Wednesday, 13 November 2013

World Cup playoffs: Who will grab the final places for Brazil 2014?

World Cup playoffs: Who will grab the final places for Brazil 2014?

Ronaldo vs Ibrahimovic has been given the big build-up but there's far more on offer in the coming week as the full 32 qualifiers will be confirmed
Golden touch: Ronaldo will skipper Portugal against Sweden with a World Cup place on the line
Golden touch: Ronaldo will skipper Portugal against Sweden with a World Cup place on the line
Bryn Lennon
The countdown to next summer's World Cup ticks closer and closer and in the next week the final 11 teams will book their places in the Brazil showpiece.
The draw for the the group stage of competition will take place in Bahia on December 6 and traditional powerhouses such as Germany, Argentina, Italy and Spain have already claimed their place.
We already know 21 of the qualifiers: Australia, Japan, South Korea, Iran (Asia); Belgium, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Switzerland, Russia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, England, Spain (Europe); Costa Rica, United States, Honduras (North and Central America); Brazil, Argentina, Colombia, Ecuador, Chile (South America).
But aside from those already secure, who could we see secure their passage to world football's most prestigious competition? Let's take a look:


Portugal vs Sweden -  The match that has everyone salivating is that between Cristiano Ronaldo and Zlatan Ibrahimovic, with the actual tie between a workmanlike Sweden and a too-often uninspired Portugal approaching something of an afterthought. And while the bookmakers have Portugal as favourites, expect it to be tight.
Sweden's striker and team captain Zlatan Ibrahimovic celebrates with his teammates after scoring
Game-changer: Sweden will look to Ibrahimovic for magic
France vs Ukraine - Ukraine were edged out by England in qualifying while France experienced likewise at the hands of Spain. Met at Euro 2012 in Donetsk - France winning 2-0 - and both have improved since. Wingers Frank Ribery and Yehven Konoplyanka will be key.
Iceland vs Croatia - Croatia made a complete mess of qualification, losing three of their last four qualifiers and arrive in Iceland with a new manager in tow - Niko Kovac. But with the likes of Luka Modric, Darijo Srna and Mario Mandzukic to call upon, they should be too strong over two legs for Lars Lagerback's minnows, who are bidding to become the smallest ever country to qualify for the World Cup.
Greece vs Romania - Greece have won their last five qualifiers without conceding a goal as they continue to strangle the life out of opponents. Romania are capable of eye-catching wins but are just as capable of self-destructing.


Nigeria vs Ethiopia (Nigeria lead 2-1 after first leg) - The Super Eagles won the African Cup of Nations back at the start of the year and despite a poor showing in Addis Ababa, two goals from Emmanuel Emenike have them in pole position. Should finish the job on November 16.
At the double: Fenerbahce striker Emmanuel Emenike has Nigeria almost there
Gallo Images
Senegal vs Ivory Coast (Ivory Coast lead 3-1 after first leg) - The Elephants were cruising to their third successive World Cup finals but the concession of a late Papiss Cisse goal may have given room for doubt. The second leg - being played in Casablanca - should still be little more than a formality for Didier Drogba, Yaya Toure and company however.
Cameroon vs Tunisia (0-0 after first leg) - A dour first leg in Rades is best forgotten. Expect a tight, nervy affair which will either a) end Samuel Eto'o's international career (again) or b) prolong it.
Algeria vs Burkina Faso (Burkina Faso lead 3-2 after first leg) - A wildly entertaining first leg saw Paul Put's Burkina Faso grab a slender advantage thanks to a late penalty from Aristide Bance. If Tuesday night's return is as unpredictable, viewers will be in for a treat.
Egypt vs Ghana (Ghana lead 6-1 after first leg) - Ghana, quarter-finalists in 2010, have one foot and four toes in the finals after decimating Bob Bradley's side last month. Only the most ridiculous of comebacks on November 19 will deny the Black Stars.


Jordan vs Uruguay - Boasting a forward line comprising of Edinson Cavani and Luis Suarez, South American giants Uruguay eased to a 5-0 win in today's first leg in Amman, meaning only a Lazarus-like second leg performance will see the Jordanians make it to next summer's finals. A fifth place finish in South American qualifying may show that La Celeste aren't the force that reached the 2010 semi-finals, but they'll be too strong.
Uruguay's Suarez celebrates after scoring against Peru during their 2014 World Cup qualifying soccer match in Lima
Expectation: Suarez and the 2011 Copa America winners are expected to qualify with ease
Mexico vs New Zealand - The Oceania qualifiers New Zealand left the 2010 tournament unbeaten with three draws from matches and they'll need to be at their resilient best in the Azteca tonight. Mexico may have been through four coaches during an embarrassing qualification campaign and have only called up home-based players, but they're still favourites.

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It is so so sad that we will be missing one of Cristiano Ronaldo or Ibrahimovich and this is sad sad sad for football at this time; just wish something could be done for both of them to be at the mundial but alas they should have topped their group. anyway we wait to see how it pans out...

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