FIFA World Cup 2010: Surprises in Qualifying Rounds (Revisited)

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FIFA World Cup 2010: Surprises in Qualifying Rounds (Revisited)
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While the World Cup always hosts countries like Brazil, Italy, and Germany, many spots in the Finals are up for generally any nation who has the resources and mindset to take them.

In my article FIFA World Cup 2010: Flops and Surprises in Qualifying Rounds , I took a look at the nations that were struggling or thriving more than expected. Now that qualifying is over, I will look at those June observations and re-evaluate how those teams performed down the stretch.

All observations are old. New comments are in bold italics .


Big Qualification Flops (From June 16, 2009)

Poland (Did Not Qualify)

-Third in Group Three of UEFA (three points behind Northern Ireland and five points behind Slovakia)
-Finished fifth in the group, above only San Marino

-Lost 3-2 to Northern Ireland, 2-1 to Slovakia, and tied Slovenia 1-1
-Made the two previous World Cups
-Remaining games: Northern Ireland, Slovenia, Czech Republic, Slovakia
-Lost three of the four, tying Northern Ireland for their only point after June


Czech Republic (Did Not Qualify)

-Fourth in Group Three of UEFA (five points behind Northern Ireland and seven points behind Slovakia)
-Finished third in the group, four points behind Slovenia

-Lost 2-1 to both Poland and Slovakia, tied 0-0 with both Slovenia and Northern Ireland
-Made 2006 World Cup and sported one of the Cup's youngest rosters
-Remaining games: Slovakia, San Marino, Poland, Northern Ireland
-Tied two and won two, leaving them with 16 points after having only eight through June


Portugal (Qualified)

-Third in Group One of UEFA (four points behind Hungary and seven points behind Denmark)
-Finished second in the group, leaving them with a playoff against Bosnia-Herzegovina

-Lost 3-2 to Denmark, tied 0-0 with Sweden twice and Albania once
-Made the two previous World Cups and took fourth place in 2006
-Remaining games: Denmark, Hungary, Hungary, Malta
-Beat Hungary both times, defeated Malta, and drew with Denmark
-Beat Bosnia-Herzegovina 2-0 on aggregate to qualify


Sweden
(Did Not Qualify)

-Third in Group One of UEFA (four points behind Hungary and seven points behind Denmark)
-Finished third in the group, one point behind Portugal

-Lost 1-0 to Denmark, tied 0-0 with Portugal twice and Albania once
-Made the two previous World Cups and made the Round of 16 in 2006
-Remaining games: Hungary, Malta, Denmark, Albania
-Won three of four, losing only to Denmark.  Finished with 18 points, nine more than they had in June


Mexico
(Qualified)

-Fourth in CONCACAF (one point behind Honduras)
-Finished second in CONCACAF with 19 points

-Lost to Honduras 3-1 and to El Salvador 2-1
-Made the four previous World Cups and made the Round of 16 in 2006
-Remaining games: USA, Costa Rica, Honduras, El Salvador, and Trinidad and Tobago
-Won four of five, tying only Trinidad and Tobago


Since June, two more teams expected to make the World Cup stumbled. 

In four games after June, Croatia only lost to England, but could not finish with more points than Ukraine for second place.

Russia lost 2-2 on aggregate on the "away goals rule" to Slovenia in their playoff.

Costa Rica lost 2-1 on aggregate to Uruguay in the CONCACAF/CONMEBOL playoff.

France was a near miss, but defeated Ireland in overtime to qualify.


Big Qualification Surprises

Chile (Qualified)

-Second in CONMEBOL (one point behind Brazil)
-Finished in the exact same position

-1-0 win over Argentina
-Hasn't made a bid since 1998
-Remaining games: Venezuela, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador
-Tied Venezuela and lost to Brazil, but won their final two matches


Honduras
(Qualified)

-Third in CONCACAF (five points behind Costa Rica)
-Finished third in CONCACAF

-3-1 win over Mexico
-Hasn't made a bid since 1982
-Remaining games: Costa Rica, Trinidad and Tobago, Mexico, USA, El Salvador
-Won three of the five, losing to Mexico and USA


North Korea
(Qualified)

-Second in AFC Group B (four points behind South Korea)
-Finished second in AFC Group B

-1-0 win over Saudi Arabia
-Hasn't made a bid since 1978
-Remaining game: Saudi Arabia
-Tied Saudi Arabia to qualify

-Ranked 106th in the world by FIFA/Coca-Cola

-Now ranked 91st in the world by FIFA/Coca-Cola


Hungary (Did Not Qualify)

-Second in Group One of UEFA (three points behind Denmark)
-Finished fourth in the group, above only Albania and Malta

-0-0 tie with Denmark
-Hasn't made a bid since 1986
-Remaining games: Sweden, Portugal x2, Denmark
-Won only their last game of the four


Slovakia
(Qualified)

-First in Group Three of UEFA
-Won their group with 22 points

-2-1 wins over Czech Republic, Northern Ireland, and Poland
-Has never made a bid
-Remaining games: Czech Republic, Northern Ireland, Slovenia, Poland
-Went 2-1-1 to finish qualification


Northern Ireland
(Did Not Qualify)

-Second in Group Three of UEFA (two points behind Slovakia)
-Finished fourth in the group, five points from playoff qualification

-3-2 win over Poland, 0-0 tie with Czech Republic
-Hasn't made a bid since 1986
-Remaining games: Poland, Slovakia, Czech Republic
-Tied two and lost one. Finished with 15 points


Besides these surprise qualifiers, a few other teams surprised us by making it to the 2010 World Cup Finals.

Slovenia beat Russia 2-2 on aggregate by the "away goals rule" to qualify for only the nation's second time.

Algeria beat Egypt 1-0 in a tie-breaking game to earn their third trip ever to the World Cup Finals.

While favorites like Portugal, France, and Argentina snuck into the Finals at what seemed like the last minute, there were still some surprise qualifications and misses.

2010 will again provide some titillating soccer and thrilling controversy. I surely can't wait, and I'm fairly certain I'm not alone.

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