World Cup 2014 Qualifying Matches: Region-by-Region Breakdown and Predictions

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World Cup 2014 Qualifying Matches: Region-by-Region Breakdown and Predictions
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As the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil ticks ever closer, a whole host of nations will have been hoping to take one massive step toward ensuring they qualify for the tournament, with the latest round of fixtures being played around the globe on Tuesday.

All six FIFA regions saw match action, leaving some countries close to qualification and others hoping that results go their way in the future if they want to make it to Brazil.

Here we take a complete rundown on all the group standings, looking at which nations are likely to get a spot in the finals and seeing who still has work to do to seal a place late on in the qualifying rounds.

 

UEFA Qualifying Zone

Group A

Belgium and Croatia took three points from hard-fought wins against Macedonia and Wales, respectively, leaving them both on 16 points at the top of the table. With four games left to play and a nine-point gap between themselves and third-place Serbia, it is very much a case of those two sides battling it out for the automatic qualification spot.

The crunch meeting comes in October, when Belgium travel to Croatia for the head-to-head.

Prediction: Belgium's new core of talent to secure top spot. Croatia into the playoffs.

 

Group B

Italy managed a routine win over Malta, 2-0, to lead Group B by three points with a game in hand.

Czech Republic worked themselves back into contention with an overdue win, but Denmark were halted in their progress when they could only draw at home to Bulgaria.

The Danes can still make it a three-way chase for second place if they win their game in hand, but Italy look set to take top spot in the group. Bulgaria are currently unbeaten with two wins and four draws from their six games and are in second place.

Prediction: Perhaps the tightest run-in for a playoff spot. Italy should take the automatic spot. Czech Republic face three away games and have to play Italy twice, which might give Denmark the edge for the playoff spot. They play Armenia and Malta two times apiece.

 

Group C

Germany have the group wrapped up with five wins from six matches following a 4-1 win over Kazakhstan.

Ireland had a glorious chance to put themselves second by beating Austria, but they conceded an injury-time equaliser. 2-2 the final score there.

Sweden can take control of second spot if they take points from their games in hand, but they, Ireland and Austria are all on eight points at present.

Prediction: Germany will finish on top, and it would be a surprise if they lose a single game. Sweden might just about be favourites for a playoff spot, but Ireland will push them every step of the way.

 

Group D

Holland have a 100 percent record, six wins in six games, and dominate Group D. Hungary and Romania are in the closest battle for second place, but don't rule Turkey out just yet. Hungary managing a 1-1 draw on Tuesday indicates that they don't have the quality to pull back the points in this group.

Romania play Hungary in September, the next gameweek for the group, in what could be a hugely telling encounter.

Prediction: Holland to win the group at a canter. If Romania can get through their next two games with positive results, against Hungary and Turkey, they look a great bet for second spot.

 

Group E

This group is perhaps the tightest of all, with four nations arguably still in with a chance of automatic qualification. No matches took place on Tuesday, but last Friday's results were a clear indication of how open the top two spots are.

Albania picked up a huge 1-0 win in Norway, while leaders Switzerland were held 0-0 by Cyprus. Iceland also won away from home, against a disappointing Slovenia.

Prediction: Take your pick. At the halfway stage, Switzerland are unbeaten and, with their competition experience, might be the best option for group winners. Iceland's three home matches might give them enough of an edge to secure second spot and a shot at their first major international tournament.

 

Group F

Russia are top of the group despite having played two games less than most of their rivals. Israel and Portugal both pulled back four points on the leaders, but neither made the most of their opportunity after they drew against each other, 3-3, on Friday.

The two chasers clash in October, with Portugal having home advantage.

Prediction: Russia to go on and win the group, while Portugal should just about take second ahead of Israel, with more home games left to play.

 

Group G

Another group with no fixtures on Tuesday, but last Friday saw a big win for Bosnia-Herzegovina over Greece. With all four other teams in the group drawing, that sent Bosnia three points clear at the top of the table.

Behind them, Greece and Slovakia are both pressing hard for the second place in the group. With no real standout nation in Group G, this would have been one that several countries hoped to progress from at the beginning, and a run of consistency could mean a World Cup ticket for any of the three top nations.

