October 17, 2013

Almost set for Brazil 2014

by Dan Bilicki In: Soccer

We’re almost there: The field for next summer’s World Cup is half set after Tuesday’s final matchday for the group stages in Europe, South America and CONCACAF.

There were few surprises, considering that this qualifying cycle has lasted nearly two years. There are still a few good teams that could miss out on a trip to Brazil though, with France, Portugal, Sweden, Croatia and Greece all mired in the European playoffs.

In fact, thanks in part to the fact that their group had just five teams, France will be unseeded in the playoff draw. That means any of the four other teams just mentioned could face Les Bleus in a playoff.

Could you imagine the uproar if France and Portugal were drawn together?

That would mean the 2014 World Cup would either lack one of the world’s best players, Cristiano Ronaldo, or one of the top TV drawing nations. Plus, Franck Ribery is the defending European player of the year, and we don’t want to see him sitting at home.

The team I’m really rooting for is Iceland. It would be one of the smallest nations to ever make the final and it would be the country’s greatest sporting achievement since making the final of the Junior Goodwill Games in Mighty Ducks 2. And how can you hate guys with names like Gylfi Sigurdsson and Kolbeinn Sigthorsson? In fact, only one player on the roster has a name that doesn’t end in “son.” That’s Johann Laxdal, so let’s hope he doesn’t make it – for continuity sake.

Elsewhere, Mexico will meet New Zealand in a home-and-home that will decide the country’s fates.

Shockingly, Mexico was nearly eliminated on Tuesday – which would have wrapped up a terrible qualifying experience for the serial qualifier.

If not for the U.S. scoring twice in injury time – in a meaningless game for them no less – against Panama, Mexico would have finished fifth in the group and sending the soccer-mad nation into riots.

It’s funny how a nation can sometimes help out its chief rival by simply winning.

Of the teams that have failed to make it, the best is probably Denmark. The Danes were the unlucky second-place finisher in Europe, the worst finisher of the nine second-placed nations. It’s a shame too, as any chance you get to see Nicklas Bendtner and his overinflated sense of self-worth, it’s fun to watch.

And finally, how is Switzerland going to be seeded for the World Cup draw in November? Ahead of Netherlands no less. The Dutch have been dynamite in qualifying, went to the Euro 2012 semis and were a World Cup 2010 finalist. What have the Swiss done?

Even weirder: If Uruguay somehow loses to Jordan, then Netherlands is a seed. But if Uruguay wins, despite finishing fifth in continental qualifying and needing a playoff to make it, it will be a seed.

Well, who said FIFA likes to keep things simple?

Follow me on Twitter @danbilicki

Leave a Reply