In Asia, we’re now in the fourth round, a home-and-home set between Syria and Australia. (Or, more correctly, a home-and-Syria’s-home-away-from-home, Malaysia.) The first leg will take place in Malaysia on the 5th, while the return leg will be in Sydney on the 10th. The winner will be determined by who scores more goals on aggregate. If the teams draw after the end of 90 minutes in the second game, the winner will be determined by who scored more goals on their away legs. If that is also a draw, then 30 minutes of extra time will be played with the away goals rule still applicable, followed by a penalty shootout if the match is still tied.
Suffice it to say, we can only really talk scenarios for the second match. The winner of the fixture will advance to an inter-confederation playoff against a team from CONCACAF.
In Group A, Guinea and Libya have already been eliminated and Tunisia is ahead of the Democratic Republic of the Congo by 3 points.
- On October 7th, Tunisia will advance to the 2018 World Cup with a win or draw over Guinea and a DR Congo draw or loss to Libya.
In Group B, Cameroon and Algeria have already been eliminated, and Nigeria is ahead of Zambia by 3 points.
- On October 7th, Nigeria will advance to the 2018 World Cup with a win over Zambia.
In Group C, no teams have been eliminated as of yet. The Ivory Coast leads with 7 points, followed by Morocco with 6 points, Gabon with 5 points ,and Mali with 2 points. No team can clinch in the coming international window, so we’ll have to wait until November to see who comes out of the group. However, if Mali loses to the Ivory Coast, they will be eliminated. Also, if the Ivory Coast defeats Mali, Gabon will be eliminated if they lose to or draw with Morocco, and Morocco will be eliminated with a loss.
Group D is in a bit of chaos right now, as FIFA ordered the November 2016 match between South Africa and Senegal to be replayed due to a match fixing referee (who subsequently banned for life). The original result had South Africa winning 2-1. Group leaders Burkina Faso have filed a case with the Court for Arbitration in Sport to have the replay not happen and the original result restored. It’s hard to blame them, as the original result was a pretty big upset as Senegal is the power in the group, and the replayed match could make a difference. As a result, it’s hard to really say with any certainty what will happen on the next matchday in this group.
In Group E, Congo have been eliminated. The rest of the group consists of Egypt at 9 points, Uganda at 7 points, and Ghana at 5 points.
- On October 7th, Ghana will be eliminated if they lose to Uganda.
- On October 8th, Ghana will be eliminated if Egypt defeats Congo.
- On October 8th, Egypt will advance to the 2018 World Cup with a win over Congo and any Uganda draw with or loss to Ghana.
The Fifth Round, also known as the Hexagonal, features six teams playing a double round-robin. Mexico lead the table with 18 points and a guaranteed finish in the top three spots, and thus are in the World Cup. Behind them are Costa Rica, on 15 points and a guarantee to finish in the top four, which means either the World Cup or the inter-confederation playoff against a team from the AFC. In third place are Panama on 10 points, followed by the United States with 9. Honduras also has 9 points but also a -7 goal differential. Trinidad and Tobago are in last place with just 3 points, but they are not technically eliminated yet.
The next matchday for all teams is October 6th. On that day:
- Costa Rica will qualify for the 2018 World Cup with any win or draw against Honduras.
- Panama will qualify for the 2018 World Cup with a win over the United States.
- Trinidad and Tobago will be eliminated with any draw or loss to Mexico, or if both the United States and Honduras win or draw with Panama and Costa Rica, respectively.
There’s still a lot at play in South America because, as previously noted, the second through eighth placed teams are within seven points of each other, and three of those teams won’t qualify. It’s probably just easiest to look at the actual table instead of trying to describe it. The next matchday is October 5th, and on that day:
- Uruguay will qualify for the 2018 World Cup if they defeat Venezuela and Argentina and Peru draw against each other.
- Ecuador will be eliminated if they lose to Chile.
- Paraguay will be eliminated if they lose to Colombia and Argentina and Peru draw against each other.
For everything else, tune back in after Saturday.
