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World Cup Beckons For Defour

Steven Defour is first of the Clarets to secure Russia 2018 place

4 September 2017

Steven Defour became the first Claret to book a place at the 2018 World Cup finals after his Belgium side guaranteed top spot in their qualification group.

Defour didn’t get a taste of the action as the Red Devils got the wins they needed against Gibraltar and Greece to become the first European country to seal a place in Russia for next summer.

But his early-season form in the Claret’ midfield has brought Defour back into Roberto Martinez’s squad and he will hope to stay there to share in Belgium’s 13th taste of a World Cup finals tournament and his second after playing at Brazil 2014.

Double good news for the Clarets came in the shape of a hat-trick for Chris Wood, which earned the striker an earlier trip back to Burnley.

Wood’s treble in New Zealand’s 6-1 win over the Solomon Islands – which lifted him up to third spot in the All Whites’ all-time scoring list – virtually guaranteed victory in the two-legged tie.

And with a place in November’s Inter-Continental Play-Off within touching distance, national team boss Anthony Hudson released his captain from the second leg, allowing him to a swift return to Burnley's Barnfield Training Centre and more preparation time for the Clarets’ Premier League fixture at home to Crystal Palace on Sunday.

“I have made the decision to release Chris and Ryan (Thomas) as we have the players within this group to win the game and finish the job,” said Hudson.

“I wanted to either rest them on the bench or send them back early and I’ve decided to do the latter."

Chris Wood became the first Burnley player to score an international hat-trick since 1889. Picture courtesy of @Photosportnz 

England will virtually assure themselves a place in the 2018 finals with a win over Slovakia at Wembey  on Monday night, when Clarets’ captain Tom Heaton is again set to be involved.

But it’s getting tight in Group D for the Turf Moor contingent with the Republic of Ireland and Wales scrapping it out along with leaders Serbia.

Sam Vokes’ Wales face bottom side Moldova away from home on Tuesday night, while the top two of Ireland and Serbia meet in Dublin at the same time.

Ireland remain unbeaten, but recorded their fourth draw in seven games as Clarets’ striker Jon Walters earned his 50th cap in last Saturday night’s 1-1 draw in Georgia.

Wales host Ireland in the final round of group games in October.

Also on Tuesday night, Johann Berg Gudmundsson’s Iceland face a crucial home game against Ukraine.

Defeat to Finland on Saturday night saw Iceland slip to third place in Group I, a point behind Ukraine and three adrift of leaders Croatia.

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