IMAGES from the FIFA World Cup qualifiers played across Europe on Sunday
Poland sealed their first World Cup spot since the 2006 tournament after an early onslaught and a late flourish, including a goal from the excellent Robert Lewandowski, gave them a 4-2 home win over Montenegro on Sunday.
The result left Poland top of Group E with 25 points from 10 games, five ahead of second-placed Denmark who sealed a playoff berth after a 1-1 home draw with Romania.
The Poles thrived on the selfless work of their record scorer Lewandowski, who netted one goal and had a hand in two more on Sunday after grabbing a hat-trick in Thursday's 6-1 away rout of Armenia.
Roared on by a packed national stadium in Warsaw awash with Poland's red-and-white colours, the home side brushed Montenegro aside in a fast and furious opening 16 minutes.
Midfielder Krzysztof Maczynski fired them ahead in the sixth minute with a crisp finish from 10 metres as a miscued Piotr Zielinski shot fell kindly for him, after Lewandowski started a sweeping move from midfield.
The Bayern Munich striker then set up Kamil Grosicki with a clever touch in the 16th minute and the winger fired home from 12 metres after good work by Zielinski, who shook off two Montenegrin defenders to thread the ball to Lewandowski.
Montenegro missed their best chance in the first half when Vladimir Jovovic fired over the bar from 10 metres after a defensive error.
Poland were content to keep possession in the second half but got a rude awakening as the visitors scored twice in five minutes to set up a nervy finish, with the Poles at that point needing at least a draw to go through.
Substitute Stefan Mugosa pulled one back with his first touch of the ball, a spectacular overhead kick in the 78th minute, before Zarko Tomasevic equalised when he took advantage of more sloppy defending.
The silenced home crowd erupted again as Lewandowski restored Poland's lead with an opportunist finish in the 85th minute and the home side romped to victory after Montenegro's Filip Stojkovic turned a Grosicki cross into his own net.
The frantic late spell also produced a pair of gilt-edged chances in stoppage time as Poland hit the woodwork and then saw visiting keeper Danijel Petkovic deny Maciej Makuszewski.
Europe's nine group winners qualify automatically for next year's 32-team tournament in Russia while the eight best runners-up enter a two-leg playoff for the remaining four berths.
Germany's perfect 10 completed with win over Azerbaijan
Germany crushed Azerbaijan 5-1 on Sunday with talented Leon Goretzka scoring twice, to complete a record-equalling World Cup qualifying campaign with ten wins out of ten matches.
Germany, who had already secured qualification for next year's finals in Russia, needed an hour to hit their stride despite an early lead through the 22-year-old Goretzka, already a target for several top European clubs.
They made sure of the three points and a maximum 30 in Group C with a strong second-half performance, scoring four more goals after an unexpected Azeri equaliser.
The Germans equalled Spain's record from the 2008-9 qualifying campaign for the 2010 World Cup with their 10th victory but they could boast an even better goal difference than the Spaniards.
Joachim Loew's world champions dominated their group to such an extent that they scored 43 goals -- on average, more than four per game -- while conceding just four.
In contrast, Vicente del Bosque's Spanish charges of 2008-9, who went on to win the World Cup in South Africa, scored 28 and conceded five.
Germany, with seven changes to the line-up, went ahead through Goretzka's superb and powerful eighth-minute backheel.
After that, the new-look side struggled for a long period to find any rhythm.
Sandro Wagner should have doubled the lead on the half-hour mark but his casual effort was palmed onto the post by the keeper.
Instead it was the hosts who scored, briefly stunning the home crowd, when Ramil Sheidaev fired in from a tight angle to complete a quick break in the 34th minute.
Loew's initial plans to use the game as a first test en route to their title defence went out the window with first-half injuries to defenders Niklas Suele and Shkodran Mustafi.
Mustafi could be out for some time with a suspected right thigh muscle tear, Loew said.
Yet his team quickly finished off the game with Wagner grabbing his fifth goal in his fifth international in the 54th minute and Antonio Ruediger scoring 10 minutes later.
The 22-year-old Goretzka then slipped into the box to tap in his second goal of the evening in the 66th minute as the Azeri defence collapsed before Emre Can capped the rout with a thundering 25-metre strike nine minutes from time.
Bendtner back as Denmark clinch playoff spot with Romania draw
Nicklas Bendtner returned to the starting line-up to help Denmark secure second position in Group E and a place in the playoffs, winning a penalty for his side in a 1-1 draw with Romania in their final World Cup qualifier.
