Who Will Qualify For The 2010 World Cup?
With the final matches for World Cup qualifying due to be completed this Wednesday, it’s time to analyze who can and who will make it to South Africa in 2010.
We’ll briefly and concisely go through the groups which are still open, paying attention only to sides still in the World Cup race and offer a few predictions along the way. It should be a riveting Wednesday, so here’s a preview to make sense of it all.
European qualification sees the nine group winners all qualify directly to the World Cup, while the 8 best runners-up enter into two-legged playoffs. It is very likely Group 9’s runners-up Norway will miss out on the playoffs, so the rest battling for second spot in their respective groups have their eyes on the prize already.
Group 1 1.Denmark - 21 points (qualified) 2.Portugal – 16 points (prediction for playoffs) 3.Sweden – 15 points
The Portuguese can book a playoffs spot with victory over bottom-of-the-group Malta in Guimaraes, but anything less and Sweden can swoop when they host Albania in Stockholm.
Nevertheless, Portugal is in the box seat although the Swedes will be enthused by the news Cristiano Ronaldo won’t face Malta due to an ankle injury but they’ll still need a Maltese miracle.
Group 2 1.Switzerland – 20 points (prediction for automatic qualification) 2.Greece – 17 points (prediction for playoffs) 3.Israel – 15 points 4.Latvia – 14 points
The Swiss will confirm World Cup qualification with a result against Israel in Basel, but Greece can still claim the automatic spot if they beat struggling Luxembourg in Athens and Switzerland lose, although the Greeks would surely settle for the playoffs from here.
It is unlikely Greece will lose to Luxembourg, but a draw wouldn’t be enough for the 2004 European champions to make the playoffs if Israel won in Switzerland. But Israel need a lot to go their way, as do Latvia who are mathematically still in the playoffs race, but realistically gone.
Group 3 1.Slovakia – 19 points (prediction for playoffs) 2.Slovenia – 17 points (prediction for automatic qualification) 3.Czech Republic – 15 points 4.Northern Ireland – 14 points
Slovakia can claim its first qualification for a major tournament since it split with the Czech Republic when they visit Poland. It will be a difficult finish for the Slovakians against a Poland side, who’ve had a disappointing campaign. The Polish are undefeated at home in these qualifiers and anything less than a win may not be enough for Slovakia.
Indeed, Slovakia and their closest rival, Slovenia, share the same goal difference of +11. Slovenia face group whipping boys San Marino, where you’d expect them to claim the three points, meaning Slovakia must win in Poland.
If Slovenia fail to win, though, Slovakia qualify automatically. And a Slovenia slip-up could open up a playoffs spot for the Czech Republic or Northern Ireland who face off in Prague. The Czech’s goal difference is also equal to Slovenia and Slovakia, so if Slovenia only drew, the Czech Republic can jump into the playoffs with victory over Northern Ireland. The Northern Irish, though, need a miracle.
Group 4 1.Germany – 25 points (qualified) 2.Russia – 21 points (guaranteed playoffs spot)
Group 5 1.Spain – 27 points (qualified) 2.Bosnia-Herzegovina – 19 points (guaranteed playoffs spot)
Group 6 1.England – 24 points (qualified) 2.Ukraine – 18 points (prediction for playoffs spot) 3.Croatia – 17 points
Ukraine is likely to go through to the playoffs here with a relatively simple away trip to bottom-of-the-group Andorra, but if they fail to win Croatia should swoop for second as they travel to struggling Kazakhstan.
Group 7 1.Serbia – 22 points (qualified) 2.France – 18 points (guaranteed playoffs spot)
Group 8 1.Italy – 21 points (qualified) 2.Ireland – 17 points (guaranteed playoffs spot)
Group 9 1.Netherlands – 24 points (qualified) 2.Norway – 10 points
Norway have played all their games so their hopes of making the playoffs rest on the remote possibility that Scandanavian neighbours Sweden were to claim second spot in Group A with only a draw against Albania (Portugal would need to lose by 4 goals against Malta), meaning the Swedish would be a worse group runner-up than Norway. Incredibly unlikely.
Playoffs The 8 best group runners-up will enter into a draw held in Zurich on October 19 deciding who will play who in the two-legged matches set for November 14 and 18. The draw won’t be random, as the eight teams will be seeded with the aid of the FIFA world rankings from October 16. The top four seeded teams will be in one pot, with the weaker four in the other. This will aid the likes of Russia (6th, current ranking), France (10th) and Portugal (17th).
All ten South American nations enter into an epic round-robin league whereby the top four sides claim automatic qualification for the World Cup. The nation who finishes fifth then face the fourth best side from CONCAFAF in a playoff.