Prediction: Bosnia-Herzegovina to top the group, just about ahead of Greece. Greece could yet even finish in first, given their home fixtures to come. Slovakia having four matches away from home will put paid to their qualification hopes.

 

Group H

Montenegro kept England at bay on Tuesday to retain their place at the top of Group H, which they lead by two points. Poland and Ukraine, meanwhile, gotten themselves back into the running for the top two places in what is now a hugely tense group from which any two from four will hope to make it through.

Ukraine took six points in a week to bring themselves back into contention, while Poland would have been three points off top spot with a game in hand if they had beaten Ukraine on Friday.

Prediction: Maybe the toughest group to see the outcome of. Games between all of the top four sides could change the group on a matchweek-to-matchweek basis. Running through a predicted results for each remaining game yields England finishing top, with Montenegro and Ukraine ending on level points for second. Judging by the scoring rates for each team so far, Montenegro could take second on goal difference.

 

Group I

Spain picked up a big win in France on Tuesday to go one point clear at the top of Group I, the final UEFA zone group which already looks like a strictly two-horse race. Georgia, Belarus and Finland are way behind, though with games in hand.

Prediction: Spain to go on and win the group after their victory in France, with France themselves taking second place and going into the playoffs.

 

CONMEBOL Qualifying Zone

Bolivia used their high-altitude home games to their advantage once more, as they held group leaders Argentina to a 1-1 draw. In reality, though, it will make little difference to either side, with their fates already sealed. Argentina are going to the World Cup in Brazil, likely as serious candidates to win. Bolivia will most decidedly not be.

Ecuador's 4-1 win over Paraguay was rather more significant. That leaves Ecuador in second place and, with six more games left to play, looking in great shape for qualification along with Argentina.

Chile picked up three vital points with a 2-0 home win over Uruguay, who continue to be plagued by inconsistencies. Just one point picked up for Uruguay over the past two games has seen them drop out of the qualification places into sixth, and they will need a very strong finish to the campaign to be present at the World Cup in Brazil.

Chile moved up to fourth with the win, with Venezuela's victory over Colombia shortly afterwards showing that the fourth-fifth divide is split only on goal difference.

Fourth place (and above) qualifies directly for the World Cup, while the fifth-placed side will face the playoff-contending nation from the Asian qualifying section.

 

CONCACAF Qualifying Zone

Panama are the shock leaders of the Central and North America and the Caribbean qualifying zone after they collected their first win to stay unbeaten after three games on Tuesday, beating Honduras 2-0.

Mexico and USA fought out a 0-0 draw, which means that though Mexico still remain undefeated, they also haven't won yet—three points leaves them outside of the qualifying spots at present. Jamaica suffered a 2-0 defeat to Costa Rica to leave them close to the bottom of the entire group. With no side managing more than a single victory, there is still lots to play for over the rest of the campaign.

With five matches still to play for each nation, this wide-open group is definitely anybody's to win.

The top three teams qualify directly for the FIFA World Cup, while the fourth-place side will face a playoff against New Zealand.

Prediction: Despite indifferent form to date, Mexico and USA surely have the quality to pull through over the rest of the campaign. A great start for Panama has given them hope of making the top three, so we're going for a first-ever finals appearance for them. For fourth place, and a playoff spot, it's a toss-up between Honduras and Costa Rica—we'll pick the latter.

 

CAF Qualifying Zone

The winners of each of the current groups in the African section go on to the final stage, where teams will be drawn against each other to play two-legged ties. The five winners of those ties will progress to the FIFA World Cup 2014. At present, the CAF zone is exactly halfway through the second-round phase.

 

Group A

Ethiopia are looking strong in their group, where they lead right now, but the safest money still has to likely be on South Africa to progress. They have work to do and will need a result in Ethiopia, but they have the players to do it.

Central African Republic and Botswana are third and fourth, respectively.

 

Group B

Tunisia have won all three of their matches and need only a win and a draw from their final three to guarantee safe passage.

Sierra Leone and Equatorial Guinea are on four points apiece, with Cape Verde Islands trailing in last place without a point so far.

