||ESPNsoccernet: World Cup
Wednesday, October 12, 2005
With just a few games left in the battle to reach the World Cup finals, we take an in-depth look at which sides could still make Germany - and what they have to do to get there.
Already in the finals are the following nations:
• Costa Rica
• Ivory Coast
• Saudi Arabia
• South Korea
• United States
Qualifying has now finished in Africa, with the following nations making it to Germany.
Group One: Togo
Group Two: Ghana
Group Three: Ivory Coast
Group Four: Angola
Group Five: Tunisia
Qualified: Saudi Arabia, South Korea, Japan, Iran
Able to qualify: Uzbekistan, Bahrain
The cancellation of Uzbekistan's first leg victory over Bahrain, due to a gaffe by Japanese referee Toshimitsu Yoshida, meant the original play-off was scrapped and rearranged for October. The winner of the play-off will play the fourth placed team from Concacaf in November for a place in the finals.
The first leg finished in a 1-1 draw, much to Uzbekistan's chagrin. The second leg is on Wednesday evening.
FINAL STAGE STANDINGS
Qualified: Mexico, United States, Costa Rica
Able to make the play-offs: Guatemala, Trinidad & Tobago
Important final day games: Trinidad & Tobago v Mexico, Guatemala v Costa Rica.
The final day games leave only the play-off spot, against an Asian nation, to be decided. Trinidad currently hold a two-point advantage but Guatemala have the better head-to-head record. Guatemala must win at home to Costa Rica and hope Trinidad do not beat Mexico.
Able to make the play-offs: Czech Republic, Romania
Out: Finland, Macedonia, Andorra, Armenia
Important final day games: Finland v Czech Republic
The Czech Republic must win in Finland to overtake Romania, who have the better head-to-head record should the Finns force a draw.
Able to make play-offs: Turkey, Greece, Denmark
Out: Albania, Georgia, Kazakhstan
Important final day games: Albania v Turkey, Greece v Georgia, Kazakhstan v Denmark
Turkey need to win their final group game in Albania to guarantee a place in the play-offs. Should they draw or lose, then Denmark can overtake them with a win at whipping boys Kazakhstan. Although mathematically Denmark could still qualify with a draw, Turkey would need to lose by at least two goals in Albania. But with the Danes having what should be a comfortable victory in their sights, Turkey must win.
Although European champions Greece are still mathematically able to qualify, it would take a startling set of results to see them into the play-offs. They have to win at home to Georgia, hope Denmark fail to beat Kazakhstan and Turkey lose in Albania.
Able to make play-offs: Slovakia, Russia
Out: Latvia, Estonia, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg
Important final day games: Slovakia v Russia
It's a battle to the bitter end in Bratislava on Wednesday. Both teams are level on points but Slovakia have the goal difference and the first game between the two sides finished as a draw. Therefore, Russia must win or Slovakia will be in the play-offs.
Able to qualify automatically: Switzerland, Ireland, France
Able to make the play-offs: Israel
Out: Cyprus, Faroe Islands
Important final day games: France v Cyprus, Ireland v Switzerland
This group still has many permutations despite their being only two games remaining.
Israel: Despite topping the group going into the final day they have only a small chance of reaching the finals. Either Switzerland or Ireland will definitely overtake them, meaning only a play-off place is possible. They can only make the play-offs - and will be guaranteed a place if France lose at home to Cyprus. If France will they will be eliminated. If France draw they can only go through with a draw in Switzerland.
Switzerland: If they win in Ireland they could top the group. Switzerland currently lead France on goal difference with the head-to-head level. However, France can still pip them but they would need to beat Cyprus in Paris by a four goal bigger margin than the Swiss win in Dublin to edge in front on goal difference. A draw will see the Swiss top the group if France fail to beat Cyprus. Defeat sees the Swiss eliminated.
France: If, as expected, they beat Cyprus, France will be guaranteed a play-off spot. To win the group they must either outscore a victorious Switzerland by four goals or hope Ireland get something at home to the Swiss.
