CONCACAF Update – Last night of WCQ

Tonight is the last round of the Hex to determine which teams from CONCACAF automatically qualify for the World Cup Finals in Brazil.  The U.S. and Costa Rica are already in, so that only leaves one more automatic spot.  Unless something dramatic happens tonight in Costa Rica, that appears to be Honduras.  Honduras currently sits three points clear of Mexico and seemingly has the easier game — they travel to Jamaica who will be trotting out a young team in preparations for the next major tournament.

Costa Rica, on the other hand, will be playing their regulars as they host Mexico.  Mexico is three points clear of Panama, who is hosting a rotated U.S. squad, but if Panama beats the U.S. badly, depending on the score of the Costa Rica – Mexico match,  anything can happen.  Here is the current table heading into the last match:

USA 9 6 1 2 12 6 19
Costa Rica 9 4 3 2 11 6 15
Honduras 9 4 2 3 11 10 14
Mexico 9 2 5 2 6 7 11
Panama 9 1 5 3 8 11 8
Jamaica 9 0 4 5 3 11 4

The most obvious result is that USA, Costa Rica, and Honduras automatically qualify while Mexico has to play in through the playoff against New Zealand.  While there are many US fans who are glad of Mexico’s struggles, I for one want to see them in Brazil.  Their difficulties in qualification do suggest that CONCACAF has gotten stronger, but it would be a shame if our historically strongest team were missing in Brazil.  That doesn’t seem to bode well for CONCACAF going forward.

The US game and the Honduras game will be aired on beIN Sport and beIN Sport Esp.  The Mexico game will be on Telemundo. All games kickoff at 8:30 pm tonight.

European WC Playoff – How UEFA Gets to 13 Teams with 9 Groups

OK…so UEFA (Europe qualifying) gets 13 teams into Brazil for the World Cup Finals.  They start with 53 teams.  They are divided into 9 groups.  The winner of each group qualifies for the finals.  So far, that is Belgium (A), Italy (B), Germany (C), Netherlands (D), Switzerland (E), Russia (F – if they hold onto their 1-0 lead at half).  The remaining groups can go either way.  At halftime, Greece looks to go in its Group G with Bosnia-Herzegovina to playoff.  England plays Poland later with Ukraine still in the running for automatic qualification.  Assuming Spain at least draws at home to Georgia, they automatically qualify. But, how are the remaining 4 places allocated?

According to the UEFA qualifying rules, the “eight best group runners up” will contest in home and away based on a draw for the remaining four spots.  Not quite sure what that means because, in Group I, France will have played one less game than all the other potential runners up.  But, based on the schedule today, my guess is as follows:

Croatia (A), no one from Group B, Sweden C, Romania edging out Turkey in D, Iceland (hopefully) in E, Portugal in F, Bosnia-Herzegovina or Greece in G, Ukraine in H, and France in I.  The rules are vague as to how the draw is conducted — do Coca Cola rankings apply?  Surely France will not play Portugal….that would be a bummer.

One thing is clear, the playoff round will be between November 15 and 19th of this year.

 http://www.fifa.com/mm/document/tournament/competition/01/44/46/23/2014fwc%5fdrawprocedures%5feurope%5fen.pdf