|Once again, it's that time of the calendar. I expect the US to take care of business, so I'll be looking at how the other matches will affect us.|
If you haven't heard, the big news is that Sepp Blatter announced a week ago that teams will be seeded in UEFA's World Cup qualifying playoffs. The eight playoff teams will be split into two pots based on their FIFA ranking.
I'm disappointed by this announcement. First of all, regardless of your opinion on the decision, it's wrong to wait until the competition is almost over to give us the details of the playoff draw. This should've been announced before a single European qualifier had been played. But it's not unexpected, because the same thing happened four years ago. Not just the seeding, but also the fact that they didn't decide on it until right before qualifying ended (link). We ended up with Spain vs Slovakia, remember?
Second, I don't see why the big teams need to be protected. If France and Germany both end up in the playoffs, why not have the possibility that both can be drawn against each other? Well, I know why it's this way, but it doesn't make it fair. Teams were already seeded once when the groups were drawn. If France can't win its group as the top seed, then why do they deserve any more protection? I really thought things might be different with Michel Platini in charge of UEFA, especially after the way he restructured the Champions League.
How will the seeding change things? As always, Edgar at Football Rankings is on top of the likely FIFA rankings. Based on probable results, we're looking at the following pots:
Pot 1: Croatia, France, Portugal, Russia
Pot 2: Bosnia, Czech, Greece, Ireland
France would've still been favored to qualify without this seeding, but now it just makes things easier for them (and Germany/Russia, Portugal) which also has an impact on American soccer. Protecting the big teams likely makes the 2010 World Cup harder for the United States. However slightly, this does hurt our chances for advancing from the group stage (due to a greater likelihood of a tough draw), as well as our chances for being seeded in future World Cups. As for FIFA's decision making, as Gabriele Marcotti wrote yesterday, regardless of how you examine it they don't come off looking good.
This week's qualifiers
As an American, we want the following results:
1) Russia vs Germany. This is the big one. We want Russia to defeat Germany and go on to take the automatic berth. Germany is one of the top teams who rarely miss out on qualification and they probably still won't, but at least there's a chance they could be shocked in the playoffs.
2) Argentina. Again, it's not likely, but we should still want them to finish 6th. It's not like Costa Rica could take them in the playoffs, so 5th is as good as qualified. Anyway, they should defeat Peru at home, before traveling to Uruguay for the final match. Assuming that happens, Uruguay must get at least a point in Ecuador tomorrow so that they can still pass Argentina in the final match with a win. Actually, that result is key. Ecuador can still pass Argentina on the final day no matter what happens on Saturday, so we definitely don't want them to win.
It'll also probably be necessary for one or both of Colombia/Ecuador to win away on the final day. Here's what we should be hoping for in CONMEBOL:
I don't expect Colombia or Venezuela to get those results, so we're relying on Ecuador and Uruguay. Don't forget to check out the CONMEBOL results simulator, which is great fun.
3) Portugal. They're a team with more potential than Sweden, and I'd like to see them crash out. Saturday's matches are key, since both are likely to easily win on Wednesday (Portugal vs Malta, Sweden vs Albania). Portugal should beat Hungary, so Sweden will need a result in Denmark. A draw there probably won't be good enough. If Sweden-Denmark ends in a draw and Portugal wins, Portugal will be ahead going into the final matchday. At the very least (a one goal win), they would be ahead on goals scored and they have a much easier final opponent. Sweden really needs to win in Denmark. They're capable of that; remember the Euro 2008 qualifier where they were going to win there until the match was abandoned?
Labels: 2010 world cup