Well that was eventful, wasn’t it? We’ve certainly come a long way since the start of qualifiers in June 2011. With this round of matches, the field is looking much more settled. We’ve whittled it down from 208 potential teams down to 43 teams, nearly half of which have already secured their trips to Brazil. At this point, nearly any match could make or break a team, so consider any games in November “Matches to Watch.” Here’s the updated rundown:
AFC (4.5 Spots)
Already booked – Japan, Iran, South Korea and Australia
Still fighting it out – Jordan awaits the November Intercontinental Play-Off matches against the Uruguay from November 13-20.
CAF (5 Spots)
Already booked – No one
Still fighting it out – The final ten teams were paired September 16 for a home-and-away series. The teams still standing are Ethiopia, Cape Verde, Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana, Burkina Faso, Nigeria, Egypt, Algeria, Cameroon and Senegal. After the first round of matches, Burkina Faso, Cote d’Ivoire, Nigeria and Ghana have the advantage going into the matches November 16-19. Three of the four were playing at home, though, so it remains to be seen how they do on the road in the next set.
CONCACAF (3.5 Spots)
Already booked – USA, Costa Rica, Honduras
Still fighting it out -As I noted last time, Mexico had a potentially rough road ahead of them for qualification, and the Mexico-Panama game turned out to be pivotal in one of the most dramatic moments of qualifying for this round of matches. When all was said and done, Honduras qualified for Brazil, and Mexico earned a spot in Intercontinental Play-offs against New Zealand November 13-20.
CONMEBOL (5.5 Spots)
Already booked – Brazil (host), Argentina, Colombia, Chile, Ecuador
Still fighting it out – With the final rounds settled, Colombia, Chile and Ecuador locked in their trips to Brazil, but Uruguay will have to wait for the Intercontinental Play-Offs against Jordan coming up November 13-20 to see if they can secure their bid for Brazil.
Oceania (.5 Spots)
As mentioned above, New Zealand awaits its matches against Mexico in November.
UEFA (13 Spots)
Already booked – Netherlands, Italy, Belgium, Germany, Switzerland, Russia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, England, Spain
Still fighting it out: UEFA certainly went the farthest in formally eliminating teams in this round of the matches. Here are the teams that survived the cut:
- Group A: Belgium is on to Brazil; Croatia advances to final qualifiers.
- Group B: Italy had already secured its spot in Brazil, but Denmark failed to follow suit by finishing with the least points in the round among second-placed teams.
- Group C: Germany sealed their spot in Brazil, but Sweden will have to face final qualifiers.
- Group D: The Netherlands were already through going into these matches, but Romania edged out Hungary for a spot in the final qualifiers.
- Group E: Switzerland is on to Brazil as well, with Iceland facing the home-and-away round.
- Group F: Russia topped Portugal in the group by one point, securing themselves the trip to Brazil. Portugal will fight for its spot in November.
- Group G: Bosnia-Herzegovina edged out Greece based on goals against, sending themselves to Brazil and Greece to the final round of qualifiers.
- Group H: In the end, England managed to come out on top of the group with a ticket to Brazil, leaving Ukraine to fight it out in the final qualifiers.
- Group I: Unsurprisingly, Spain and France finished top of group. Spain is already booked for Brazil, and France will do its best to come along for the ride with its games in November. Personally, I hope France fails. I’m still angry about 2010.
So in brief, the teams that will be playing in November are Croatia, France, Greece, Iceland, Portugal, Romania, Sweden and Ukraine.
Matches to Watch: Not a “match” persay, but the draw to match teams for the final round of qualification takes place Monday, October 21.