legs. The tie was evenly poised after the first leg in Copenhagen, that ended goalless. Heading into the second leg in Dublin though, Age Hareide’s men turned on the style.

The hosts took charge of the tie when Shane Duffy broke the deadlock in the sixth minute. But, Andreas Christensen’s goal at the half-hour mark opened the floodgates, with Christian Eriksen grabbing a fine hat-trick and Nicklas Bendtner rounding off the win in the dying stages of the match.

And so, Denmark qualified for the FIFA World Cup for the fifth time, and their first since 2010. The Scandinavian nation will now be hoping to emulate, or even improve on their success from the 1998 edition, when they reached the quarterfinals.

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