Manager Age Hareide gave Bendtner, currently plying his trade at Norwegian side Rosenborg, his first competitive start for almost two years and the striker repaid his coach's faith with a lively, if sometimes ragged, display.
With group rivals Poland taking an early lead against Montenegro, the Danes knew that they could no longer win the group, but Bendtner and Pione Sisto were keen to give the sell-out crowd at the Parken Stadium their money's worth.
Sisto let fly with a stinging shot from distance on the half-hour mark that was touched over the bar for a corner, and moments later Bendtner missed a glorious chance to put Denmark in front as his shot was blocked by a last-ditch tackle.
Shortly after, the 29-year-old former Arsenal and Juventus striker had the ball in the net, but the goal was disallowed for offside.
Bendtner finally paved the way for the deadlock to be broken when he was pulled back in the box on the hour mark by defender Cristian Ganea as he attempted a header, and Christian Eriksen stepped up to convert the spot kick.
Ganea was sent off moments later, collecting his second yellow card for dragging down Yussuf Poulsen, but despite being down to ten men, Ciprian Deac fired home a late equaliser for Romania in the 88th minute.
Poland beat Montenegro 4-2 to finish top of Group E on 25 points with the Danes second on 20, four ahead of third-placed Montenegro and seven ahead of Romania, who finished fourth.
Kane scores again as England win 1-0 in final qualifier
England rounded off an unbeaten World Cup qualifying campaign with Harry Kane's first-half penalty sealing an uninspiring 1-0 victory over Lithuania in rainy Vilnius on Sunday.
Kane converted from the spot in the 27th minute for his sixth goal in his last seven England matches after his Tottenham Hotspur team mate Dele Alli tumbled in the area under a clumsy challenge from Ovidijus Verbickas in the Group F match.
England, who qualified for a sixth successive World Cup finals on Thursday when Kane scored a last-gasp goal in a 1-0 defeat of Slovenia at Wembley, made several changes to their lineup but again failed to offer much excitement.
Despite overwhelming possession on the slick artificial surface they struggled to open up a resolute home side with chances few and far between in a drab encounter.
England, unbeaten in 21 World Cup qualifiers, finished top of Group F with 26 points from 10 matches.
Scots' World Cup dreams ends in dramatic draw in Slovenia
Slovenia and Scotland played out a dramatic 2-2 draw in Ljubljana on Sunday but the result ensured both sides' World Cup dreams were extinguished as they fell short of making the playoffs.
With Slovakia, as expected, beating Malta 3-0, it left the Scots needing to win to seal a playoff spot from Group F and when Leigh Griffiths put them ahead against the run of play in the first half, they were on course to do just that.
Yet after substitute Roman Bezjak headed home a 52nd minute equaliser and coolly slotted in a second 20 minutes later, it seemed improbable Gordon Strachan's never-say-die Scotland could find another of their familiar late surges to rescue the day.
Even though Robert Snodgrass did snatch an equaliser with three minutes left, Scotland had run out of miracles even though Slovenia's Bostjan Cesar, on his 100th appearance, was shown a straight red card in added time.
The draw meant Scotland could only finish third in the group on 18 points, behind Slovakia only on goal difference, eight points adrift of group winners England and three points ahead of Slovenia.
The result also confirmed Northern Ireland's place in the playoffs, as the Group C side have a better record against the teams in their section than Slovakia.
Slovakia beat Malta 3-0 to keep playoff hopes alive
Slovakia put themselves in contention for a World Cup playoff spot by beating Malta 3-0 in their final Group F game on Sunday but must now wait for other results to discover their fate.
The home side pipped Scotland for second place behind group winners England after the Scots could only draw 2-2 away to Slovenia. Both teams finished on 18 points but Slovakia have a superior goal difference.
The Slovaks now need other results to go their way as only the eight best runners-up from the nine European qualifying groups advance to the playoffs.
"We still have some games to succeed so we are hopeful," Slovakia's captain Marek Hamsik said.
"We deserved to win and we will all be definitely watching. It's not in our hands so we need to keep our fingers crossed."
The Slovaks spent most of the night in Malta's half and were rarely troubled as the visitors failed to register a single shot on target.
Adam Nemec grabbed his first goal in the opening half and his second in the 62nd minute, when Milan Skriniar took the ball from a defender and played it to Nemec, who took one touch and slotted a left-foot shot into the net.
Jan Kozak's side kept the pressure up and Ondrej Duda made it 3-0 seven minutes later after lunging past a defender with an outstretched leg to finish from Albert Rusnak's cross.
Slovakia last qualified for the World Cup in 2010, marking their only appearance at the tournament since splitting from the CzechRepublic in 1993.