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2014 World Cup Qualifying: 7 Heroes and Villains

Matt CheethamCorrespondent IOctober 16, 2013

2014 World Cup Qualifying: 7 Heroes and Villains

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    Peter G. Aiken-USA TODAY Sports

    World Cup 2014 has begun taking shape with a whole host of teams confirming their presence at next summer's spectacle.

    In total, 21 of the 32 places are now filled following the climax of several qualifying campaigns.

    There are five spots left for African teams, four European berths available via play-offs and a pair of home-and-away matches set for the two other slots: Uruguay vs. Jordan and New Zealand vs. Mexico.

    Following Tuesday night's action, here's a look at a few heroes and villains from the final round of games.

Villain: Burak Yilmaz

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    Burak Kara/Getty Images

    Turkey will miss a third consecutive World Cup after a 2-0 defeat against the Netherlands ended their qualification hopes.

    Three wins in a row had put Fatih Terim's squad right in the frame for a play-off spot, needing a home win against the already qualified Dutch.

    However, a jam-packed Sukru Saracoglu Stadium was left increasingly frustrated by their side's form—and especially Burak Yilmaz.

    The Galatasaray striker missed Turkey's most inviting chance, when played through one-on-one, and was persistently let down by a cumbersome touch. He seemed a shadow of the player so prolific during last season's Champions League, and his shortcomings allowed Romania into the play-offs.

Hero: Vedad Ibisevic

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    Jamie McDonald/Getty Images

    Bosnia and Herzegovina will make their debut at a major tournament having secured the final win they needed to top their group.

    Facing a Lithuania side intent on blockading their defensive third, Giedrius Arlauskis initially appeared inspired in the home side's goal.

    He continually denied Bosnia and Herzegovina, who would have been overtaken by Greece had they not secured all three points.

    Eventually, Vedad Ibisevic's 68th-minute strike gave his country the win, prompting mass celebration on the streets of Sarajevo. It was the striker's eighth goal of qualification, almost certainly granting him hero status back home.

Villain: Graham Zusi

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    Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

    Depending on your stance, Graham Zusi could be a hero or a villain, but we'll side with the CONCACAF minnows, Panama, who have never previously travelled to a World Cup.

    That still remains the case, but after Luis Tejada gave them a surprise lead against the United States, they were on the brink of eliminating World Cup regulars, Mexico.

    That was, however, until Zusi delivered a cruel blow to Panama, equalising during injury time, before Aron Johannsson struck a winner.

    Mexico's position was so precarious because they were losing to Costa Rica. As it stands, they now have a lifeline via a play-off with New Zealand, but without Zusi's intervention, they would have missed their first World Cup since 1990.

Hero: Lars Lagerback

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    Kiyoshi Ota/Getty Images

    Lars Lagerback qualifies for this slide by steering Iceland into a play-off spot ahead of both Slovenia and Norway.

    Going into their final qualifying match, they held a point advantage in second place. That proved enough thanks to Switzerland's win against Slovenia and their own hard-fought draw away in Norway.

    The prospect of a country of just 320,000 people qualifying for the World Cup is a hugely impressive feat, and Lagerback deserves substantial credit, along with his squad.

Villain: Alberto Aquilani

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    Claudio Villa/Getty Images

    While this act didn't strictly occur during Tuesday's recent round of matches, Denmark certainly felt the ramifications now.

    After a 6-0 win over Malta, the Danes finished runners-up in their group on 16 points, yet failed to secure a play-off berth as the worst second-placed team. 

    This could have all been so different had they held onto a 2-1 lead against an already qualified Italy on Friday.

    With injury-time approaching, Alberto Aquilani's late strike broke Danish hearts and meant Croatia eventually qualified above Denmark for the play-offs.

Hero: Wayne Rooney

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    Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

    England finally secured their passage to Brazil thanks to a 2-0 win over Poland.

    Needing all three points in this final clash, the Three Lions were committed in attack while looking tentative at the back, leading to an entertaining contest.

    They were desperate for a goal, and Wayne Rooney eventually provided the vital finish, nodding home Leighton Baines' exquisite delivery.

    The Manchester United striker stood up when his nation needed him most before Steven Gerrard added a second during the closing moments.

Villain: Wael Gomaa and the Egyptian Defence

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    Egypt have been Africa's premier team for the best part of a decade.

    Almost impossible to compete with in the Africa Cup of Nations—where the Pharaohs hold three of the last five titles—this form has never translated into World Cup qualification. Somehow, they have only been to two of football's major tournaments: in 1934 and in 1990.

    Pitted against Ghana in a tough-looking, two-legged qualifier, Bob Bradley's side were still favoured to reach Brazil before Tuesday's 6-1 trouncing all but eliminated them.

    Asamoah Gyan was the hero for Ghana, but some of Egypt's defending was calamitous—at best—especially during the opening exchanges. This own goal from veteran Wael Gomaa was perhaps the lowest point.

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