2010 FIFA World Cup Predictions: The Qualifying Round Is Meaningless

Josep Vernet-RieraCorrespondent IJune 12, 2010

If you want to predict the World Cup I will spare you one simple advice: The qualifying round is not as important as you might think.

Actually, it is pretty meaningless.

Saying that Spain or England will win the World Cup, because of games that were played over a year ago, is simply inaccurate.

Don't believe me?

In 2002 Germany and Turkey had to play in the UEFA Playoffs to secure their spot in the World Cup.

Germany failed to qualify directly, whereas Turkey finished second to Sweden.

In the end Turkey reached the third place and Germany went all the way to the final, a feat which the German press had dubbed as impossible at the beginning of the tournament.

The best teams in the UEFA qualifying zone (Sweden, Spain, and Italy) all suffered an unlucky fate.

Sweden, which had a win rate of 80% in Qualifiers and drawing only twice, reached the last sixteen, along with Italy.

Spain made it to the quarter-finals after a penalty shoot-out against Ireland, a team which had to go through the Calvary of the UEFA playoff. 

In South America things were even more interesting.

Argentina were head and shoulders over the rest of the competition, qualifying with a staggering 43 points, 12 points clear of Ecuador and 13 points clear of Brazil.

Both Ecuador and Argentina could not make it through the group round, whereas Brazil, with a record of 9-3-6, took the coveted World Cup home.

In 2006 France were the big spoiler.

In the UEFA Zone, Holland reached 32 points, the best record in Europe.

France had barely made it through a group where Switzerland, Israel and Ireland were their biggest threats. 

Surprisingly, the French could only gather 20 points (winning five times and drawing on other five occasions). 

Yet as we all know, the French eliminated Brazil, the best team in the CONMEBOL qualifiers, and Portugal, the second best team in the UEFA qualifiers, losing only to Italy.

So, before you fill up another bracket, predicting a thrilling run for England and Spain, keep in mind, that both in 2002 and in 2006, none of the winning teams impressed their audience before the World Cup.