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World Cup 2014 Qualifying: 5 Big Teams in Danger of Missing Out

Jonathan JohnsonFeatured ColumnistMarch 18, 2013

World Cup 2014 Qualifying: 5 Big Teams in Danger of Missing Out

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    Although the World Cup qualifiers are at different stages of advancement, there are a number of big sides already in danger of missing out in Europe, South America and Asia.

    Despite it still being early days, the qualification groups have already started to take shape, and a number of World Cup regulars are in perilous positions.

    Europe perhaps offers the largest number of potential surprise absences, but South America too is currently witnessing a close race to secure a place in Brazil.

    Here are some of the biggest sides currently at risk.

Turkey

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    Having only ever made two appearances at the World Cup, in 1954 and in 2002 when they famously finished third, they don't have outstanding pedigree at this level.

    However, a team boasting talents such as Emre Belozoglu, Arda Turan, Nuri Sahin and Hamit Altintop should be doing better than Abdullah Avci’s side are currently.

    In a group with Holland, Hungary and Romania, it is going to be an uphill task for the Turks. They are already six points off the pace in fourth with three points from four matches.

    A costly home defeat to Romania and an away one to Hungary saw them lose three and win one (a given against Estonia), shipping six goals in the process.

    With that sort of talent, though, they should not be totally discounted from making a recovery and a challenge for second place in Group D.

Portugal

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    Paulo Bento’s side are third in Group F, but they are already five points adrift of Russia.

    Despite the talent of Cristiano Ronaldo, among others, the Portuguese have been guilty of some extremely complacent showings.

    You'd fancy them in the race for second place against Israel, but given their showings against the likes of Luxembourg where they laboured to a 2-1 victory, will they be able to stay focused?

    Relative regulars having been in three of the last five World Cups, absence between 1986 and 2002 is perhaps indicative of a side that struggle to make the most of their individual talents on the international stage.

Denmark

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    In a difficult Group B with Italy, Bulgaria, Czech Republic and Armenia are all threats. But Denmark will not have expected to sit second-bottom of Group B after taking only two points from three matches.

    That said, the Danes have only made four World Cup appearances, so the 1992 European champions won’t have been expecting it to be easy.

    Their most recent qualification was in 2010, but Morten Olsen’s side are not profiting from their fine collection of talent (including Christian Eriksen) and look destined to miss out unless they can overhaul Bulgaria for second place.

Paraguay

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    Regulars as part of the competition’s large South American contingent, Paraguay have competed in the last four consecutive tournaments. Eight appearances in total indicate a team with vast experience of this stage.

    They also have plenty of talent in the likes of Oscar Cardozo, Nelson Valdez and Roque Santa Cruz.

    However, they sit bottom of the South American standings currently, with seven points from nine games.

    That is a big deficit to make up and likely almost impossible. Although Uruguay are only five points ahead in fifth, which would land them a playoff spot against the odds if they can lift themselves.

Australia

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    Currently in second place in Asia’s Group B, that position will claim them a World Cup berth if they stay there. However, Holger Osieck’s side have not pulled clear of Zico's Iraq yet, so it is by no means guaranteed.

    They do have a game in hand so you'd expect them to still qualify, but further complacency will drop them into the Asian zone playoff.

    That playoff is to decide who will dispute the intercontinental playoff between Asia's third-best team and South America's fifth. It is a tie that the Socceroos know only too well as it regularly saw them beaten by the likes of Uruguay.

    Australia won’t want that to happen this time as they struggle to rebuild after the loss of a golden generation of the likes of Harry Kewell, Tim Cahill, Brett Emerton and Vince Grella that failed to deliver.

    They have made three appearances to date, most recently in 2010. Expect them to make it four, but it won’t be convincing.

Other Possibilities

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    Uruguay

    La Celeste are fifth in the South American table and are underperforming. The inaugural winners of the event have been represented 12 times, and there is so much talent that it would be criminal not to be there once more this time.

    Luis Suarez, Edinson Cavani, Diego Forlan and Cristian Rodriguez are some of their bigger names. The 2011 Copa America champions, who finished the 2010 in fourth place, have the potential to do as well, if not better if they can make Brazil.

     

    Chile

    Arturo Vidal, Alexis Sanchez, Humberto Suazo, Mauricio Isla, Jorge Valdivia and Gary Medel are some of Chile’s top footballing talents right now.

    Eight-time qualifiers, they are struggling along with Uruguay on 12 points in sixth. But unless they can overhaul Venezuela, in which case one of the pair would go into the playoff with Oceania, they risk losing out.

    A managerial change mid-campaign, with Jorge Sampaoli now in and Claudio Borghi sacked in November 2012 for poor performances, is a risky manoeuvre. Chile continue to struggle to adequately replace Marcelo Bielsa who led the side to the last 16 in South Africa in 2010.

     

    USA

    Played one, lost one so far in CONCACAF, so hardly a reason to push the panic button just yet. It is early days but still a warning for Jurgen Klinsmann. A surprise 2-1 defeat in Honduras is hardly likely to prove fatal, but it leaves no room for further complacency.

    Despite a shaky start, the U.S. have reached the World Cup nine times in their history—the last six consecutively. Don’t expect them to miss out this time.

     

    Serbia

    Perhaps not the biggest of names, but individually they are a highly talented side. Currently third in Group A, six points behind Croatia with four games gone, Belgium are romping away at the top. It was a tough draw, but there is enough quality in the side for Sinisa Mihajlovic's men to expect to do better.

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