World Cup Qualifying: Standings and scenarios for Tuesday’s games
World Cup dreams will be realized, dashed or deferred on Tuesday as qualifying continues around the globe.
On the home front, the U.S. booked passage to Brazil last month and then clinched first place in CONCACAF’s Hexagonal with Friday’s 2-0 win over Jamaica. The only thing left to play for on Tuesday night in Panama is a seed next summer. Unfortunately for Jurgen Klinsmann and Co., chances are slim. The top seven sides in next month’s FIFA ranking (beside Brazil) will be anointed.
According to ESPN statistican Paul Carr, the U.S. would have to defeat Panama while the Netherlands loses at Turkey, Switzerland loses to Slovenia, Poland ties or beats England, Ecuador ties or beats Chile and Uruguay misses out on qualifying altogether.
Here’s a summary of what’s at stake elsewhere. Ties in group play are broken by goal differential in all games, goals scored in all games and then assorted head-to-head criteria.
The U.S. and Costa Rica are in. Honduras will join them Tuesday with a draw at winless Jamaica. If Los Catrachos somehow slip up, Mexico could pass them on goal differential with a win in Costa Rica.
The fourth place finisher will contest a home-and-home playoff with New Zealand next month. Panama needs a win over the U.S. and a Mexico loss to have a shot.
Belgium, Germany, Italy, Netherlands and Switzerland are in. Four more will qualify Tuesday, while eight of nine second-place finishers head to next month’s playoffs. Since one of UEFA’s nine groups contains only five teams, each runner-up in the other eight groups will see their results against the sixth-place team expunged.
Croatia is assured of second but not of a playoff spot. It plays at Scotland.
Bulgaria, Denmark, Czech Republic and Armenia are fighting to finish behind Italy. The Czechs are guaranteed to be the worst of the nine group runners-up, however, so already have been eliminated from the World Cup. Bulgaria hosts the Czechs, Denmark hosts last-place Malta and Armenia visits Italy. It’ll be up to the Danes to run up the score in Copenhagen.
Sweden is assured of a playoff place after clinching second behind Germany.
On Tuesday, Turkey will host Netherlands, Romania will host Estonia and Hungary will entertain Andorra.
The Hungarians practically are a shoo-in for three points (Andorra hasn’t scored a goal in any its nine qualifiers), leaving the onus on Romania and Turkey to win at home. Considering Holland’s rampant form, the playoff spot looks like Romania’s to lose.
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.