FIFA World Cup Qualifying 2014: Best and Worst European Playoff Draws for Fans

Greg Johnson@gregianjohnsonSpecial to Bleacher ReportOctober 20, 2013

The draw for the UEFA World Qualifying playoffs takes place on Monday October 21, with the eight best placed Group Stage runners-up set to face off against one and other for a final shot at securing passage to Brazil next summer.

According to, the countries have been given the following seeding based on their FIFA rankings:

Seeded: Portugal (world ranking 14), Greece (15), Croatia (18), Ukraine (20).

Unseeded: France (21), Sweden (25), Romania (29), Iceland (46).

It's a split field with some real potential for some interesting match ups, but always for a number of ties that no one would profess to want to see by choice.

Below are the best and worst possible draws for fans, with a brief synopsis of what each result could mean and how it could affect who makes it to the World Cup next year.



Best Case Scenario Draw

Portugal vs. Sweden

This would be a battle between two of modern footballs greatest egotists, pitting Cristiano Ronaldo against Zlatan Ibrahimovic in a two-legged showdown to decide who will make it through to Brazil.

Portugal would be favourites. Their squad certainly has an advantage when it comes to individual talents, but Sweden are perhaps the greater team unit. Regardless of the outcome, it would be a well-balanced showdown befitting of a World Cup playoff.




Ukraine vs. France

Before automatic qualification from Group H was assured, the idea of an England vs. France playoff tie whetted the appetites of the British press, and with Ukraine proving to be Roy Hodgson's team's greatest foe in the group stages they would be the ideal substitutes for a playoff opponent.

Tactically too it would make for an interesting spectacle, set in the frame of two managers and teams who seek to encourage the flair of their individuals through the functionality of the team. Didier Deschamps and Mykhaylo Fomenko could be ideal playoff sparring partners.



Croatia vs. Romania

Croatia would certainly go into this tie with an advantage when it comes to players, with Niko Kovac able to call upon the likes of Luka Modric, Mario Mandzukic and Darigo Srna to drive their country on.

Yet Romania certainly aren't pushovers and would seek to test their starry opponents to the limit in the hope of snatching a ticket to Brazil from under their noses.

While there doesn't exist any great footballing rivalry between the two nations, the relative proximity to one and other would encourage big turn outs and displays of passion which would only elevate this potential clash into some very special.



Greece vs. Iceland

Most fans love an underdog, and in Iceland football lovers have the perfect team to adopt going into the UEFA Qualification playoffs.

Greece were selected as the most desirable opponents for Lars Lagerback's young and talent team due to the faulty logic of thinking a Mediterranean not being able to cope with an away tie during the Icelandic winter, but compared to other possible opposition, they look to most beatable.

Compared to the new generation of starlets who have pushed Iceland to the brink of the World Cup, Fernando Santo's Greece side is one largely made up of veterans and old-timers, which would give them the bonus of experience.

However, those romantics dreaming of Iceland in Brazil would instead seek to focus on the idea of youthful energy and ideas overcoming the decrepit conservatism of the elderly, in the hope that their positivity might somehow rub off on the fixture.



Best case winners we'd like to see make it to Brazil: Sweden, France, Croatia, Iceland (or Greece).

Portugal have snuck into too many tournaments off the back of dodgy looking draws recently, and the idea of depriving the World Cup of Zlatan is just depraved. Meanwhile, Ronaldo could perhaps do with missing out on another tournament after his diva demands when it came to the penalty order against Spain at Euro 2012.

France and Croatia would be the teams best able to produce good football of their ties, and for that reason they get to nod to make it through. Ukraine would also have a claim to make it in for similar reasons should Fomenko somehow implant the spirt of Valeri Lobinovskyi into his team to a greater degree.

Finally, whether it's Iceland or Greece–the tiny island nation going for their first major tournament appearance versus a country gripped by civil unrest and dangerous, divisive politics–the winners of our last base case tie would have plenty to play for in Brazil beyond the football. Either could head to the World Cup as likeable heroes.



Worst Case Scenario Draw

Portugal vs. Iceland

The favourites whooping the plucky outsiders. It's hardly the stuff of legend when it comes to a football match.

If the idea of Ronaldo plunging three past Iceland sets your heart alight with joy then you're either Portuguese (in which case, fair enough) or the sort of person who's always rooting for the bad guys in films.



Greece vs. France

Expect lots of awful jokes about France, the EU and Greek bailouts should this one come to pass, especially from the British tabloid press.

Greece wouldn't even have a decent shot at a defiant last stand or narrative-subverting victory either judging by France's superior talent pool.



Croatia vs. Sweden

Dreams of Zlatan in Brazil would likely be shattered due to Croatia's irresistible blend of excellent players and a decent understanding of how to fit them all together into a coherent system in this tie.

While it would be great to see Modric and co make it to Brazil, the idea of losing Ibrahimovic from another international tournament would almost be too much to take.



Ukraine vs. Romania

These two countries, both traditionally important and great football nations in their own right, somehow become a fixture that screams bland when placed together.

Ukraine against Romania just feels like the sort of game you'd forget to watch even if you'd already garnered an impressively insatiable appetite to catch Vlad Chiriches holding Andriy Yarmolanko and Yevhen Konoplyanka at bay.



Worst case winners to see make it to Brazil: Portugal, France, Croatia and Ukraine.

No Iceland, no Zlatan and no interesting narratives to bind it all together would make such a playoff draw irredeemable.

While this result would see the four strongest teams proceed to Brazil, it wouldn't half be dull to watch and predictable to foresee.

Then again, if Iceland were able to dump Ronaldo and Portugal out of contention by continuing to buck the odds, such a scenario could all be worth it in the end.


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