Ireland: Victory is a must at home to Switzerland, which would guarantee a play-off position. They would also top the group if France failed to beat Cyprus.
If both games on the final day are drawn, Switzerland will top the group and Israel will be in the play-offs on the three-team head-to-head mini-league.
In the play-offs: Norway
Out: Slovenia, Belarus, Scotland, Moldova
Norway are guaranteed a place in the play-offs due to their superior head-to-head record against Slovenia.
Qualified: Poland, England
Out: Austria, Northern Ireland, Wales, Azerbaijan
England and Poland are through regardless of the result at Old Trafford as whichever side finishes second will be guaranteed one of the spots as a 'best runner-up'.
Able to qualify automatically: Serbia & Montenegro, Spain, Bosnia-Herzegovina
Out: Belgium, Lithuania, San Marino
Important final day games: San Marino v Spain, Serbia & Montenegro v Bosnia-Herzegovina
If Serbia win at home to Bosnia they are guaranteed a place at the finals.
Spain have to win in San Marino, and could qualify if the match at the Stadion Crvena Zvezda finishes as a draw - though Spain must beat San Marino by at least four goals. Should Spain beat San Marino 4-0 and the Serbia match be drawn 2-2 then Spain and Serbia will have to play-off on a neutral ground for top spot. That also applies to the same score by scale (5-1 & 3-3; 6-2 and 4-4). If Spain win 4-0 and the draw is 0-0 or 1-1, Spain will top the group on goals scored. If Spain win by more than four goals, coupled with a draw in Belgrade, then Spain will be through on goal difference. The head-to-head between Serbia and Spain is level.
Bosnia must win in Serbia to be guaranteed a play-off spot - overtaking Serbia on the head-to-head. They can only top the group if Spain fail to win in San Marino.
In the Play-offs: Sweden
Out: Hungary, Bulgaria, Iceland, Malta
Important final day games: Sweden v Iceland
Croatia are through regardless of the final day results as a 'best runner-up'. Sweden are all but assured of qualification - see below.
For Groups 1-3, the points against the team which finished 7th are deleted to make all second placed teams equal on games played.
The Czech Republic's home loss to the Netherlands meant whoever finishes second in Group Six, either England or Poland, would go to the finals automatically.
The other automatic place for a runner-up with go to a team either from Groups One or Eight. The points stand as follows:
• Sweden 21 - goal difference of +24
• Czech Republic 18 - goal difference of +9
Sweden are effectively assured the place, though need one point at home to Iceland to be absolutely sure. Even if they do lose, the swing in goal difference required to thwart Sweden is so great it's barely credible.
Romania, who have finished their qualifying programme, were ruled out when Armenia won on Wednesday at Andorra, pushing Andorra to the foot of the table and the Romanians' points total to 19.
The Czech Republic must win, Sweden must lose and there has to be a goal difference swing of 15.
Australia cruised past surprise area finalists Soloman Islands 9-1 on aggregate last month. They will now face the fifth placed nation from South America for a place in the finals.
Qualified: Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, Ecuador
Able to make play-offs: Uruguay, Colombia, Chile
Out: Venezuela, Peru, Bolivia
Important final day games: Chile v Ecuador, Paraguay v Colombia, Uruguay v Argentina
Uruguay will face a play-off against Australia if they win at home to Argentina on Wednesday. However, should they fail to win their final fixture against group leaders Argentina the door is open for both Chile and Colombia - who are level a point behind Uruguay.
The Colombia-Chile head-to-head is level but Colombia have the advantage with a goal difference lead of 11. As Chile are behind Uruguay on the head-to-head, Chile's only hope of making the finals is if they win at home to Ecuador and both Colombia and Uruguay fail to pick up three points.
Colombia will qualify if they win and Uruguay do not. Colombia, however, do lead Uruguay on the head-to-head. So if Colombia only draw in Paraguay, they will make the play-offs if Uruguay and Chile both lose. If Uruguay lose and Chile draw, Uruguay would go through due to the three-team head-to-head mini-league.
Any thoughts? Then you can e-mail Dale Johnson.