There’s 54 teams in 6 groups, so let’s just cut to the chase.
France and Sweden lead the pack with 17 and 16 points, respectively, followed by the Netherlands and Bulgaria with 13 and 12 points. Luxembourg and Belarus have been eliminated. On the next matchday, October 7th:
- France will qualify directly for the 2018 World Cup with a win over Bulgaria and a Sweden loss to Luxembourg.
- Bulgaria will be eliminated if they lose to France.
- Bulgaria will be eliminated if they draw with France and Sweden defeats or draws with Luxembourg.
- The Netherlands will be eliminated if they lose to Belarus and Sweden defeats or draws with Luxembourg.
In Group B, everyone except Switzerland and Portugal have been eliminated. Switzerland currently leads 24 points to 21. On the next matchday, October 7th:
- Switzerland will qualify directly for the 2018 World Cup with a win over Hungary and a Portugal draw or loss to Andorra.
Suffice it to say, this one’s probably going to come down to the match in Lisbon on the 10th. Again, check back after Saturday.
In Group C, it’s pretty much Germany looking to wrap things up. On the next matchday, October 5th:
- Germany will qualify directly for the World Cup with any win or draw over Northern Ireland.
Note that Northern Ireland will not neccessarily be eliminated, as they can qualify for the UEFA Second Round featuring the top 8 second placed teams from all the groups. Again, tune after Saturday.
Group D features Serbia in first place with 18 points and a guarantee they can’t finish worst than second. Wales is currently in second place with 14 points, followed by Ireland with 13 points and Austria with 9 points. Georgia and Moldova have been eliminated. On the next matchday, October 6th:
- Serbia will qualify directly for the World Cup if they defeat Austria.
- Serbia will qualify directly for the World Cup if they draw Austria along with a Wales draw or loss to Georgia and an Ireland draw or loss to Moldova.
- Austria will be eliminated if they lose to or draw with Serbia, or if Wales defeats Georgia and Ireland defeats Moldova.
- Ireland will be eliminated if they lose to Moldova and if Wales defeats Georgia.
Group E features three teams still in play: Poland with 19 points, followed by Montenegro and Denmark with 16 points. On the next matchday, October 5th:
- Poland will qualify directly to the 2018 World Cup if they defeat Armenia and Denmark and Montenegro draw.
Group F features England on 20 points, Slovakia on 15, and then Slovenia and Scotland on 14. Lithuania and Malta have already been eliminated. On the next matchday, October 5th:
- England will qualify directly for the World Cup with a win over Slovenia.
- England will qualify directly for the World Cup if they draw Slovenia and Slovakia loses to or draws with Scotland.
- Scotland will be eliminated if they lose to Slovakia.
- Slovenia will be eliminated if they lose to England and Slovakia defeats Scotland.
Group G features Spain with 22 points, Italy with 19 points, and Albania on 13 points. Israel, Macedonia, and Liechtenstein have been eliminated. On the next matchday, October 6th:
- Spain will qualify directly for the World Cup if they defeat Albania and Italy loses to or draws with Macedonia.
- Albania will be eliminated if they lose to Spain, or if they draw with Spain and Italy defeats Macedonia.
In Group H, Belgium has already secured first place in the group. Bosnia and Herzegovina, Greece, and Cyprus are vying for second place, with 14, 13, and 10 points respectively. Estonia and Gibraltar have been eliminated. On the next matchday, October 7th:
- Cyprus will be eliminated if they lose to Greece, or if they draw with Greece and Bosnia and Herzegovina defeat or draw Belgium.
- Bosnia and Herzegovina will secure second place if they defeat Belgium and Cyprus defeats Greece.
Group I is wide open. Croatia and Iceland are tied on 16 points, followed by Turkey and Ukraine with 14 points. Finland and Kosovo have been eliminated. On the next matchday, October 6th:
- Turkey will be eliminated if they lose to Iceland and Croatia defeats Finland. Ukraine would also be defeated in this case if they fail to defeat Kosovo.
And that’s about it. I hope to put up another post on Sunday with the final scenarios. Stay tuned!