Tuesday, June 18, 2013

2014 World Cup Update: Dispatches from Abroad

After Sunday's action, we have one more matchday to go this month, and it'll be a doozy. But first, some stats. 88 teams are still in play for the World Cup Finals and 114 have been eliminated outright. Entering this month, there were 118 teams still in play.

First off, special congratulations to Egypt and Bob Bradley. This entire World Cup cycle has been marred by the violence in the country, and yet they cruised through their group, winning all five of their matches outright and clinching advancement to the next round of CAF's qualification. The Pharaohs clinched Group G. Elsewhere in Africa, Ethiopia, Tunisia, Cote d'Ivoire, and Algeria clinched their groups. I'll take a look at the remaining groups as we get closer to September.

One other thing, you see some wacky scorelines sometimes in international football, but this one made me scratch my head.  4-1 based off three penalties, the last coming 8 minutes into added time? Also conveniently Gabon's goal differential is now zero? And it was at home? Huh.

The last day of the AFC's 4th Round is Tuesday, and both groups are still in play. In Group A, South Korea, Iran, and Uzbekistan are all fighting for the top two spots. South Korea currently tops the group with 14 points, Iran has 13, and Uzbekistan has 11. South Korea will play Iran and Uzbekistan will play eliminated Qatar. So that's where it gets interesting. South Korea advances to the World Cup with any win or draw with Iran. There is also a scenario where they can lose and still advance as long as Uzbekistan does not win by at least 6 goals. However, the match is at home for the Koreans, so a win or draw should be achievable. They did lose in Iran 1-0 though.

While South Korea is sitting pretty, but Iran is less secure. With a draw, they can still be tied by Uzbekistan, which is where we start getting into goal differential numbers. They will likely be hoping for Uzbekistan to lose or draw against Qatar, but a) the game is Tashkent b) the Uzbeks already beat Qatar on the road and c) as mentioned above, Qatar is eliminated. If Iran loses to South Korea, that opens the door for Uzbekistan to clinch with a win. If Uzbekistan wins and Iran draws South Korea, then the Uzbeks need to beat Quatar by at least four goals to win the tiebreaker. Whoever winds up in 3rd place will play the 3rd place team from Group. So speaking of which...

Japan has already won Group B and Iraq has been eliminated, leaving Australia (10 points), Oman (9 points), and Jordan (7 points) in play for 2nd and third. The Socceroos cannot finish any worse than third, but they play their final game in Sydney against Iraq, so they will be looking for the clinching win. So let's talk about Oman and Jordan for a second.

Oman and Jordan play each other, but the match is in Amman. Jordan, is the weaker side here: they are 2-1-4 with a -10 goal differential, while Oman is 2-3-2 with a -2 goal differential. Oman won their first match 2-1. That said, Oman will get at least third place with any win or draw. Jordan must have a win in any scenario to advance. If they do win, then they will place third if Australia wins or draws against Iraq, and will get second if they can make up the 14 points of goal difference between them and Australia if the Aussies lose to Iraq.

If Oman beats Jordan and Australia loses or draws against Iraq, then they will get 2nd place (and, again, advance directly to the World Cup). If they draw and Australia loses, then goal difference comes into play again. There's 6 point of goal difference between the two sides.

If I had to make a prediction, I'd bet on South Korea, Uzbekistan, and Australia advancing, with Oman and Iran facing off in the 5th Round for the right to place a South American team for a spot in the World Cup.

Both Mexico and Jamaica have Tuesday's match day off, since that match was moved to June 4th to accommodate Mexico playing in the Confederations Cup. No one is on the hook to be eliminated yet, but Jamaica is already in trouble and Panama could really use at least a draw on the road against Costa Rica.

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