Most Important September WCQ's
|The most important qualifier for each region during the next week:|
AFC: 9/6 - Saudi Arabia vs Iran
Three teams in Group 2 are expected to compete for the two automatic bids; they are these two and South Korea. Iran struggled a bit during the last round, waiting until the final matchday to advance. Given how often the other two qualify for the World Cup, I'd say Iran are the favorites to finish third. Here's their chance to prove otherwise.
CAF: 9/7 - Benin vs Angola
Three teams are competing for first place in the group. You have Benin on 9 points, with Angola and Uganda on 7 and two games left for each team. But while the standings seem to give Benin the advantage, the reality is that they are not in the greatest position. The other two teams still get to play pointless Niger, so in reality Benin is looking at a group where the other two teams are almost certainly at 10 points each already. The other two group matches are this one, and Uganda vs Benin next month. Even with two draws, they're not safe for the top two because their goal differential advantage could be eroded away due to the Niger matches. Angola meanwhile are pretty much eliminated with a loss.
Also, there's the threat that if all three leading teams end up with 11 points, then the second place team might not even advance (top 8 of 12 second place teams do). The results against the last place team are dropped, so in that scenario the second place finisher (determined by GD) would end up with 5 points. That total would probably be right near the 8th position.
CONCACAF: 9/6 - Canada vs Honduras
With their first two group games at home, Canada cannot end up with only 1 or 2 points and hope to advance. They simply have to make home field advantage count, which they didn't do four years ago. Four years ago, these same teams met in a game that was also the second semifinal stage match. Canada allowed an 88th minute penalty to tie the game, then had a winning goal disallowed. It gave them one point from two opening home games. After failing to beat Jamaica last month, they need to win this time unless they want to repeat the last cycle.
Meanwhile, Honduras played great against Mexico for most of the game, but ultimately lost the lead and the match. They usually play better than Canada, but on the road this should be a very even and exciting match.
CONMEBOL: 9/10 - Chile vs Colombia
Everyone knows Argentina, Brazil, and Paraguay will end up qualifying. These two teams are fighting it out for 4th and the automatic berth that comes with it. Chile will under tons of pressure to get a win after likely losing to Brazil a few days earlier.
OFC: 9/6 - New Caledonia vs New Zealand
Pretty obvious, huh? They're the only two teams still alive, and they play twice in five days to settle the group. NZ can end the drama right here with a win.
UEFA: 9/6 - Israel vs Switzerland
This group (with Greece) is wide open, and realistically any of the top three teams could win it. These two teams were in the same group four years ago, and if you'll remember, both finished undefeated with 4-0-6 marks. Both meetings in that group ended up as draws. Yet it was Switzerland who advanced to the playoffs on goal differential. That has to sting for Israel, and surely they'll be out for revenge now. They had another strong effort Euro qualification in a much harder group than this one, and seem likely to get over the hump someday soon.
I know a lot of people probably would pick Croatia-England, but I don't agree. Those two teams are huge favorites to finish 1-2 regardless of what happens in this match. Even if Croatia wins, England is favored to win the return match at home and then you're back to even.