World Cup qualifiers take shape
Published: 26.06.13 / Written by: David Gold
With a year to go until the World Cup in Brazil in 2014, and two recent rounds of qualifiers completed, the picture is being coloured in ahead of next year’s event.
Countries are falling out of contention and Japan are already there in Brazil for this year’s Confederations Cup having booked their place there again next year.
South America is where the most thrilling race for qualification is taking place. Argentina have drawn with Colombia and Ecuador in the last week, but are still comfortable at the top of the rankings with a three point advantage. Behind them are Colombia, who followed up a very pleasing draw in Buenos Aires with a win over Peru at home, 2-0, to secure their hold on a qualification spot, and they seem certain to be in Brazil next year.
Ecuador are still in third after their draw with Argentina but Chile have caught them on points after a 3-1 win over Bolivia. The top four look quite secure at present but cannot afford to be complacent with Uruguay in fifth after a 1-0 win over Venezuela, who also remain very much in the hunt for a qualification spot.
In Europe Belgium look secure in Group A after beating Serbia recently, whilst Croatia’s hopes were damaged in a shock 1-0 defeat at home to Scotland. Those two remain comfortably clear of the pack though. Italy are almost qualified as well in Group B, and sit four points clear of Bulgaria, but were held 0-0 by the Czech Republic recently to delay their progress. Bulgaria will be delighted to still be second, and their hopes were done no harm by Denmark’s shock 4-0 home defeat by Armenia.
In Group C Germany haven’t played but Austria are up to second after a vital win over Sweden, 2-1. The Austrians are now in a good position to make it to the play offs for Brazil. Group D has featured no games, with the Netherlands remaining clear at the top and Hungary good in second ahead of Romania. Group E has Switzerland still out on top after a 1-0 win over Cyprus, with Iceland behind Albania after their defeat to Slovenia. Albania and Norway drew 1-1, in an extremely tight group in which five teams are still in contention. In Group F Portugal took a giant step towards Brazil with a 1-0 win over Russia. That puts them ahead of the Russians, although they have played two games more. Israel are three points behind Portugal with a game in hand.
Bosnia’s 5-0 win over Latvia recently keeps them out on top of their group and on course to qualify for their first major finals. Greece are in second still after a 1-0 win away to Lithuania. In a very tight Group H, leaders Montenegro have been beaten 4-0 by Ukraine, meaning they hold a perilous two point lead over England having played a game more. Ukraine are a point behind England but host them later in the qualifiers. Poland’s draw with Moldova means they are almost out of it. Group I remains as it is, with Finland and Belarus playing home and away to each other recently but the leaders Spain and second place France not in action.
In Africa continental champions Nigeria still have a battle on their hands to qualify after they drew with Namibia, meaning Malawi could finish ahead of them in their qualifying group. The winners of Africa’s groups will meet in play offs later in the year. Ethiopia remain ahead of South Africa in their group after beating Botswana 2-1, whilst South Africa beat Central African Republic 3-0. Congo drew 0-0 at Gabon and remain in control of their group, whilst Tunisia remain in charge of their section in spite of being held 2-2 by Sierre Leone.
Ivory Coast beat Gambia 3-0 and Morocco won 2-1 against Tanzania to move closer to the play offs. Zambia won 4-0 against Lesotho and Ghana beat Sudan 3-1 as last year’s African Nations Cup champions remain just ahead. Senegal drew 1-1 at Angola to leave their qualification hopes in jeopardy.
In CONACAF, Mexico remain third and battling to qualify after being held to yet another draw, this time 0-0 by Costa Rica, who are second. The USA are in control of the section after beating Panama 2-0. In Asia Japan qualified last week with a 1-1 draw against Australia, whilst South Korea are on the verge of joining them in Brazil. Uzbekistan are also in a good position to qualify, whilst New Zealand are expected to be Oceania’s representatives.