Monday, September 07, 2009

WCQs - Where We Stand

Good weekend for the USA, as none of Argentina/France/Portugal could win.

1) In Africa, this weekend's results mean that Cameroon and Tunisia should now be considered clear favorites to qualify. If Gabon can't beat Cameroon at home, then how they can hope to get a result on the road? Togo let in a last second equalizer against Morocco which probably ended their hopes. Meanwhile, the draw with Nigeria means that all Tunisia needs to do is beat Kenya at home and Mozambique away. Should be easy, except the latter already held Nigeria to a scoreless draw at home.

In Group C, Zambia's out of the running and Algeria still hold the advantage over Egypt. The goal differential could be key here. Algeria is already up by three goals on Egypt, and they have a much easier matchup in the next round (vs Rwanda compared to @ Zambia). It's looking like not only will Egypt have to beat Algeria on the final match day, but they'll also have to win by two or three goals to qualify.

Ivory Coast are 99.9% in, and they'll be joining Ghana next month.

2) In Asia, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia ended 0:0. This isn't a horrible result for Bahrain. They can definitely get a draw in Riyadh, as the Saudis have dropped points at home on several occasions in qualifying already. New Zealand are still huge underdogs, but they have to be cheering for Bahrain.

3) CONMEBOL qualifying saw Argentina lose at home to Brazil, who clinched a spot. Unfortunately, the other results needed to make them really sweat didn't happen; Ecuador and Uruguay both lost. The good news is that even if they get a point in Paraguay and beat Peru, they still should be at risk on the final matchday @ Uruguay.

What results are important for hurting Argentina's chances? Let's take a look (using the CONMEBOL results simulator on

The teams that are qualified or almost there are Brazil, Chile, and Paraguay. Peru is eliminated, while Bolivia is dead every way except mathematically. We want those five teams to drop points to the other four ranked 5-8: Colombia, Ecuador, Uruguay, and Venezuela.

Round 16 (this Wednesday)

Bolivia vs Ecuador
Uruguay vs Colombia
Paraguay vs Argentina
Venezuela vs Peru
Brazil vs Chile

Ok, obviously Argentina must drop points and Brazil vs Chile is meaningless. Actually, I suppose it would be better for Chile to get points since then maybe they won't need them in the last two rounds.

We want Ecuador (important) and Venezuela (meh) to take care of their weak opposition. Playing in Bolivia is notoriously difficult, but surely Ecuador must not have any excuses given their own HIGH altitude. Indeed, they've won in Bolivia two straight cycles so a third is a decent bet. Venezuela doing well doesn't hurt, because they play Paraguay and Brazil in the last two rounds. But to pass Argentina they'd need three wins, so that's not gonna happen.

What about Uruguay vs Colombia? I'm uncertain. It would be great for Uruguay to have something to play for on the final matchday. With their GD, they would almost certainly win a tie in the standings with Argentina. However, they just lost in Peru to the worst team in the confederation and have dropped back. If Argentina beats Peru as expected in round 17, then they'd have at least 25 points going into the final match. Uruguay only has 18 currently. If Argentina loses to Paraguay, then Uruguay would need 4 points to have 22, putting them in position to overtake their western neighbors with a win on the last day. However, if Argentina draws in Paraguay, then Uruguay needs to win the next two, including @ Ecuador. That's hard to do. I'm leaning towards a Colombia win being the best result now.

At this point, Colombia and Ecuador are probably the teams we want to do well at the expense of others. Keep the dream of no Argentina alive!

4) In Europe, let's start with Group 1. Sweden got a huge result by defeating Hungary away, while Portugal could only draw with Denmark in Copenhagen. As a result, Hungary's chances are all but dead. However, this wasn't horrible for Portugal. They simply have to beat Hungary away on Wednesday, which is their hardest remaining match, and hope that Sweden doesn't win when they play in Denmark next month. If those two things happen then Portugal should make the playoffs via GD over the Swedes.

Switzerland should now win Group 2 after beating Greece. Israel is dead thanks to a home loss to Latvia. At this point, the Swiss could even afford to draw in Riga, Latvia on Wednesday and still win the group. No excuses for failure now.

Group 3 remains the most interesting after two draws. Northern Ireland absolutely must defeat Slovakia on Wednesday to keep their hopes alive. Slovenia vs Poland probably will end in a draw hurting both teams, given the way this group has gone. Slovenia pretty much needs a win here as well.

Nothing much changed in groups 4-6 and 8. In Group 5, Bosnia now plays Turkey and should make the playoffs with a point.

In Group 7, the big result of perhaps the entire confederation was France only drawing 1:1 with Romania at home. Now, the really big match is in two days, though some of the luster has come off. At this point, even beating Serbia wouldn't be enough to get first place. And if they draw, then the Serbs could even draw one of their two remaining games and finish first. France is likely a playoff team now.

Group 9 continues to be the likely home of the worst second place team. Norway is dead after drawing Iceland (10 points won't be enough). Scotland simply must defeat the Netherlands now, or else they'll be praying for more draws in Group 3.

5) CONCACAF. North American qualifying has suddenly gotten exciting, hasn't it? I'm still not worried about the USA's chances. I know playing in Honduras is scary next month, but as long as they take care of business in Trinidad, they'll be fine. Once again, check out this cool CONCACAF hex results simulator. There are nine matches remaining. Let's assume that all games against the bottom two are wins. That gives us the following table:

Mexico 9 18
Costa Rica 9 18
Honduras 8 16
USA 8 16

There's only three matches left, one in each of the remaining rounds: MEX-HON, HON-USA, and USA-CR. When do Mexico and the USA ever not win at home? If they both take care of business, then it doesn't matter what the USA do in Honduras, they'll be qualified regardless:

Mexico 10 21
USA 9 19
Costa Rica 10 18
Honduras 9 16

Once again... not worried.

Biggest WCQ Matches on Wednesday

AFC Saudi Arabia vs Bahrain
CAF Cameroon vs Gabon
CONMEBOL Bolivia vs Ecuador
CONMEBOL Uruguay vs Colombia
CONMEBOL Paraguay vs Argentina
UEFA Scotland vs Netherlands
UEFA N.Ireland vs Slovakia
UEFA Hungary vs Portugal
UEFA Slovenia vs Poland
UEFA Serbia vs France


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