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Tag Archives: 2014 FIFA World Cup Qualifying

OVER 170 nations held their breath last Saturday night (30 July) as the various draws for each Football Confederations next (or first) Qualification round(s) for the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil were made in Rio de Janeiro.

The African zone had their draw first, followed by Asia, North, Central America and the Caribbean, Oceania and finally the reason why there isn’t a draw for South America (it’s one big group).

But then came the headline act, the draw for the European Qualifying groups.

Just like the 2010 qualifying format, the 53 UEFA nations would be seeded into five pots of nine and one pot of eight. Based on the July 2011 FIFA world rankings the top nine nations would be in Pot 1, tenth to 18th in Pot 2 and so on.

The 53 nations were to be drawn into eight groups of six and one of five. The nine group winners will qualify automatically for Brazil 2014, and the eight best second-placed teams (based on their record against the first, third, fourth and fifth-place teams in their group) will play-off in four
separate head-to-head home and away matches to determine the other four European teams at the Finals in Brazil in three years time.

The Pots for the draw looked as such, world ranking in brackets:

POT 1

POT 2

POT 3

POT 4

POT 5

POT 6

Spain (1)

France (15)

Switzerland (30)

Bulgaria (48)

Armenia (70)

Wales (112=)

Netherlands (2)

Montenegro (17)

Israel (32)

Romania (53)

Finland (75)

Liechtenstein (118)

Germany (3)

Russia (18)

Republic of Ireland (33)

Georgia (57)

Estonia (79)

Iceland (121)

England (6)

Sweden (19)

Belgium (37)

Lithuania (58)

Cyprus (80)

Kazakhstan (126)

Portugal (7)

Denmark (21)

Czech Republic (38)

Albania (59)

Latvia (83)

Luxembourg (128)

Italy (8)

Slovenia (22)

Bosnia & Herzegovina (41)

Scotland (61)

Moldova (85)

Malta GC (173)

Croatia (9)

Turkey (24)

Belarus (42)

Northern Ireland (62)

Macedonia (96)

Andorra (203=)

Norway (12)

Serbia (27)

Ukraine (45)

Austria (66)

Azerbaijan (111)

San Marino (203=)

Greece (13)

Slovakia (29)

Hungary (47)

Poland (69)

Faroe Islands (112=)

The eagle-eyed amongst you would have noticed that the Faroe Islands and Wales have the same ranking (112) yet were not in the same pot
because that’s just the way it worked out. FIFA were going to put Wales in Pot 5 until Eduard Ranghiuc – a 30-year-old Romania computer programmer who runs a football ranking website – pointed out to FIFA that the Faroe Islands were 0.07 points better off than Wales.

FIFA listened for once and placed the Faroes in Pot 5 with the likes of Armenia (70) and Estonia (79), who they beat nearly beat in Tallinn and did beat 2-0 in Toftir in their Euro 2012 qualifying matches. Wales on the other hand were placed in Pot 6 with the minnows that are Liechtenstein (118), Andorra and San Marino (both 203).

So anyway, as I like to say before the start of every major championship: “Enough with the preliminaries and now on with the main event!”…the draw for the preliminaries.

Group A

Former Yugoslav nations Croatia (9), Serbia (27) and Macedonia (96) will have to deal with a resurgent Belgium (37) and the Home Nations of Scotland (61) and Wales (112=).

Croatia finished third in France ’98 on their debut, while Serbia has only been to one World Cup (the last one) as ‘Serbia’. Belgium came fourth in Mexico ’86 and Scotland hold the record for most number of World Cup appearances without advancing to the next round – eight. Macedonia has never qualified for the World Cup and suffered their heaviest defeat, 0-5, at the hands of Belgium. Wales’s only Finals appearances was at Sweden ’58 (after initially being eliminated and then reinstated in qualifying) where they reached the last eight.

I sense some battles both on and off the pitch with this lot. Croatia and Serbia will have to watch out in case Belgium spring a few surprises.

Group B

Four-time world champions Italy (8) were drawn with: Denmark (21), the Czech Republic (38), Bulgaria (48), Armenia (70) and Malta GC (173).

Despite winning Euro ’92, Denmark have only been to four Finals but came fifth in France ’98. The Czech Republic has only been to Germany ’06 as the ‘Czech Republic’ where they failed to get out of the Groups. Bulgaria surprised everybody in U.S.A.’94 by knocking out then reigning
champions Germany en route to finishing fourth. Armenia and Malta GC have never qualified for the Finals.

Italy should ease this, but write-off the Danes and Czechs at your peril.

Group C

Triple world champions Germany (3) – who have only lost two World Cup qualifiers got: Sweden (19), the Republic of Ireland (33), neighbours Austria (66), the Faroe Islands (112=) and Kazakhstan (126).

Germany, Austria and Kazakhstan are all in the same Euro 2012 Qualifying group, so they will have some good up-to-date knowledge of some of there opponents.

Sweden finished as runners-up to Brazil when they hosted the 1958 World Cup and also finished third in 1950 and 1994. The Republic of
Ireland should have been in South Africa last summer but were cheated out of their place by France. Their best performance in a World Cup was in 1990 when they ended up seventh. Austria earned the bronze medal in 1954, while the Faroe Islands and Kazakhstan have never boarded the plane to the Finals.

