With Brazil 2014 just around the corner, nations are starting to book a spot in the competition. So far Iran, Australia, South Korea and Japan have joined hosts Brazil. As the qualifying rounds intensify several top sides are on the brink of elimination. Of course with big names missing, it opens it up for other nations to make an appearance in what is the biggest sporting event on the planet.
Things have got so bad they have already dismissed the manager. Mexico has really struggled during these qualifiers. With only one win in seven and five draws, it clearly isn’t good enough for a side who should have already have qualified. Of course even the US team isn’t having it as easy this time around, as Costa Rica is topping the group.
Mexico stands a very good chance of making forth spot which would mean a playoff game against New Zealand. Of course they might still be able to catch Honduras but to do this they need to get away from drawing games. With two very difficult games in the last three matches, US away and Costa Rica at home, the game that really stands out the most important match of the campaign will be the game at home to Panama. Anything but a victory in this game may have even more importance to the nation’s qualification hopes. Panama currently sits one point behind Mexico and a forth place playoff spot. What a shock it could be if Panama could sneak it.
With every World Cup England go to the tournament with the nations expectations of victory. Sure the real fans know it won’t happen but there is always a sense that on paper the side is good enough to get deep into the knockout stages. This year however England don’t look like a side capable of doing anything except maybe sneaking out of the group stages if they even make it through to Brazil. England top the group but have three very difficult fixtures coming up that will make or break the team. Away to rivals Ukraine will be the game that could turn the tide for Roy’s side. Victory for England would surely send them to the finals this summer, defeat would heap pressure on the side. They follow this with two home games but Montenegro and Poland won’t be easy matches for the England side.
Not only is it feasible that they win this group but if Montenegro continue to play with the form they had earlier in qualification then England may not even make it into the playoffs. The one saving grace for the side should be the return of the injured Rooney for the last two games, along with Welbeck who is also missing the Ukraine match. England also need Hart to get back into this run of form from a year or so ago. For the good of the competition, England need to make it through. What sort of World Cup would it be without the likes of Gerrard, Walcott, Rooney and Lampard.
Portugal has their moments. A team built around Ronaldo, and as seen against Northern Ireland, when he is in the mood he can tear a team apart on his own. Portugal has qualification in sight but they only lead second place Russia by two points. The Russians of course have a game in hand at home against Israeli. It would take a catastrophic collapse for Russia to not top the table and this would push Portugal through the playoffs for any hope of qualification.
Ronaldo is the only player in the world who can get near Messi on ability, the World Cup in Brazil wouldn’t be the same without him and when faced with is, most of the world would hope for Portugal to make it through over another second place side such as Bulgaria or Romania.
Croatia for the most part has had a decent qualification round. The main problem for them has been getting drawn in a group with Belgium. In years gone by Belgium was a pretty good side and would qualify for major competitions but they went off the boil for a decade. Over the last few years Belgian players have started to shine in all of the top leagues. This has sparked a return to form for the national side that are in pole position now in the group. Croatia hasn’t helped themselves either, with a home defeat at the hands of Scotland and a draw in Serbia.
This leaves Croatia with a playoff game to determine if Brazil is a summer destination for them. They have the quality to get by most sides but depending on how the draw goes for them it could be over for them early.
As the qualification comes to an end, look out for an in depth review of each of the qualified sides on Thisisfutbol.com
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