 

Group C

Ivory Coast and Tanzania look set for the big battle for qualification, with Morocco having disappointed so far by failing to win their three games. Tanzania have home advantage for the clash against Ivory Coast next time, but you still fancy Yaya Toure and Co. to take the group.

Gambia are fourth at present.

 

Group D

Ghana were the favourites to qualify from Group D and are two points ahead of Zambia at the midway point.

Zambia have two home games to play, which gives them an edge...but the all-important top-two clash takes place in Ghana, and that might yet prove pivotal to see Ghana progress top of the group. Lesotho and Sudan will not be in contention barring a major surprise.

 

Group E

Congo have already all but wrapped up this group, with three wins from three.

Burkina Faso, Niger and Gabon have all taken three points, but none are showing enough consistency to challenge Congo.

 

Group F

Nigeria and Malawi have five points apiece to share leadership at the halfway stage. Namibia and Kenya might not be looking like taking the top spot, but they are proving tough opposition—not easy to beat.

Nigeria have two challenging away trips to negotiate before the home game against Malawi, who can take top spot if they win their own home games and avoid defeat in Nigeria.

 

Group G

Egypt beat Zimbabwe on Tuesday to go five points clear in Group G, and they look dead-cert favourites to progress now.

Guinea, their nearest challengers, arguably have to win all three remaining games to stand a chance. Mozambique are the other side in the group.

 

Group H

Algeria's win over Benin on Tuesday sent them ahead of Mali on goal difference, which could yet prove vital in this group. Benin themselves could have gone one point clear at the top had they won the match.

It remains an open group, with nobody remaining unbeaten at this stage. Rwanda are out of the running, but Mali would be the best bet for snatching first place on account of their two home matches to play.

 

Group I

A fascinating group sees Cameroon top by a single point from Libya, who are only a point ahead of Congo DR. Togo lie bottom with one point from three games.

Cameroon should go on to seal top spot and progress to the final round, but they will likely need positive results in all three matches to do so.

 

Group J

The tightest African group of them all.

Senegal lead the table, but have only won one match, with Liberia the only other side to have claimed victory in a group where draws have been the main theme. Senegal will have to avoid defeat at both Liberia and Angola to maintain their first-place status, but Angola could yet be the surprise team to emerge from this group.

 

Oceania Qualifying Zone

The Oceania zone is now officially over, with just the top-placed team making it through to the playoff stage versus the fourth-placed CONCACAF nation.

New Zealand took a comfortable 2-0 win away from Solomon Islands on Tuesday to make it six wins from six, with New Caledonia able to take nothing but pride from their victory over Tahiti and the eventual second-place finish it gave them.

New Zealand will go on to the Oceania-CONCACAF playoff, which takes place in November.

 

Asia Qualifying Zone

Group A

Korea Republic took a big step toward qualification with a 2-1 win over Qatar on Tuesday. The standout team of the group, though, has been Uzbekistan, who lead the group with only two further rounds to play.

The match between Korea Rep. and Uzbekistan takes place in June and could well determine the eventual group winners. For both, though, the aim is to finish in the top two places, which guarantees passage to the World Cup finals.

Iran are looking good for third place at present, though Qatar could become very real contenders if they beat Iran in early June. The race for third in Group A could come down to goal difference.

 

Group B

Both Japan and Australia missed big chances on Tuesday, with Japan losing 2-1 to Jordan and Australia having to come from two goals down to draw 2-2 with Oman.

Japan would have qualified for the World Cup had they been victorious, but they still require just one point to guarantee themselves first place. Australia, on the other hand, will now likely need a result against Jordan to clinch second spot. Australia should just about do enough for second place—and for third, Oman have a great chance of causing an upset.

If Oman beat Iraq and Australia beat Jordan, Oman can clinch third by simply holding Jordan to a draw in the last round of fixtures.

The two third-place teams from each group play a two-legged playoff match, with the eventual winner going on to face the fifth-place team from the CONMEBOL league table. That game will yield a winner who qualifies for the FIFA World Cup.

Results, standings and screen shots taken from FIFA.com

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