Germany and Spain qualification hopes surprisingly thrown in doubt
Published: 22.10.12 / Written by: David Gold
It was a night which showed that Europe“s biggest teams may not have things all their own way.
Germany gave up a four goal lead to Sweden, something which was literally without precedent for them. Spain also lost a 1-0 lead in the last minute to France, to suddenly lose their grip on that group, while Portugal lost further ground on Russia with a 1-1 draw at home to minnows Northern Ireland.
For Germany their collapse against Sweden was as surprising as it could be damaging for their World Cup hopes. They missed the chance to take control of a group which also features the Republic of Ireland, who look out of the qualification picture now. But Sweden will be buoyed by their comeback and if they can remain consistent over the coming months, it sets up for a huge match in Stockholm next year which could go some way to deciding who takes the automatic qualification spot for Brazil 2014.
And if Germany are forced into second place, they could be joined there by Spain. The European and World champions suffered a damaging 1-1 draw at home to France this week. Their consistency over the years has been remarkable, so they should not be begrudged of a draw at home to a team of France's quality. But it does make the group appear open, and Didier Deschamps side have the quality to continue their form and take the group to a decider in Paris next year. That would be pivotal in the qualification race, and potentially leave Spain facing the ignominy of having to go to a play off for the opportunity to defend their World Cup title.
Portugal are another who are facing a battle on their hands, having lost away to Russia and then drawn at home to Northern Ireland. The combination of those results means that they are not even second now, with Israel just above them. Now it could be a battle between those two for second. If Israel can get a positive result when they host Portugal in March, then Paulo Bento's side could find themselves drawn into a scrap just to make the play offs, with Russia looking like they may run away with this group.
Another side expected to qualify was England, but they too have problems. Draws with Ukraine and Poland mean that they are just a point ahead of Montenegro having played a game more, and this group is turning into a battle between those two and Poland. Any of the three could win the group at present, and it is shaping up to be a far tougher test than many would have imagined for England. In fact, only Holland and Italy, of Europe's traditional big guns, seem to be in a good and comfortable position going into 2013. For the rest, a tough battle remains ahead going into next year.
It could be set for some intriguing play offs in the European section of Brazil 2014 qualifiers.