Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : October 14th 2013 Contents A58
Guardian www.guardian.co.tt Monday, October 14, 2013
The road to next year s World Cup
in Brazil is nearing its end for Euro-
pean teams and there s plenty to play
for in the final round of qualifiers
The Netherlands, Italy, Germany,
Belgium and Switzerland have already
qualified after winning their groups
but four more automatic places for
first-place finishers are still to be
There are also six more spots to be
filled for next month s playoffs for
the eight best second-place teams,
with Sweden and Croatia already cer-
tain of being in the October 21 draw.
Here are five things to know about
tomorrow s qualifiers:
One poin eno gh for Spain
Barring a major upset, Spain will
be defending its world title next sum-
The Spanish, who are also the
reigning European champions, need
just a point from their home match
against Georgia to secure top spot in
Group I ahead of France.
France is three points behind in sec-
ond place, so must beat Finland at
home and hope Georgia can pull off
one of the biggest upsets in recent
qualifying history for Spain to be
dumped into the playoffs.
"They will play very defensively.
But the truth is that while we often
have trouble in those types of games,
very few times do they escape us,"
said Spain striker Alvaro Negredo,
whose team needed an 86th-minute
goal from Roberto Soldado to edge
Georgia 1-0 in their first meeting.
The main problems for Spain coach
Vicente del Bosque will be choosing
a striker and goalkeeper. Del Bosque
went with Michu up front to start
Friday s 2-1 win over Belarus, but it
was substitute Negredo who scored
late for what proved to be the winner.
Victor Valdes started that game as
Spain s goalkeeper, leaving captain
Iker Casillas on the bench.
The Spain game will be played in
Albacete, near playmaker Andres Ini-
esta s home village.
A repea of 97 ?
It was, and forever will be, one of
the most painful episodes in the his-
tory of England s national team.
In 1973, England needed to beat
Poland at Wembley Stadium in their
final World Cup qualifier to advance
to the following year s tournament in
West Germany, but could only draw
1-1 after an extraordinary goalkeeping
performance from Poland s Jan
The same scenario presents itself
40 years on.
With second-place Ukraine expect-
ed to run through San Marino in their
last group game, the likelihood is that
England---top of Group H by a point---
will have to claim three points against
the already-eliminated Poles to top
the group and avoid the playoffs.
"I think they ll want to come here
and win the game, get another good
result, just like they did in 73, so
we re going to be prepared for the
very best Poland they can be," England
coach Roy Hodgson said.
Poland has lost its last six away
matches against England and hasn t
won in 15 games against its opponent.
So Ukraine probably isn t too hope-
A World C p
i ho Cris iano Ronaldo?
The thought of Cristiano Ronaldo
not being present at football s biggest
tournament doesn t bear thinking
about for some fans, but that prospect
is likely to still be in the balance after
the finale to Group F.
Russia leads the group by three
points so if it wins or draws in Azer-
baijan, second-place Portugal will be
consigned to the playoffs whatever its
result at home to Luxembourg.
"We have no feeling of euphoria
because we have not qualified yet,"
Russia defender Dmitry Kombarov
After drawing at home to Northern
Ireland and failing to beat Israel home
or away, the Portuguese haven t done
enough to go through as group win-
ners, just like in qualifying for the
2010 World Cup and the 2012 Euro-
pean Championship when they needed
to get past Bosnia both times in the
playoffs to reach the finals.
Ronaldo isn t available for Portugal
on Tuesday as his booking late in the
1-1 draw at home to Israel on Friday
leaves him suspended. It does mean,
however, that the Real Madrid
forward would have a clean dis-
ciplinary slate going into next
month s playoffs.
Bosnia-Her ego ina
on erge of firs major finals
Since gaining independence in
1992, Bosnia-Herzegovina hasn t
qualified for a major football tour-
nament despite those near misses
in the playoffs against Portugal.
That could all change on Tues-
Level on points with Greece in
Group G but boasting a vastly
superior goal difference, Bosnia-
Herzegovina will seal its passage
to Brazil by beating Lithuania
away. With striker Edin Dzeko
one of the in-form strikers in
qualifying with ten goals, it would
be a major surprise if the team
failed to finish off the job.
Safet Susic was part of the tal-
ented Yugoslavia side that made
it through to the World Cup quar-
terfinals in 1990, where it lost to
eventual runner-up Argentina on
Ba le for second
The lineup for next month s
four two-legged playoffs will con-
tain some big teams, whatever
happens on Tuesday.
It s likely that Portugal, France
and Ukraine will be joining Swe-
den and Croatia in the playoffs
but the three other qualification
spots aren t quite so clear-cut.
In Group B, four teams could
mathematically finish second,
although Bulgaria is favorite to
do so if it beats the Czech Repub-
lic at home.
Third-place Denmark is level
on points with Bulgaria, but has
a goal difference 7 behind its rival
going into its home match against
In Group D, Turkey and Roma-
nia are level on points and battling
it out for second behind the
Netherlands. Turkey has a goal
difference four better than its rival
but finishes against the Dutch.
Romania has a much easier last
match, at home to Estonia.
In Group E, it s a straight fight
between Iceland and Slovenia to
finish behind Switzerland. Iceland
holds a one-point advantage and
plays away to Norway. Slovenia
travels to Switzerland.
Only eight of the nine second-
place finishers go into the playoffs
and as it stands, Bulgaria or Den-
mark is the team set to miss out.
Road to Brazil nears end in Europe
Spain's players celebra e af er Xa i Hernande , second righ scored d ring a World C p Gro p I q alifying
soccer ma ch be een Spain and Belar s a he Iberos ar Es adi in Palma de Mallorca, Spain, on Friday. AP PHOTO
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