2014 World Cup Qualifying: Previewing Friday's Biggest Matches
There are a number of matches on Friday for 2014 World Cup Qualifiers, but with so many intriguing contests going on, there are a few in particular that will be exciting ones to watch for.
The last gameweek for the UEFA zone is finally wrapping up. All nine groups will finish with games on Friday and next Tuesday. The nine group winners will officially be heading to Brazil for the World Cup finals next summer, while eight other teams that were runners-up will face a playoff in order to make it to the finals.
There are 31 matches that will be played on Friday, but we won't be looking at every single one on here. Instead, let's take a look at some of the biggest matches that feature some of the best countries in the world.
England vs. Montenegro
Where: London, England
When: 3:00 p.m. ET, 8:00 p.m. Local Time
England has continually been criticized for supposedly regressing in international play, but I haven't seen it so far in the World Cup qualifiers.
So far, England has yet to be beaten in group play. In fact, they've allowed just three goals in their eight games so far. They have a goal differential of 22, by far the most of any European team.
Still, it's a tight race in their group, as they have just a one-point lead over Ukraine and Montenegro.
Montenegro has had a solid run so far in group play. They've taken a bit of a step back recently however, losing 4-0 to Ukraine along with draws against Poland and England in their last three games.
That draw against England came back in March, but don't expect Montenegro to do much of the same in this one. This match will be played in London, and the Three Lions will make sure to not disappoint their home crowd in this one.
Mexico vs. Panama
Where: Mexico City, Mexico
When: 9:30 p.m. ET, 8:30 p.m. Local Time
Despite rather high expectations, it has not been a pretty run for Mexico in the World Cup qualifiers.
Who pulls off the crucial win?
Through eight games, Mexico has put up just eight points, putting them near the bottom of the standings, with USA on 16 points and Costa Rica on 15 points at the top of the group.
Recent losses to Honduras and USA have killed Eli Tri. They've yet to win at home, but this is a chance to change that for Mexico, as they will be taking on a solid Panama team at the Azteca.
Panama is struggling as well at the bottom of the standings, tied with El Tri at just eight points on the year. They've scored three more goals, but they've also allowed three more.
These two played each other in a 0-0 draw back in July, so this might be a close match. The winner will likely be able to take on New Zealand for the last spot in the CONCACAF qualifiers.
Portugal vs. Israel
Where: Lisbon, Portugal
When: 3:45 p.m. ET, 8:45 p.m. Local Time
With 17 points, Portugal is just one point off the lead in group play, with Russia currently on top of Group F. They started slow, but now a win over Israel would give Portugal the top spot in their group.
Portugal has scored 16 goals so far in group play, while allowing just eight goals against. They've won their last two matches, beating Russia 1-0 and winning 4-2 against Northern Ireland.
Meanwhile, Israel has scored 17 goals but also allowed 12. Their last two matches have been a 1-1 draw to Azerbaijan and a 3-1 loss to Russia.
These two teams played in an exciting 3-3 draw back in March, and it would be a lot of fun to see another big game like that on Friday. It's not likely, especially with Portugal playing at home, but look for Israel to try and pull off an upset.
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