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Clarets Chasing World Cup Spots

Eight players away on international duty as 2018 qualification hots up

3 October 2017

The Clarets have eight senior players away on international duty as qualification and preparation for the 2018 World Cup hots up.

All eyes may well be on Wales and the Republic of Ireland as they build towards a possible winner-takes-all showdown in Cardiff next Monday night.

The two countries look to be heading towards a straight fight for second place in Group D and a likely play-off spot – provided Wales win in Georgia and Ireland beat Moldova in Dublin on Friday night.

Wales’ striker Sam Vokes would then come up against Turf Moor team-mates Jeff Hendrick, Robbie Brady, Stephen Ward and Kevin Long with their sights set on securing one of the play-off places available for eight of the best nine group runners-up.

Johann Berg Gudmundsson is also in pursuit of points with Iceland in Group I.

The Clarets’ winger has helped his country into joint top spot alongside Croatia, but with a trip to third-placed Turkey on Friday night to precede a visit from bottom side Kosovo next Monday night, Iceland could yet gain automatic qualification for the finals in Russia or miss out altogether.

Steven Defour is in the Belgium squad for games at Bosnia and Herzegovina and at home to Cyprus, safe in the knowledge that top spot has already been secured – making them one of eight teams whose place at next summer’s finals has already been confirmed.

New Zealand are one more qualifying win away, although that will be a testing play-off game against the fifth-placed finishers from the South American group.

Argentina currently occupy that spot but Colombia, Peru, Chile or Paraguay could all seal a two-legged play-off against Chris Wood’s Kiwis next month.

The ‘All Whites’ are warming up for that game with a friendly against Japan in Tokyo on Friday, with Burnley striker Wood part of the squad.

Finally, Scott Arfield is also in friendly action with Canada, reporting for a training camp and then a fixture against El Salvador in Houston, Texas on Sunday, 8 October.

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