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Do or die time for World Cup 2018 hopefuls

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By Robert Hackwill
Do or die time for World Cup 2018 hopefuls

Egyptians are over the moon that their national side has qualified for the 2018 World Cup finals, and fans flooded the streets to express their joy at returning to the competition after a break of more than a quarter-century.

Egypt regularly wins the African Cup of Nations and is a powerhouse in that competition, but last appeared in the World Cup finals in 1990.

Thirty-two nations will go to Russia next year, and nearly half of those taking part have booked their places already, including the hosts, of course, but also reigning world champions Germany, five-time
champions Brazil, and from Europe Belgium, England, Poland and Spain.

2014 finalists Argentina are praying the wheels haven’t fallen off the bus already as their participation is far from certain. They have arrived in Ecuador under heavy military guard for their crunch tie that they
have to win. Lose the match at high altitude and their fall from grace will be vertiginous; they have played every tournament since 1970.

Among the final qualifiers there is plenty of local interest for England fans in the clash between Wales and Ireland in Group D, where everything is still up for grabs.

Group G is a high-risk one for Italy, who need to win to be sure of a best-placed second play-off place.

While Group I sees the prospect of a ding-dong battle between Ukraine and Croatia for second, in the unlikely event Iceland slip up against Kosovo.