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FIFA World Cup qualifiers: 5 most historic European playoff fixtures 

ANALYST
Top 5 / Top 10
965   //    23 Oct 2017, 16:40 IST

Who will be the final four??
Who will be the final four??The 2018 World Cup qualifiers have reached its business end with 22 out of 31 teams booking their spots to join hosts Russia for the most popular sporting event in the world.

Among the different zones, UEFA has the most representation - with 9 nations having already qualified and eight runner-ups in the first round of qualification battling it out to fill the final four places via the playoffs.

World Champions Germany, as well as former champions France, England and Spain, are already through with surprise packages like Iceland and Serbia joining them. However, four-time champions Italy's fate is still in limbo and the Italians have a tough opponent to navigate past in the playoff round.

The playoff draw came out on Wednesday and the most mouthwatering clash is undoubtedly the Italy vs Sweden matchup. Both British teams in the mix have promising draws, with Northern Ireland challenging Switzerland whereas the Irish Republic takes on Denmark.

The final clash will see Croatia - who saw Iceland pip them to an automatic qualification spot - start as heavy favourites against Greece.

As the world holds its breath in anticipation, here is a list that takes a look at the top 5 previous playoff round fixtures in the European zone.


#5 France 2-1 Republic of Ireland (2010)

Theirry Henry handles the ball before setting up France's goal
Thierry Henry handles the ball before setting up France's goal

The match that led to widespread calls for better technology to be used at International matches saw France sneak past the Irish Republic 2-1 on aggregate en route to reaching the 2010 World Cup main draw.

France had won the first leg at Croke Park 1-0 and the Irish were hardly expected to beat the French at the Stade de France in the second leg. However, a mere 33 minutes into the second leg, Robbie Keane scored to cancel out Ireland's deficit.

The tie was evenly poised and the match went to extra time. In the 103rd minute, Florent Malouda sent a freekick deep into the Irish penalty area aimed at Thierry Henry. Henry handled the ball twice with his left hand before providing a cross on a platter for William Gallas who calmly headed the ball into Shay Given's net.

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Neither the referee nor the other officials noticed the handball and the French went to the World Cup. The aftermath saw FIFA set up an inquiry into the options for technology or extra officials on the pitch, whereas the Irish FA tried to persuade FIFA to send Ireland to the World Cup as well, suggesting a ludicrous 33 team tournament - the idea was promptly rejected by FIFA.

However, the governing body did pay the Irish FA €5 million to prevent any legal action. In scant consolation to Ireland, France would crash out of the world cup in the first round, even suffering an embarrassing defeat at the hands of South Africa.

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