Current Standings 1.Brazil – 33 points (qualified) 2.Paraguay – 33 points (qualified) 3.Chile – 30 points (qualified) 4.Argentina – 25 points (prediction for playoffs) 5.Uruguay – 24 points (prediction for automatic qualification) 6.Ecuador – 23 points 7.Venezuela – 21 points
To finish off a dramatic South American campaign, Diego Maradona’s Argentina travel to Montevideo to face rivals Uruguay in a match which is likely to decide who claims the fourth automatic qualification spot.
And with sixth-placed Ecuador (away to Chile) ready to pounce for the playoff spot, if there’s a loser in Montevideo it could be the end of the World Cup road for them. Indeed, Wednesday’s clash in Montevideo will be a massive match and perhaps the pick of all the qualifiers around the world on Wednesday.
Interestingly, Argentina has won just once on the road in the qualifiers but a draw in Uruguay will be enough to secure at least a playoff spot, if not more. Uruguay will feel as though they must win, especially with Ecuador looking over their shoulders.
And while Ecuador has a tough game in Santiago, the Chileans could be in party mode having just secured their own qualification. Indeed, Ecuador’s fate remains in their own hands, as they know if they win in Chile they’ll finish fifth, with a handsome victory giving them remote hope of fourth-place and automatic qualification.
Venezuela is still mathematically alive, but would need to win by a ridiculous 15-goal margin and hope results go their way to make the playoff. And they are playing Brazil in Campo Grande, so they are no chance.
North and Central American qualification sees 6 teams battle it out for 3 automatic spots and one playoff spot. The playoff is awarded to the side ranked 4th in the group and they’ll play the 5th ranked South American nation.
Current Standings 1.USA – 19 points (qualified) 2.Mexico – 18 points (qualified) 3.Costa Rica – 15 points (prediction for automatic qualification) 4.Honduras – 13 points (prediction for playoffs)
Costa Rica has a difficult trip to Washington to face the USA, while Honduras visit El Salvador. The US has won all their home games in this group but the Ticos have the advantage on points ahead of Honduras. And Honduras must win in San Salvador, where the hosts have collected of eight of their group points and not been beaten. Honduras may settle for a playoffs spot.
The African qualifiers has been whittled down to 20 teams, in 5 groups of four, with only the individual group winners claiming direct qualification to South Africa in 2010.
Group A 1.Cameroon – 10 points (prediction for automatic qualification) 2.Gabon – 9 points
This group goes down to the wire with both sides facing difficult away trips. Cameroon visit Morocco, while Gabon go to Togo. Gabon have the weaker goal difference, so a draw won’t be enough unless Cameroon lose by two goals or more. This group will be very interesting.
Group B 1.Tunisia – 11 points 2.Nigeria – 9 points (prediction for automatic qualification)
Another African group going right to the end, with Tunisia in the box seat and only a win in Mozambique away from securing their spot in South Africa next year. But third-placed Mozambique has claimed all its points in this group at home, so it won’t be easy for the Tunisians. Indeed, a draw won’t be enough for Tunisia in Maputo, if Nigeria win in Kenya.
Group C 1.Algeria – 13 points (prediction for automatic qualification) 2.Egypt – 10 points
This group is perfectly placed with Egypt set to host group-leaders Algeria in Cairo for the final match to decide who will qualify for the World Cup.
Incredibly, should Egypt beat Algeria by a two-goal margin in Cairo then this group will be decided by random draw or a playoff, with both sides level in all departments. Despite the fact Egypt will need to win by a big margin on Wednesday, they are the African champions after all, but Algeria on the other hand has been good value all campaign. This will be tight.
Group D 1.Ghana – 12 points (qualified)
Group E 1.C’te d’Ivoire– 13 points (qualified)
Asian qualifying was settled some time ago, but the fifth ranked AFC nation, Bahrain, still haven’t secured their World Cup spot as they are in the middle of a playoff with Oceania champions New Zealand.
Group A Australia (qualified) Japan (qualified)
Group B Korea Republic (qualified) DPR Korea (qualified)
AFC-OFC Playoff New Zealand v Bahrain (prediction for qualification)
The first-leg ended 0-0 in Manama, handing the All-Whites the advantage ahead of the return match in Wellington which will be played on November 14. Historically, Bahrain don’t travel well which will encourage New Zealand, but the All-Whites aren’t the fiercest opposition.
Sports Pundit’s Predicted 2010 World Cup Hosts South Africa
UEFA Denmark Switzerland Slovenia Germany Spain England Serbia Italy Netherlands Russia (via playoff) Portugal (via playoff) Slovakia (via playoff) France (via playoff)
CONMEBOL Brazil Paraguay Chile Uruguay Argentina (via playoff)
CONCACAF USA Mexico Costa Rica
CAF Ghana C’te d’Ivoire Cameroon Nigeria Algeria
AFC Australia Japan Korea Republic DPR Korea Bahrain (via playoff)
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