Monday, August 10, 2009

WCQ Previews - August 12, 2009

Once again I'll be looking at the impact of the results (minus the obvious game, because it's easy to find coverage for that one):

Trinidad & Tobago vs El Salvador

This is simply put, a must win match for both teams. A lot of people glance at El Salvador's position in the standings and think that they're in the hunt, but a closer look at the schedule suggests otherwise. They still have to play at USA and at Mexico, so bank on zero points from those two. The home games against their UNCAF rivals are winnable, but those four results would only mean 11 points through 9 matches. That's not enough. At least they'll have Arturo Alvarez in their squad. He may be the first player to play in an official match after switching countries under the new rule. I don't know if he'll actually be cleared in time, but supposedly he's going to be in the squad.

The Soca Warriors are on life support with only two points. They do have the luxury of playing the USA and Mexico at home in the final three matches, when both may have already qualified. Realistically, they need at least 11 points in the second half of the hex. It would also be in their best interest for Costa Rica, Mexico, and the USA to win all their remaining matches, so they could have a shot at fourth. The team should be stronger with reinforcements Bobby Zamora and Jlloyd Samuel, the former England youth internationals, though Stern John is out.

As usual, has good coverage of this and other lesser games.

Honduras vs Costa Rica

Every other team in the group wants Costa Rica to win. I personally would love to see Honduras win because I'm cheering against Mexico, and it just makes the group more interesting in general. I don't know how likely that is, though; this matchup has been a nightmare for the Hondurans. There was the famous 0-0 draw in the 2006 WCQ semifinal stage which eliminated them on the final matchday. All they needed to do was win at home to advance. That one result likely cost them a World Cup birth. They also lost to Costa Rica at home in the 2002 hex.

The Hondurans are confident, at least.

Belarus vs Croatia

Would you believe Belarus is in with a chance of making the playoffs (we all know England has the group wrapped up)? Well, it's not much, but 7.08% (according to Voros) is nothing to sniff at for a team of their caliber. These two teams play home and away the next two dates. While Belarus does have a slim chance, the more likely outcome is Alexander Hleb and company screwing Croatia and allowing Ukraine to advance. Of course, they have a chance to foul up the latter's campaign as well. Look at the schedules for the remaining teams:

Croatia @ Belarus, vs Belarus, @ England, @ Kazakhstan
Ukraine vs Andorra, @ Belarus, vs England, @ Andorra
Belarus vs Croatia, @ Croatia, vs Ukraine, vs Kazakhstan, @ England

The Ukraine has 6 points in the bag, and England at home rather than away. So this is a huge match for Croatia. They a win, or a draw at worst. A loss and they'll likely need a result in England (possibly a win). BTW, the chances of making the playoffs for Croatia and Ukraine are at 39.64% and 51.30% respectively. I really love those kind of simulations.

Norway vs Scotland

The Scots (when they aren't banning people for life) are not only fighting for second place, but they need to get enough points to avoid being the worst second place finisher and thus missing out on the playoffs. They play Macedonia at home next, so that figures to be a win. That leaves this game and home vs the Netherlands, and they should need at least one win in those two. But even that may leave them counting on other results. Meanwhile, any result but a win here should end Norway's hopes.

Faroe Islands vs France

Yawn. The real test is September 9, Serbia vs France. That may be the biggest single match left in all of qualifying. Because if France doesn't win that, they're resigned to the playoffs. If they then fail to qualify, then that will be the key moment.

Azerbaijan vs Germany

I like how the big powers schedule the minnows for these awkward beginning of the season international dates. Smart stuff, though you'd think in the interest of fairness they would do a random schedule. Seems like a process leftover from another era. Anyway, it's all warmups between now and October when the showdown in Russia occurs.

Slovenia vs San Marino

San Marino has yet to lose by more than 3 at home and less than 4 away this cycle. So bet on at least a 4-0 win. Goal difference will be critical in the race for second place in group 2. Slovenia's pretty far behind in that category, which means that they really should get something like 7+ goals here. Not that I fancy their chances against the Czechs and Poles anyway.


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