World Cup Qualifying: Standings and scenarios for Tuesday’s games
Iceland’s hope of becoming the smallest nation to play at a World Cup depends on holding off Slovenia for second. Iceland visits Norway on Tuesday while the Slovenes, who qualified in 2010, go to Switzerland.
Thanks to Portugal’s late stumble against Israel on Friday, Russia is in position to qualify with a tie in Azerbaijan. The Portuguese will have to hope for a Russia loss and blowout win over Luxembourg to secure automatic qualification.
According to FIFA, only an “extraordinary sequence of results” would prevent Portugal from securing a spot in the playoffs.
Looking to qualify for its first World Cup, Bosnia-Herzegovina holds a massive goal differential advantage over Greece atop Group G and plays at Lithuania on Tuesday. If Bosnia slips up, the Greeks likely will take advantage when they host Liechtenstein in Piraeus. Otherwise, it’s the playoffs.
A win over Poland at Wembley will secure England’s passage to Brazil. The Three Lions can’t afford to fail since Ukraine gets San Marino, which has scored once and conceded 46 times in nine qualifying games. Both England and Ukraine are playoff certainties if they finish second.
Montenegro, which hosts Moldova, still has a prayer. But that’s pretty much it.
World champion Spain needs a tie against visiting Georgia to confirm its passage. If there’s a shocker at the Estadio Carlos Belmonte in Albacete, France will look to beat Finland by enough to finish first on goal differential. But more than likely, Les Bleus will be the team nobody wants to face in the playoffs (remember last time they were there?)
Argentina and Colombia are in, while Ecuador and Chile control their own destiny in South America, which gets four automatic berths.
Chile hosts Ecuador on Tuesday. A draw sends both to Brazil, which could make for some awkward moments if neither side pushes for the win. If there is a loser, that team could be passed by Uruguay on goal differential. La Celeste host rival Argentina.
The most likely scenario for Uruguay, however, is a fifth-place finish and a spot in next month’s playoff against Jordan.
Five nations will emerge from the five, two-team playoffs that mark the end of Africa’s qualification process. The only game Tuesday is a huge one – Egypt and coach Bob Bradley will visit favored Ghana in the first leg of their series. The decider will take place Nov. 19 in Cairo, unless FIFA steps in and moves the match over security concerns.
In the other openers, Burkina Faso beat Algeria, 3-2; Ivory Coast defeated Senegal, 3-1; Nigeria won at Ethiopia, 2-1; and Tunisia tied visiting Cameroon, 0-0. The second legs are next month.