The Next Week's Most Important World Cup Qualifiers
|It's time (finally) for World Cup qualifying to pick up again in earnest. I thought I would take a look at the most important matchups in each confederation for each round of matches. Africa is only playing one round, and everyone else plays two (though many European teams only play once).|
3/28 - Iran vs Saudi Arabia
So the real action is group 2, where Saudi Arabia is in deep danger of missing the 2010 World Cup. They really can't afford to lose in Iran. If they do, then they won't be eliminated but they'll probably be out of the running for the top two and would likely need to get 7 points in their final 3 games just to get third. It may end up coming down to the final matchday against North Korea for third place. Of course, if Iran loses then they'll drop to fourth.
4/1 - South Korea vs North Korea
The North Koreans normally wouldn't be taken too seriously away from home, but they always seem to play well against their neighbors to the south. They played three straight draws last year in qualifying action, with only two goals in 270 minutes of action. South Korea's schedule finishes with two home games again Iran and Saudi Arabia, against whom they've already taken 4 points on the road. So a draw here wouldn't hurt them much, but it greatly help the North Koreans.
3/28 - Togo vs Cameroon
Togo's results were not impressive in the previous round. They lost both away matches to Swaziland and Zambia, but they did win both of the "home" games. If they're going to qualify, they're going to have to take points from Cameroon and Morocco and at home will be the best place to do that. The problem is, they're not actually playing at home. They're currently banned from doing that, so once again they'll play in Ghana.
CONCACAF (North America)
3/28 - Trinidad vs Honduras
The last time these two teams met in a qualifier was the infamous 1-0 Trinidad win in Honduras which may have cost the Central Americans a place in the 2002 World Cup. That was the only Trinidad win in the entire hex, and it was one of those games where one team dominates but can't score, and then the other team gets one opportunity and scores.
Trinidad needs to win this game, while Honduras can't lose another away game to their competition for 3rd and 4th. They've already lost to Costa Rica. Honduras will miss David Suazo due to injury, while Trinidad is missing a few key players (Yorke, Birchall, Ince).
4/1 - Honduras vs Mexico
Maybe they can also settle the battle of who's the most expensive player in CONCACAF history: Palacios or Castillo?
CONMEBOL (South America)
3/28 - Uruguay vs Paraguay
Uruguay, meanwhile, always seems to be a middle of the pack team in CONMEBOL. They've barely finished 5th two straight times. Guess where they currently sit in the standings? Paraguay is by no means an unbeatable team, and certainly more ripe for defeat than either of the traditional powers. If the Uruguayans want to take the leap to the automatic places, then they need to win this game. Chile and Colombia are probably going to win in this round so they need to win to keep pace.
Uruguay won this fixture last cycle, but lost in the 2002 and 1998 cycles.
4/1 - Chile vs Uruguay
However, Chile hasn't won this fixture since the 1998 cycle.
3/28 - Portugal vs Sweden
The first match between these two teams finished 0-0 in Sweden. Now the Swedes have already tied Albania as well, so if Portugal could beat them here they would be right back on track. Sweden is missing quite a few players (including Ibrahimovic, see the first link), so this a great chance for Ronaldo and company to win.
This is the biggest matchup in all of qualifying this window. Could the 2006 semifinalists be virtually knocked out already?
4/1 - Greece vs Israel
Israel went undefeated in 2006 qualifying against the likes of France, Switzerland, and Ireland, yet missed out on even a playoff place. Here's the problem: too many draws. They've already drawn at home against the Swiss as mentioned above, but they did come back from two goals down to do it. But they'll have to win eventually.
Greece were seeded and got an extremely easy group as a result. If they can't qualify from this group, then they might as well give up. I'd say due to Israel's draw with Latvia, if the results from this two games series are split it would help Greece more than Israel. But neither team can expect to qualify ahead of the Swiss unless they get 4 points or more.
Labels: 2010 world cup