Although many strong European football nations usually participate in the World Cup and are successful, it is rare to start a qualification group by winning the first three matches.
Ten of twelve European national football teams that have won their first three matches in the World Cup qualifiers since 2000 managed to book their ticket to the main event.
Germany, the world’s football powerhouse nation, did it three times in 2002, 2014 and 2018 European qualifiers to go to the World Cup Finals in these years.
The Germans were in the same European qualifiers group with England, Finland, Greece and Albania for the 2002 FIFA World Cup co-hosted by South Korea and Japan.
England won the FIFA European Qualifiers Group 9 with 17 points to directly qualify for the 2002 World Cup.
The group runners-up Germany, who had 17 points, entered the UEFA qualification playoffs to eliminate Ukraine, winning 5-2 on aggregate.
Germany later played final in the 2002 World Cup, losing to eventual champions Brazil 2-0 in Japan’s Yokohama.
In the 2014 World Cup qualification FIFA European Qualifiers Group C, Germany won their first three games, beating the Faroe Islands, Austria and Republic of Ireland, respectively.
The Germans won this group with 28 points to enter the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, where they were crowned the champions after a 1-0 Argentina win in Rio de Janeiro’s Maracana Stadium.
Germany dominated Group C in the 2018 World Cup European qualification phase, as they won all their ten matches in this stage to march to Russia 2018.
Germany had a shocking group-stage elimination in Russia after two losses; one against Mexico and the other against South Korea. The German team only beat Sweden in the 2018 World Cup, a consolation for the 2014 champions.
2010 World Cup qualification
Greece, Spain, England and the Netherlands each bagged three wins in their first three matches in the 2010 World Cup qualifiers to be in South Africa 2010.
The Greeks were the UEFA Group 2 runners-up, having 20 points in this phase. They faced Switzerland, Latvia, Israel, Luxembourg and Moldova.
Switzerland won this group with 21 points to march to South Africa directly.
Greece knocked Ukraine out of the qualification playoffs, winning 1-0 on aggregate.
Spain won all their ten games in the Group 5 to reserve their place in South Africa. Then Spain became the world champions, beating the Netherlands 1-0 in 2010 final in Johannesburg.
England were also through to the 2010 World Cup, winning Group 6 with 27 points. Germany eliminated the English national team 4-1 in the Round of 16 in Bloemfontein, South Africa.
The Netherlands were the other team, who had three wins in their first three matches in the 2010 and 2014 World Cup qualifiers, played in both South Africa and Brazil.
In the 2010 qualifiers, the Dutch national team won the UEFA Group 9 after a flawless run, winning all eight matches against Norway, Scotland, North Macedonia and Iceland.
Spain ended the Netherlands’ fairy tale in South Africa as they beat their Dutch opponents 1-0 to lift the 2010 World Cup.
Dutch manager Bert van Marwijk’s men returned home with the silver medal.
Besides, in the 2014 World Cup European qualification, in Group D, the Netherlands once again had made a three-for-three beginning to the quals.
The Netherlands won this group with 28 points as they were in the same group with Romania, Hungary, Turkey, Estonia and Andorra.
The Dutch team became the bronze medalist in the 2014 World Cup over a 3-0 victory against the hosting nation Brazil in the third-place match.
Romania had great start but eliminated in groups
Romania made a solid start to Group 1 of the 2006 World Cup European qualification, winning their first three matches against Finland, North Macedonia and Andorra.
But Romania finished this group in the third position with 25 points. So they missed the chance to be in the qualification playoffs.
The Netherlands won Group 1 as the Dutch racked up 32 points. The second-place Czech Republic had 27 points to enter the playoffs, eliminating Norway 2-0 on aggregate.
Russia bag ticket to Brazil 2014
The Russians, who made three for three in the qualifying groups, ended the Group F of the 2014 FIFA World Cup European qualifiers at first place with 22 points.
Portugal were the runners-up with 21 points.
Russia, who clinched the no. 1 spot in the UEFA quals, joined the 2014 World Cup finals; however, their journey in Brazil ended early.
The Russian national team were eliminated from the World Cup in the group stage.
Russia ended Group H in the third position to end the contest as the best two teams in the group, Belgium and Algeria, advanced to the knockout stage in Brazil.
Switzerland eliminated in last 16 in 2018 World Cup
The Swiss national team won their first three games in the 2018 World Cup qualification – UEFA Group B, making an excellent start to the road to Russia.
Switzerland were the UEFA Group B runners-up with 27 points. Portugal led the qualifying group. They also racked up 27 points.
So the Swiss team entered the Russia 2018 via qualification playoffs. Switzerland won 1-0 on aggregate against Northern Ireland to be in the World Cup Finals.
Sweden eliminated Switzerland with a 1-0 score in the Round of 16 in Russia’s Saint Petersburg.
Belgium come third in Russia
The Belgian national team, who won their first three games in the qualifying group for the 2018 World Cup, returned home with a bronze medal from Russia.
Belgium won the UEFA Group H with 28 points to make their way to Russia directly.
The Red Devils bagged a bronze medal, beating England 2-0 in the third-place playoff in Saint Petersburg.
Greece, who were in the same qualification group as Belgium, also won their first three games to start Group H, finished in the second spot with 19 points.
So the Greeks entered the qualification playoffs, where Croatia eliminated them.
Croatia won 4-1 on aggregate to qualify for the 2018 World Cup where “Vatreni” (The Blazers) displayed a heroic performance in Russia, reaching the final.
The Croatians had a silver medal in Russia 2018 as France won the final 4-2 to be the world champions in the latest World Cup.