England Wins While Sven Screws Another Team
What another great couple of days of international football played all over the globe. If there’s anything that shows the universality of football (apart from the World Cup itself), it’s the fact that qualifiers are played on all continents at pretty much the same time.
Not to mention the passion shown by both players and fans alike when the national team is on show. These last couple of days have given a good indication as to which teams will be there in 2010 and which ones won’t be.
Firstly, starting with Africa, which wrapped up Round 2 of its qualifying campaign on the weekend. Most of the big teams have gone safely through to the third and final round of African qualifying, however a notable absentee is Senegal who could only muster a draw with Gambia in their final game at home. This led to scenes of chaos and riots in the streets of Dakar, which is justified, given higher expectations since the team qualified for the 2002 World Cup. However, violence is not what football needs even if emotions take over and hopefully there won’t be a repeat of similar scenes in the next qualifying round.
Another notable team to be eliminated was Angola, which proves that their 2006 trip to Germany was just a one-off. It’s safe to say that apart from Cameroon and Nigeria, the teams that go to the World Cup from Africa changes significantly every time. Stability is not a common theme in Africa in all contexts, not just sporting. The next round of qualifying involves the remaining 20 teams who will be divided into 5 groups of 4 on the 22 October in Zurich. The top team of each team will go to South Africa in 2010 while the 2nd and 3rd place qualify for the African Cup of Nations.
Moving onto Asia where 10 teams are vying for 4.5 places in South Africa, Group A saw Australia taking full control of the group by thrashing Qatar at home 4-0 while Uzbekistan got back on track with their first point in the qualifying campaign away to Japan. Qatar’s home games against Japan is shaping up to be a key game into determining who will stay up to the Australian team.
Meanwhile, in Group B the top 4 teams are now all tied on 4 points a piece with the UAE last on 0 points. Normally losing your first 3 games would prove disastrous but inconsistent results from the other teams have meant that the UAE are still in the running for a spot in South Africa. The group is wide open and with 6 games to go, it’s anyone’s game.
In European qualifying, there were no shock results, only some surprises. In Group 1, Portugal is having its work cut out with inconsistent results placing it in 3rd place after 4 games. This will need to improve quick time because before the know it they will be a tight and tense tussle just to be runners up and make the playoff.
In Group 2, the Swiss surprised the Greeks in Athens but the Greeks and the Israelis remain in control of the group. Meanwhile in Group 3, the Czechs are second last in their group, although with one game in hand and they will need to make their move in the next couple of games to remain in contention. The Germans and the Spaniards continue to produce the results and are comfortably leading Group 4 and Group 5.
Group 6 sees England enjoying its best start to a qualifying campaign with full points after 4 games. However, their performances on the pitch have not been spectacular and criticism continues from all corners of England.
Group 7 sees France in a tight situation after a disappointing draw with Romania at the weekend and has to make a move in the next couple of games. Removing Domenech from his post would be a good start in my opinion. Group 8 and Group 9 sees the Italian and the Dutch leading their groups comfortably.
The CONCACAF qualifying tournament saw 4 teams say goodbye to South Africa while there were some shock results in Group 2. Group 1 saw the US go through to the final round of qualifying with an easy win over Cuba and then they took a breather by letting Trinidad & Tobago win a couple of days later. This puts T&T in a great position to go through to the next stage of qualifying.
Group 2 saw Mexico stumble not once but twice. Firstly, they lost surprisingly to the Jamaicans in Kingston and then barely drew with the Canadians in Edmonton. While this still leaves Mexico in first place, they could still be knocked out in this stage if they lose away to Honduras and if Jamaica beat the Canadians comfortably. It’s unlikely though, however Mexico should have gone through a long time ago. I suspect that both the Hondurans and Mexicans will negotiate a draw which will put them both through and this will not please the Jamaicans.
Meanwhile, Group 3 has pretty much wrapped up with one game to go. Costa Rica and El Salvador are safety to the final round of qualifying to begin next year.
Finally, to the toughest and longest qualifying campaign, CONMEBOL. Rounds 9 and 10 were played in the last couple of days, passing the halfway point of the campaign and we are already seeing which teams will go through and which won’t. The best performing team was Paraguay with 2 victories and they now comfortably lead the tournament with 23 points after 10 games. 3 more victories and they will be passed the important threshold of 30 points.
The worst performing team were the Peruvians with 2 losses, leaving them at the foot of the table with just 7 points. They now need to win every game they have to play in order to make the World Cup. Bolivia, who is in second last position are pretty much in the same situation. Brazil showed its inconsistency once again by thrashing the Venezuelans firstly and then barely drawing with the Colombians at home. They are nevertheless in second position and look a sure bet to through.
Argentina is also cruising in 3rd spot with 16 points. 4th and 5th place are up for grabs and the teams that will by vying for them are Chile, Uruguay, Colombia and Ecuador. The last 8 rounds will provide some great drama and entertainment.
There you go, that’s a summary of the latest batch of World Cup qualifiers. South Africa in 2010 feels closer every time these qualifiers are played even if we’re still a year and a half away. However, this only means that there will be more drama and entertainment for football fans worldwide. Long live football!