Sunday, September 22, 2013

World Cup 2014 update

As is the case from time to time in this space, let's take a look at where World Cup qualifying stands as we inch closer to Brazil next year:

AFRICA - There are 10 teams left paired into five home-and-home series. They are Tunisia-Cameroon, Ghana-Egypt, Ivory Coast-Senegal, Burkina Faso-Algeria and Ethiopia-Nigeria. The winner of each home-and-home wraps up the five African spots in the World Cup field. These matches will take place on Nov. 11 and 15.

ASIA -The four automatic qualifiers are already set: Australia, Iran, Japan and South Korea. Uzbekistan and Jordan, who were each third out of group play, took part in a home-and-home series to determine who would play for a World Cup berth in an intercontinental playoff. Jordan won a penalty-kick shootout to advance and awaits the fifth-place team from South America.

EUROPE - Late in group play, Italy and the Netherlands have already clinched their groups to earn automatic spots. Beyond that, there are 27 sides still mathematically alive to advance - some with a better chance than others of course.

NORTH AMERICA/CARIBBEAN - The United States is through to Brazil and leads the hexagonal with 16 points, followed by Costa Rica (15), Honduras (11), Panama and Mexico (8) and Jamaica (4). The top three qualify, and the order could very well change. But on these points, Costa Rica is virtually a lock for second, Honduras needs a point to clinch third and the others need wins and some help. Mexico is in a lot of trouble.

OCEANIA - New Zealand awaits the fourth-place team from North American/Caribbean, commonly called CONCACAF, in a home-and-home playoff in November.

SOUTH AMERICA - Brazil is automatically through as the tournament host. Of the nine remaining sides, only Peru, Bolivia and Paraguay are eliminated. The top four automatically qualify, and as mentioned previously the fifth-place team will go into a playoff against Jordan. Argentina leads on 29 points.

So we're getting closer, and we'll know much more about the broader picture when I check back in on this topic Oct. 20.

- Chris Lillstrung | @CLillstrungNH


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