Germany will waltz this lot, but the Sweden-Ireland games will prove decisive.

Group D

Three-time runners-up the Netherlands (2) will play: Turkey (24), Hungary (47) and their neighbours Romania (53), Estonia (79) and joint lowest ranked team in the world Andorra (203=).

The Netherlands beat Hungary 4-0 and 5-3 in four days during their Euro 2012 qualifying group.

Turkey spectacularly came third in 2002, while Hungary went one better in 1938 and 1954 when they lost to West Germany in The Miracle of Berne. Romania’s biggest loss, 0-9, was against Hungary and they came fifth in 1994. Estonia and Andorra have never been to a World Cup.

The Netherlands vs. Turkey games should prove to be terrific to watch. The Dutch don’t have it all that easy in this one.

Group E

Norway (12) was handed: Slovenia (22), Switzerland (30), Albania (59), Cyprus (80) and fellow Nordic nation Iceland (121).

Norway has only been to three World Cups while Slovenia has been to two of the last three, and was in South Africa because the Czech Republic and Russia weren’t. Switzerland’s best showing in a World Cup is sixth back in 1950, and they hold the record for most consecutive minutes without conceding a goal, 559. Albania and Cyprus have never been to the Finals, and coincidently Albania’s biggest win, 6-1, came against Cyprus. Iceland to has never qualified for the World Cup and have been drawn against Norway for the third straight time in World Cup/Euro qualifiers. Norway’s largest win, 12-0, also came against Iceland.

This group is wide open. It could come down to who has the best record against Iceland or Cyprus as to who advances.

Group F

Portugal (7) will travel to: 2018 hosts Russia (18), Israel (32), Northern Ireland (62), Azerbaijan (111) and Luxembourg (128).

Portugal has (surprisingly) only played in five World Cups, but they have finished third and fourth in 1966 and 2006 respectively. Russia hasn’t qualified for the last two World Cups and will be out to push home their home advantage over the warmer nations. Israel has only been to a single World Cup, Mexico ’70, while Northern Ireland has been to three. Azerbaijan has never played in a World Cup Finals match, and Luxembourg has been trying and failing to qualify since 1934 – a rather unwanted record.

This one is between Portugal and Russia. I can’t pick the winner.

Group G

Euro 2004 champions Greece (13) will fancy qualifying for their third World Cup in a group also containing: Slovakia (29), Bosnia & Herzegovina (41), Lithuania (58), Latvia (83) and Liechtenstein (118).

Greece and Latvia were in the same 2010 World Cup qualifying group and are currently in the same Euro 2012 qualifying group, as are Lithuania
and Liechtenstein. The Baltic nation recently lost 0-2 to Liechtenstein.

One of Slovakia’s largest wins came against Liechtenstein (7-0) and they famously dumped out the previous world champions Italy last summer in their only World Cup appearance as ‘Slovakia’ on their way to finishing 16th. Bosnia and Herzegovina almost qualified for the last World Cup but lost 0-2 on aggregate to Portugal in their Play-Off. They along with the other sides in this group have never reached the Finals.

This group should be Greece’s, but I fancy Bosnia and Herzegovina will cause an upset or two.

Group H

1966 world champions and perennial international underachievers England (6) got handed a group they should advance from, but then again you don’t get trophies for winning qualifying groups and this is England we are talking about.

Montenegro (17) will play England again (they are in the same Euro 2012 Qualifying group and drew 0-0 at Wembley). Both Euro 2012 co-hosts the Ukraine (45) and Poland (69) are in this group as well, as are ex-Soviet side Moldova (85) and the tiniest minnow of them all, San Marino
(203=) who are also in Moldova’s Euro 2012 Qualifying group.

Since they played their first match in 2007, Montenegro have rocketed up the world rankings like it was going out of fashion and will be fancying their chances of qualifying for their first World Cup. The Ukraine has only been to one Finals (Germany ’06) but they did come eighth. Poland almost won the World Cup in 1974 and 1982 but wound up finishing third on both occasions. They also prevented England from going to the 1974 World Cup after earning a 1-1 draw at Wembley. Moldova has never made it to a World Cup. Neither have San Marino who hardly score any goals and have only won one match, but they do ironically hold the record for the fastest international goal ever. In a 1994 World Cup qualifier, Davide Gualtieri scored after just 8.3 seconds…against England.

The draw could have been better for England who should be able to win this group. But as we shall see, the draw could have been so much worse.

Group I – The Group of Death

Reigning World and European champions Spain (1) were drawn with none other than 1998 world champions France (15) who are on the rebound
after their shameful World Cup campaign last summer.

The other three sides in this, the smallest group are: Belarus (42) who beat France 1-0 then drew 1-1 with them in their Euro 2012 qualifiers, Georgia (57) and Finland (75) have never made it to a World Cup…and won’t this time either.

I can’t call who out of France and Spain will win this group, but there will be at least one team to avoid in the Play-Offs.

All group matches are scheduled to be played between 7 September 2012 and 15 October 2013. The Play-Offs will be completed around a month or so later.