World Cup Qualifying: 7 Matches to Watch on Friday
On Friday, qualifying for the 2014 FIFA World Cup continues in five of the six confederations around the world.
The only confederation that will not participate this week in qualifying is Africa, as those nations prepare for the 2013 African Cup of Nations.
The other five confederations will have plenty of storylines present. The most important may come in CONCACAF, where the six teams to play in the final round of qualifying will be decided.
While it may still be early in all of the other regions, there are plenty of crucial matchups between continental heavyweights on Friday.
Here are the seven best matches that World Cup qualifying has to offer on Friday.
Belgium vs. Serbia
In Group A of UEFA World Cup qualifying, there are three favorites to advance, and two of them will battle in Belgrade on Friday.
Group leader Serbia will host Belgium in the third Group A match for both nations.
Serbia is coming off of 6-1 thumping of Wales in its last match while the Belgians drew the other group favorite, Croatia, at home.
The main matchup to watch in this Group A showdown will be between the enthusiastic attack of Belgium, led by Eden Hazard, Marouane Fellaini and Moussa Dembele, against the veteran defense of Serbia, which includes Branislav Ivanovic, Alexander Kolarov and Neven Subotic.
El Salvador vs. Costa Rica
In CONCACAF Group B, there is one spot remaining to advance to the final round of qualifying, and that spot will either be awarded to El Salvador or Costa Rica.
Those two nations will play on Friday night in El Salvador, and it is a must-win match for the hosts.
Going into the match, El Salvador leads Costa Rica by one point in the standings.
With a win, El Salvador will advance to the final stage of qualifying, but if they lose or draw, it will come down to the final day of qualifying next Tuesday.
If it does come down to next Tuesday, El Salvador will have to beat Mexico on the road to advance while Costa Rica has an easy task of playing Guyana at home.
Antigua and Barbuda vs. United States
Staying in the CONCACAF region, the United States faces a must-win scenario against Antigua and Barbuda in Group A.
The Americans are in a three-way tie at the top of the group with Guatemala and Jamaica. All have seven points after four matches.
In their first match of the group, the Americans easily took down their opponents with a 3-1 win in Tampa.
With a win, Jurgen Klinsmann's side will be in the pole position to win the group, but they will have to beat Guatemala four days later in Kansas City as well to clinch qualification into the final round of CONCACAF World Cup qualifying.
Russia vs. Portugal
Fabio Capello's first big test as manager of Russia comes on Friday in Moscow against Portugal.
The two sides are fighting for the Group F title, and their two head-to-head matches will go a long way in deciding that.
Both teams have had two easy wins in their first two group matches, and they should have no problem winning the rest of their matches as well.
The match at the Luzhniki Stadium will mean more to Russia as Russian fans will want to see the progress Capello has made since taking over the team in July.
The match is important for Portugal as well as they will go on the road to a tough venue against one of Europe's most talented sides to earn a big win in their group.
Portugal are the favorites going into this match, but do not be surprised if the Russians pull off a big victory at home.
Greece vs. Bosnia and Herzegovina
Bosnia and Herzegovina has been the most dominant nation at the start of UEFA World Cup qualifying with 12 goals in their first two matches.
However, the Bosnians did play Lichtenstein and Latvia to start qualifying. Now they face their first real test in Group G as they travel to Greece on Friday.
Greece's historically stubborn defense will be tested by the numerous attack options that its opponent possesses.
The combination of Vedad Ibisevic and Edin Dzeko will be a difficult duo to handle, but if there is one nation that can do it, it is Greece. The Greeks do not have any superstars on defense, but they always play well as a team.
Republic of Ireland vs. Germany
Germany faces a tricky road venture to Dublin on Friday as they visit the Republic of Ireland in Group C play.
The Germans have a huge match on Tuesday with Sweden that they can not afford to look ahead to.
The Irish have the potential to pull off an upset or hold their opponents to a draw, which would throw the Germans off their dominant qualifying form.
However, the impressive German attack may end up being too much for the Irish defense.
Another thing to keep an eye on in this match is that Ireland has a new first-choice keeper in Keiren Westwood—who cannot even get into the first team at Sunderland—due to the recent international retirement of Shay Given.
Argentina vs. Uruguay
All eyes will be on Mendoza, Argentina on Friday night as CONMEBOL will see its two best nations square off in World Cup qualifying.
This match is the marquee match in the South American qualifying zone since Brazil has automatically entered the 2014 World Cup as hosts.
There will be plenty of talent on display as stars like Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez, Sergio Aguero and Edinson Cavani will face off against each other.
In the qualifying table, Argentina is in first place with 14 points from seven matches while Uruguay is in fourth place with 12 points.
Both of these nations should advance to the World Cup at the end of qualifying, but for Friday's match, it is all about the flair and creativity that South American football presents us.