Yes that’s right folks, this Friday the United States will begin qualifying for a tournament that is still two and a half years away. Why? Well, that mostly because FIFA eliminated the February international dates in their calendar.
Let’s do a quick whip-around and checkout what’s been going on where, eh?
Asia is in the midst of its second round of qualifying, featuring seven groups of five and one group of four. Each group will play again this month and then in March to determine the winners. The winner of each group advances to the third round, and the four best runners-up advance as well.
So far, we’ve got a minor upset in Group B, with Australia trailing Jordan by a point. The Socceroos lost 2-0 to Jordan back on October, but they’ll get a chance again on the last matchday back on home soil in March.
Right now, Qatar is in control of Group C, but I would still be tickled if Hong Kong finishes ahead of China.
Most of the other groups currently contain no big surprises or anything, so we’ll revisit these guys in March.
Africa is currently in its second round, which pits 40 teams in home-and-away matches to determine who advances to the third round. Most of the ties haven’t gotten underway yet, so there’s not much to report. We’ll know the all the results by Wednesday, though!
For North American, the fourth round is about to begin. Let’s go over each group.
This figures to be a pretty intense group. Mexico has a new coach, Honduras have made two straight World Cups, El Salvador are always tough, and Canada is trying to get to the same level as its continental neighbors. The first two would have to be the favorites, though.
Costa Rica were the darlings of the World Cup last year, Panama was just on the cusp of making it in 2014, and Haiti and Jamaica were the darlings of this summer’s Gold Cup. If I had to pick two to come out of this group, I’d probably go with Costa Rica and Jamaica.
The US drew by far the easiest group. We’re sharing the group the with Trinidad and Tobago, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and Guatemala. St. Vincent and the Grenadines sounds like it’d be a good name for a 50’s band more than anything else. Guatemala concerns me mostly because having to play a match in those Central American venues is always concerning. Trinidad and Tobago is the best team out of this group, and of course the US has some history with them as well (having knocked them out of contention of the 1990 World Cup). It should be instructive, if nothing else.
South America’s grand qualification tournament has begun, and so far it’s a doozy. Right now the big news is that Argentina only got one point of their first two games, and will still lack Messi for this month’s games. If you can, try to find Argentina-Brazil tonight.
Not much has happened in Oceania since the last time we went over this, since their next round doesn’t start until May.
Europe doesn’t begin qualifying until next September.
That’s it for now! Since there won’t be any more action until March after this, I may do a postmortem, but we’ll see!