From September 2016 to November 2017, 54 teams around Europe will compete for the chance to represent the continent at next year’s FIFA World Cup taking place in Russia.

Nine group winners and four playoff winners will join Russia in flying Europe’s flag in the 2018 FIFA World Cup, but which teams hold the upper hand in each of the groups?

Group A

Bulgaria, Netherlands, Sweden, Belarus, France and Luxembourg.

Netherlands and France should be at the top of the standings in this group, while Luxembourg and Belarus are the minnows of the group.

The Netherlands will definitely be putting in extra effort to ensure they don’t miss out on a second consecutive major tournament.

The French team are on an upward trajectory and will be hoping to build on their performance at the Euros this summer after reaching the final on home soil.

France should win the group, with the Netherlands proceeding to the playoff round.

Group B

Portugal, Switzerland, Hungary, Faroe Islands, Latvia and Andorra.

Group B is one of the more straight forward groups in the qualifiers, with Portugal and Switzerland heads and shoulders above the rest.

Hungary will be eager to go to another major tournament after getting a taste of the big time at the European Championships.

Andorra, Faroe Islands and Latvia will, however, be hoping to be the next fairytale story after Iceland.

Portugal with their talismanic Cristiano Ronaldo are favourites to win this group, while Switzerland should finish in 2nd place comfortably.

Group C

Germany, Czech Republic, Northern Ireland, Norway, Azerbaijan, San Marino

Holders Germany headline this group, and should have little difficulty coasting through.

It will be a three-way between the Czech Republic, Northern Ireland and Norway for a place in the playoff rounds.

Azerbaijan are capable of some decent performances at home, while San Marino will be happy just to find the back of the net in these qualifiers.

Germany will win the group, and the Czech Republic will finish as best of the rest to make the playoffs.

Group D

Wales, Austria, Serbia, Republic of Ireland, Moldova, Georgia

This is one of the toughest groups in the qualification series, with no clear favourites in the group.

Most of the teams have the potential to take points off each other, and the final table should see teams finish close to each other.

Wales have a very functional squad, and two top quality players in Gareth Bale and Aaron Ramsey who could be the X-factor when it matters.

Serbia are always fiercely competitive, Austria were impressive in the European Championship qualifiers, while the Republic of Ireland have some decent English Premier League players.

This is probably the toughest group to call, but ultimately I see Wales winning the group, with the Serbians finishing 2nd.

Group E

Romania, Denmark, Poland, Montenegro, Armenia, Kazakhstan

Poland, backed by the firepower of Robert Lewandowski and Arkadiusz Milik are favourites to progress in this group.

The second position will likely change hands a number of times during the qualification series.

Denmark have been disappointing in the last eighteen months, but so has Montenegro.

Kazakhstan have a little pedigree in qualifying competitions, while Armenia will need a tremendous performance from star man Henrikh Mkhitaryan if they are to have a chance of qualifying.

Poland should win this group, while Romania, Montenegro and Denmark should do battle for 2nd place with the Romanians clinching it eventually.

Group F

England, Slovakia, Scotland, Slovenia, Lithuania, Malta

The English headline this group, and their new interim manager Gareth Southgate will be hoping to use this qualification series as a means to get the job on a more permanent basis.

Slovakia were impressive in the last European Championship and will be looking to build on that experience.

Scotland have not made a major tournament since 1998, while Slovenia have been in only 3 major tournaments since they became an independent nation in 1991.

Lithuania and Malta do not fare well in International competitions, and this will be no different either.

Both teams are widely expected to finish at the lower end of the standings.

England will win this group, while Slovakia will finish in 2nd place.

Group G

Spain, Italy, Albania, Israel, Macedonia, Liechtenstein

This group features two European heavyweights and recent winners of this tournament with Italy winning in 2006 and Spain in 2010.

This should be a pretty straightforward group, the only debate to be had is who wins the group and who goes to the playoffs.

Spain are a team on the wane after an exciting period, while Italian football looks to be back on the rise with some very impressive performances recently.

Italy will win the group, while Spain will walk away with a spot in the playoffs.

Group H

Belgium, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Greece, Estonia, Cyprus, Gibraltar

Estonia, Cyprus and Gibraltar will struggle to make an impact in this group, with the three teams playing for the bottom three places.

Belgium are ranked 2nd in the world for a reason, and they should coast through this group comfortably.

The 2nd position should be a duel between Bosnia-Herzegovina and Greece.

Bosnia-Herzegovina have more to them these days than the Greeks, who have tailed off badly in the last 4 years.

Bosnia-Herzegovina to finish 2nd and qualify for the playoff rounds.

Group I

Croatia, Iceland, Ukraine, Turkey, Finland, Kosovo

This is another interesting group with many teams of similar stature battling for a place in the competition.

All eyes will be on fairy-tale team Iceland who had an impressive tournament at Euro 2016.

Ukraine and Turkey of recent have performed admirably in these qualifiers, while Finland and Kosovo will likely be taking it one game at a time and see where they end up in November 2017.

Croatia, with their star players, are the best team in this group and should finish as group winners and Turkey are favourites to finish in 2nd place.

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