World Cup Qualifying: 10 Biggest Storylines so Far
Qualifying for the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil is now officially underway in all six regions of the soccer world after UEFA kick-started their qualifying on Friday.
The other five regions have already jumped into the qualification process.
Asia is down to its final 10 teams with Japan and South Korea leading their respective groups. The 2002 World Cup co-hosts look to be on their way to easily qualifying for Brazil 2014.
In Africa, the top teams in the region have entered the qualification process, but the process is on hold as the continent prepares for the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations.
In the smallest region of FIFA, New Zealand has the early lead in the third round of OFC qualifying with six points from two matches.
Without host nation Brazil in CONMEBOL qualifying, Argentina has soared to the top of the table after seven matches.
In CONCACAF, Mexico has declared themselves as the clear favorite, while the United States have struggled to beat their opponents on the road.
In UEFA qualifying, it is too early to tell if there will be any real surprises in a region where nine teams have gotten off to a perfect start after two matches.
Colombia Thriving in South America
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Withot Brazil to contend with, there was bound to me a team other than Argentina to thrive in qualifying.
That team is Colombia.
Led by a new group of stars which includes Radamel Falcao, Fredy Guarin and Mario Yepes, the Colombians are in second place in the standings behind Argentina at the moment.
If they do qualify for the World Cup, it would be the the Colombians' first qualification since 1998.
Australia Struggling in Asia
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Australia moved from federations after the 2006 World Cup and are now facing the harsh reality that is the better competition in Asia.
The Socceroos were able to qualify for the 2010 World Cup, but they are struggling mightily in this qualifying cycle.
Right now, the Aussies sit in third place in Group B with only two points and they fell to Jordan in a shocking 2-1 loss on Tuesday.
Luckily for the Aussies, they are only two points behind second place Jordan with five matches remaining.
Bosnia and Herzegovina Scoring 12 Goals in 2 Matches
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Bosnia and Herzegovina have never qualified for a major tournament, but they are off to a surprising start in Group G of UEFA qualifying.
The Bosnians won their first match in qualifying over Liechtenstein, 8-1, with a pair of hat tricks from Vedad Ibisevic and Edin Dzeko.
In their first home match of qualifying on Tuesday, the Bosnians easily took care of Latvia, 4-1.
In Group G, the Bosnians sit on top with six points, and they will face their biggest challenge against Greece, who they play twice in their next three qualifying matches.
Mexico Proving to Be Dominant Force in CONCACAF
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While they may have been beaten at home to the United States in a friendly last month, Mexico have shown up in World Cup qualifying.
El Tri have started play in CONCACAF Group B perfectly.
With 12 points after four points, Mexico have qualified for the final round of CONCACAF qualifying.
Their final two matches come against El Salvador and Guyana and will most likely be a chance for manager Jorge de la Torre to see what some of his young players can do at the senior level.
Italy's Surprise Draw at Bulgaria
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Italy's start to qualifying got off to a sluggish start on Friday, as they were only able to manage a draw on the road against Bulgaria.
The Azzurri's trip to Sofia ended in a 2-2 draw, but luckily for them, the two other Group B favorites, Czech Republic and Denmark, drew in their match against each other on Saturday.
Italy did rebound on Tuesday with a 2-0 win over lowly Malta.
Bob Bradley's Surprise Start with Egypt
After being let go by the United States national team last summer, it only took Bob Bradley one month to find a new job.
Bradley became the manager of Egypt in September and has won 12 of his first 15 matches with the Pharaohs.
After playing an absurd amount of friendlies to start 2012, Egypt won their first two qualifying matches over Mozambique and Guinea.
Bradley and Egypt will not play another World Cup qualifier until March and they do not have many competitive matches until then, as they failed to qualify for the Africa Cup of Nations in January.
United States Lose on Road to Jamaica, Then Win at Home
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The most shocking result out of all the qualifying matches on Friday was Jamaica's 2-1 win over the United States.
After days of speculation on how the Americans would perform on Tuesday night in Columbus, they responded with a 1-0 win over Jamaica.
The United States delivered their most impressive 45 minutes of football under manager Jurgen Klinsmann in the first half on Tuesday.
Despite a lackluster second half, the Americans survived and are now back on top of Group A in the third round of CONCACAF qualifying.
Dutch Rebounding Under Louis Van Gaal
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After the disappointment of Euro 2012, the Netherlands let go of Bert van Marwijk and replaced him with Louis van Gaal as manager.
Holland won their first two matches in Group D with wins over Turkey and Hungary. For those first two matches of World Cup qualifying, Van Gaal fielded a squad that was a mix of youth and experience.
Veterans like Robin van Persie, Wesley Sneijder and Arjen Robben received playing time alongside many young players.
Van Gaal gave starts to Luciano Narsingh, Bruno Martins Indi, Kevin Strootman and others with 10 or less career caps for the Dutch.
Look for this trend to continue as Holland look to turn the page on an older generation of footballers.
So Far so Good for Capello and Russia
Another new manager who took charge after Euro 2012 is Russia's Fabio Capello.
Capello led Russia into their first two Group F matches in the past week, and Capello's team easily won both matches over Northern Ireland and Israel.
Group F is a fairly easy group. Azerbaijan and Luxembourg also reside in the group, with Portugal being the only other European power alongside Russia.
The first real showdown between the two Group F favorites will take place on October 12th in what will be Capello's first true test as Russia's head man.
England Could Be in for a Fight in Group H
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England are the most scrutinized team in the world, and they will face plenty of scrutiny from the media with their latest 1-1 draw with Ukraine.
After two matches, the Three Lions are tied with Montenegro and Poland at the top of the Group H table with four points.
Also in the group are Ukraine, who proved on Tuesday that they could be a stingy side and, possibly, a surprise qualifier for 2014.
As for San Marino and Moldova, they will struggle to earn a point in this group.