Thatâ€™s right folks, in two weeks we will know who will occupy the remaining 11 spots in the 2014 World Cup Finals. Accordingly, I have updated my difficult-to-read-list of the status of all FIFA members. This table is organized by status and then date this time around. The massive image showing everyoneâ€™s route to the Finals has also been updated. (I also updated the CONCACAF and AFC guides.)
So letâ€™s do our usual whip-around coverage thing, starting with theâ€¦
First up is Jordan vs. Uruguay. In a somewhat similar fashion to what happened in the previous World Cup cycle, Uruguay wasnâ€™t quite good enough to qualify automatically out CONMEBOL. They shouldnâ€™t really have any trouble with Jordan, though. The Jordanians only have one player that plays outside the Middle East, while Uruguay has guys like Diego Forlan and Luis Suarez. Itâ€™s hard to see how this will be close.
Next up is Mexico vs. New Zealand. Mexico shouldnâ€™t have much trouble here either, as many of the All-Whites play in New Zealandâ€™s semi-pro league. But, well, Mexico shouldnâ€™t really even be here in the first place, and the latest lame duck coach isnâ€™t even going to call in his European based players. Can El Tri finally get it done? Again, the odds say yes, but the odds also didnâ€™t have them needing a stoppage time goal from their archrivals to save them from not qualifying at all.
The CAF Third Round will be decided this weekend. Remember, the away goals rule is in effect. If the fixture is tied regardless, then there will be two periods of extra time followed by a shootout.
- Ivory Coast vs. Senegal: The Ivory Coast won the first leg 3-1 at home. The return leg will actually be played in Morocco, but regardless, if Senegal scores two without allowing any, the will advance on away goals. If they win 3-0 or better, they win automatically. Any win or draw on their part obviously works in the Ivory Coastâ€™s favor. If Senegal win 3-1, then it will go to extra time. If Senegal win 4-2, they will actually lose, as Ivory Coast would have more away goals on aggregate. (This same logic applies to pretty much everything else.)
- Ethiopia vs. Nigeria: Nigeria won the first leg 2-1, giving them a huge advantage on the return. They should qualify.
- Tunisia vs. Cameroon: the first leg was a 0-0 draw, putting Tunisia in the position of winning any non-scoreless draw. So, 0-0 they go to extra time, Cameroon wins they go to the World Cup, and if Tunisia wins or draws 1-1 or better, they go to the World Cup.
- Ghana vs. Egypt: the best story in international football was obliterated 6-1 last month. Barring an utter miracle, this will be Bob Bradleyâ€™s last game as Egyptâ€™s coach (apparently he was almost fired after the match anyway).
- Burkina Faso vs. Algeria: Burkina Faso won the first leg at home 3-2, so Algeria has a bit of a hill to climb on the return.
Weâ€™ll conclude with a quick preview of the UEFA playoff ties.
- Portugal vs. Sweden: surprisingly, stadia were found that could contain both Cristiano Ronaldo and Zlatan Ibrahimovicâ€™s egos.
- Ukraine vs. France: the French had the misfortune of being in the same group as Spain. Presumably they wonâ€™t need a handball to get into the World Cup this time around, but the Ukrainians should be a pretty tough test in and of themselves.
- Greece vs. Romania: I really donâ€™t know any cracks I can make about either of these teams, so hopefully this turns out to be interesting soccer-wise. Greece was the top 2nd-place team and actually finished with a positive goal difference, so they probably have an edge here.
- Iceland vs. Croatia: Iceland were the darlings of the UEFA qualification cycle, coming out of almost nowhere to finish 2nd in the group ahead of more established teams like Slovenia and Norway. Theyâ€™ll face a better team that had a disappointing campaign in Croatia. This could be a fun one.
Iâ€™ll try to check in early next week with how everyone did. Until then!