Chelsea could have all five of our first-team center backs going to next summer’s World Cup in Russia after young Andreas Christensen helped backstop a 1-1 draw for Denmark against Romania and thus qualify for the playoffs as one of the eight best second-place teams in the nine qualifying groups.
Should Denmark make it through the two-legged playoffs — the draw will take place a week from Monday, after the last round of games are played and the final qualifiers are decided — Christensen will join club teammates Gary Cahill (England), Antonio Rüdiger (Germany), César Azpilicueta (Spain), and perhaps even David Luiz (Brazil) in Russia. All four of those nations have already guaranteed themselves a spot, though David Luiz isn’t exactly a regular for Brazil these days.
In any case, congratulations to Christensen, who was not picked for Denmark’s first game of the break but was restored to the starting lineup for his 12th cap. The Danes took the lead but gave up a late goal, though the result didn’t quite matter after Poland won, too, and guaranteed themselves top spot in the group. Not exactly the most glorious defending from the red-shirted players here.
Elsewhere, Gary Cahill sat on the bench as England’s notched another 1-0 win, with another Harry Kane goal, this time from the penalty spot. England finish the 10-match qualifying process without a single loss and just three goals conceded (though only 18 scored). It could be worse!
Antonio Rüdiger also started on the bench but was called into action after Niklas Süle joined Shkodran Mustafi as first-half injury victims. Rüdiger fortunately finished the game, an easy 5-1 win over Azerbaijan, without any incident and even managed to get on the scoresheet, heading in a corner just past the hour-mark.
Chelsea loanee Tomáš Kalas played the full game for already eliminated Czech Republic in a meaningless game against San Marino (Czechs winning 5-0), while sister nation and yours truly’s place of birth, Slovakia, have a chance to go to their second World Cup in three tries after pipping Scotland to second spot in the group — their spot in the playoffs is not yet assured however as only the eight best of the nine second-place finishers gets to contest that round.