The race to qualify for Russia 2018 reached a climax this week as the majority of nations played their final group games. As usual, there was a host of Benfica stars in action around the globe. We take a look at how each of them fared.
There were jubilant scenes at the Estádio da Luz on Tuesday night, as Portugal secured a 2-0 win over Switzerland to leapfrog their opponents in Group B, and secure their passage to Russia 2018. Eliseu started the game, but was forced off with a thigh strain in the 68th minute. Three days previously, Benfica's Azorean left-back completed the full 90 minutes as the Seleção defeated Andorra 2-0.
Haris Seferović had a night to forget in his home stadium against Portugal. The 25-year-old was starved of service, and wasted the few opportunities that he was afforded. He had a more productive night in Switzerland's earlier match against Hungary, claiming an assist in a convincing 5-2 victory. The playoffs now beckon for Switzerland.
Bryan Cristante made his senior international debut as a 75th minute substitute in a 1-1 draw with Macedonia, but remained on the bench three days later as the Azzurri laboured to a 1-0 victory over Albania. Italy finished second in Group G, five points behind Spain, and will now need to negotiate the playoffs to make it to Russia next summer.
Andreas Samaris only entered the action in the 89th minute against Cyprus, but still managed to collect a yellow card in stoppage time, ruling him out of Greece's subsequent game with Gibraltar. Michael Skibbe's side won the former match 2-1 and the latter 4-0, securing their place in the playoffs at the expense of third-placed Bosnia and Herzegovina. Former Benfica marksman Kostas Mitroglou scored three goals across the two games.
Argentina left it late to book their place at Russia 2018, sealing qualification in their final group game with a 3-1 win over Ecuador. Eduardo Salvio played 89 minutes on the right side of midfield in a 3-4-3 formation. In their penultimate fixture, Jorge Sampaoli's men were held to a 0-0 draw by Peru, but Salvio did not feature.
André Carrillo missed Peru's clash with Argentina through suspension, but took part in their 1-1 draw with Colombia, receiving a yellow card before being substituted in the 63rd minute. Los Incas finished fifth in the ten-team CONMEBOL table, setting up a two-legged inter-confederation playoff tie against New Zealand in November.
Venezuela finished rock bottom of the CONMEBOL group, but at least their campaign finished better than it started. Jhon Murillo and his compatriots held Uruguay to a goalless draw before beating Paraguay 1-0, building on the team's unexpected draws against Colombia and Argentina during the previous international break. Murillo played 84 and 81 minutes against Uruguay and Paraguay, respectively.
Raúl Jiménez was an unused substitute as Mexico secured a 3-1 win over Trinidad and Tobago, but completed the full 90 minutes of their 3-2 defeat to Honduras. The 26-year-old provided the cross for the opening goal of the night, which was converted by Oribe Peralta. Mexico finished top of the CONCACAF qualification table, five points ahead of second-placed Costa Rica.
CD Aves loanee Carlos Ponck played 90 minutes as Cape Verde lost 2-0 to Senegal in their only match of the international break. Even if the Tubarões Azuis win their final group game against Burkina Faso in November, they are unlikely to qualify for Russia 2018; Senegal now have a two-point lead and a game in hand in Group D.
GD Chaves loanee Hamdou Elhouni is one Benfica player that will not be heading to Russia 2018. Libya had already been eliminated prior to their latest qualifier against DR Congo, which they lost 2-1. The 23-year-old winger lasted the full 90 minutes.
Rui Jorge's team suffered a setback in their attempt to qualify for Euro 2019, falling to a 3-1 defeat to Bosnia and Herzegovina. The result leaves Portugal fifth in Group 8, although they have played fewer games than all of their opponents. Yuri Ribeiro, Rúben Dias, Francisco "Ferro" Ferreira and João Carvalho started the game, while Diogo Gonçalves and João Félix came off the bench in the 56th minute. Teen prodigy Félix was making his under-21 debut at the tender age of 17 years and 11 months. Portugal's only goal of the game was scored by Carvalho and constructed by Ribeiro. Pedro Amaral, Heriberto Tavares and Pedro "Pêpê" Rodrigues did not feature.
Andrija Živković carried his sparkling domestic form onto the international stage with Serbia under-21s, scoring in the 2-0 win over Macedonia, then bagging a hat-trick of assists against Russia. Luka Jović scored two of the goals in the 3-2 victory. Jović also completed 85 minutes of the Macedonia clash, before being replaced by Ivan Šaponjić. Serbia now lead Group 7 in Euro 2019 qualification.
Benfica's Mesaque Djú came off the bench to score a brace in Portugal's 4-2 Elite League victory over Italy. Alex Pinto, Florentino Luís, Gedson Fernandes and João "Jota" Filipe all started the match, while Djú and José "Zé" Gomes entered the fray in the 60th minute. Five days earlier, José Guilherme's team claimed a remarkable 1-1 draw with Switzerland, after playing the majority of the second half with nine men. The same six Benfica players were involved.
England continued to impress in the Elite League under-20 tournament, beating Italy 5-1 and the Czech Republic 4-0. Chris Willock scored against the Italians and played 60 minutes against the Czechs. The Young Lions sit top of the Elite League after four games.