So it’s three days since the US lost one of the most embarrassing games I can recall them playing, a 4-0 humiliation at Costa Rica. (And this is after I had flown to Columbus and back to watch them lose their first home qualifier in fifteen years.) The best thing I can say about this title is that I hope I’m wrong and we’ll still qualify easily without having to fire the coach, but frankly I agree with… just about everyone now in saying that US needs a new face on the sidelines.
And in the future, let’s maybe not assume a coach can survive nearly two full cycles. For whatever reason, it just doesn’t seem to happen.
Anyway, I’ve updated the status of every team page with the latest results from this most recent international window. No one has been eliminated, but we could see a couple in March. Notably, though, no one is on the verge of qualifying. Depending on how things shake out in the AFC, we could see some teams qualify next June, but for everyone else it’ll be around Labor Day next year.
Let’s take a quick glance at each confederation.
The final twelve entrants from Asia are halfway through the qualification cycle. In Group A, it’s race between the three favorites. Iran is currently topping the group with 11 points, followed by South Korea with 10, and then Uzbekistan with 9. Some combination of those three will make it through, but the question is which one will finish where.
- Iran’s five remaining matches feature three home games against China, Uzbekistan, and Syria. They’ll be favorites in all three. However, they also have to go on the road to Uzbekistan and South Korea. I think they’ll get at least 7 points from their home games, which puts them at somewhere between 18 and 24 points overall.
- South Korea will play on the road three times, against China, Qatar, and Uzbekistan. They’ve already played all three at home and while they did win all those matches, it wasn’t terribly convincing. The only gimme is the home game against Syria, as they also have Iran at home. They’ve been so inconsistent they could get somewhere between 3 and 15 points from these matches, I think. In other words, they may comfortably qualify, or they could wind up in Tashkent next September really needing a result.
- Uzbekistan will also play on the road three times, versus Syria, Iran, and China. They’ll be favorites in two of those three, but it will be really tough for them to get out of Tehran with any points. They also get Qatar and South Korea at home. I’d estimate they’ll get somewhere been 4 and 12 points, but I feel a bit better about their chances than I do for South Korea.
Over in Group B it’s not early as obvious how it’s going to go down, but the favorites would seem to be in a bit of trouble. Right now Saudi Arabia and Japan are tied with 10 points, followed by Australia and the United Arab Emirates with 9. The Blue Samurai and Socceroos still have some time to make up some ground, but they also still have to play each other. We’ll check back in on this in March.
There was some action in Africa this time around, but each team so far as only played 2 of 6 matches, so there’s a ways to go, and qualifying there doesn’t resume until next August. Some quick reactions, though:
- Algeria is currently tied at the bottom of Group B with a single point.
- In Group D, South Africa scored a pretty solid upset at home by beating Senegal 2-1.
- In Group E, Egypt got some payback against the team that eliminated them last time around by beating Ghana 2-0 in Alexandria. The Pharaohs currently lead the group with 6 points, while the Black Stars have only 1.
You know about what happened to the US already, so let’s talk about everyone else:
- Last Friday every away team won their match, though the only one that was anything near a surprise was probably Panama 1, Honduras 0.
- Los Canaleros then went back home and kept Mexico at bay, earning a 0-0 draw.
- Trinidad and Tobago are so far playing the “sixth team that doesn’t really belong” role with a 2-0 loss at home to Costa Rica and then a 3-1 loss on the road against Honduras.
Again, we’re just two games into ten overall, so we’ll have more in the spring.
Oceania’s wacky qualification format means two teams didn’t even play this time around. The most shocking thing was probably New Zealand’s scoreless draw on the road against New Caledonia, but nonetheless the All-Whites should have this round wrapped up by the end of March. They’ll meet the winner of Group B in August.
They Europeans have played only 4 matches of 10, so we’ll see them again in March. A quick survey of the groups:
- In Group A, it looks like the Dutch are back, just behind France’s 10 points with 7 of their own. The question is if the Swedes will continue to stick around.
- Group B is going to come down to Switzerland or Portugal. Right now the difference is Switzerland’s win at home to start the campaign, The two won’t meet again until the very last match of the round in October.
- Germany remains completely in control of Group C, but hey, they at least put on a good show at San Marino last weekend (they won 8-0 in front of crowd of 3,500). Northern Ireland and Azerbaijan are fighting it out for the second spot, though the former did beat the latter 4-0.
- In Group D, the Welsh have now drawn three straight games at Austria, versus Georgia, and versus Serbia. The group remains tight between Ireland, Serbia, and Wales.
- In Group E, Montenegro’s darkhorse qualification campaign suffered a 3-2 setback in Armenia. Poland continued to cruise and Denmark, 4 points behind and in third place, continues to fight to stay in the mix.
- In Group F, England beat Scotland 3-0 and remains at the top of the group, but clustered right behind them are Slovenia, Slovakia, and Lithuania.
- Yes, Israel is currently just a point behind Italy and Spain with 9 points, but that already includes a loss at home to the Italians and they have to play two three more times. Group G may come down to Italy’s road game at Spain next September.
- Bosnia and Herzegovina stayed alive in Group H by picking up a point on the road against Greece, but this still Belgium’s to lose.
- Last but definitely not least, they’re Group I, which remains the last predictable. Croatia did beat Euro 2016 darlings Iceland, but that was at home. There’s still a lot of games to be played here.
That’s about it for now. Look for this column again in March!