Sunday, November 25, 2007
So the FIFA 2010 World Cup Preliminary Draw is over and we're seeing some interesting groupings. Let's get to it and give some initials reactions on the Road to 2010 ...
First off: Africa, consisting of 12 groups of four. Winners and the best eight runners-up will advance to five final groups of four. The winners - plus any team second to South Africa (this goes towards the 2010 African Nations Cup as well) - will make it to the first World Cup to be held on African soil.
Group 1: Cameroon, Cape Verde Islands, Tanzania, Mauritius
Group 2: Guinea, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Kenya
Group 3: Angola, Benin, Uganda, Niger
Group 4: Nigeria, South Africa, Equatorial Guinea, Sierra Leone
Group 5: Ghana, Libya, Gabon, Lesotho
Group 6: Senegal, Algeria, Liberia, Gambia
Group 7: Ivory Coast, Mozambique, Botswana, Madagascar
Group 8: Morocco, Ethiopia, Rwanda, Mauritania
Group 9: Tunisia, Burkina Faso, Brundi, Seychelles
Group 10: Mali, Congo, Sudan, Chad
Group 11: Togo, Zambia, Eritrea, Swaziland
Group 12: Egypt, Congo DR, Malawi, Djibouti
Initial reactions see Group 4 as a tasty one, with Nigeria facing South Africa. Although I see both teams advancing easily, especially with SA guaranteed a spot in 2010. Besides that, Group 6 with Senegal playing Tunisia is interesting.
Ok, on to Asia:
Group 1: Australia, Iraq, Qatar and China
Group 2: Oman, Thailand, Bahrain, Japan
Group 3: North Korea, Jordan, Turkmenistan, South Korea
Group 4: Lebanon, Singapore, Uzbekistan, Saudi Arabia
Group 5: Syria, United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Iran
Yikes, look at that North v. South Korea match-up. Think that'll be a passionate one or what?? Also, a rematch of the Australia-Iraq match from this year's Asian Cup.
In Asia, there's a first group stage with the top 2 sides from the 5 groups of 4 advancing to a final group stage. The winners and runners-up of the two final groups of 5 advance to the World Cup finals with the two third-placed sides playing off for the right to play an Oceania side for a final World Cup spot. (That's a mouthful ... I'm confused now. Read it slowly. It makes sense.)
As for Oceania, qualification is composed of two rounds. The first round took place at the 2007 South Pacific Games, where the top 3 teams (New Caledonia, Fiji and Vanuatu) advanced to a final round group stage with New Zealand. The winning team will then playoff against the 5th-placed Asian side for a spot in the finals.
Ok, on we go ...
To North America, where all member associations have entered the qualifying competition, which starts in February 2008. Three sides will qualify by right for South Africa 2010, with a fourth team going into a play-off with the fifth-place finisher in the South American zone. But to get there (or understand how to get there) requires some hard work. Qualifying consists of two preliminary rounds to reduce the 35 entrants to 24 and then 12 teams, followed by 3 semifinal groups of 4 (likely to occur in the second half of 2008), with the top two in each group advancing to a final 6-team group (held during 2009).
Anyways, here are the groupings:
Barbados v Dominica
Turks and Caicos Islands v St Lucia
Bermuda v Cayman Islands
Aruba v Antinga and Barbuda
Belize v St Kitts and Nevis
Bahamas v British Virgin Islands
Dominican Republic v Puerto Rico
US Virgin Islands v Grenada
Suriname v Montserrat
El Salvador v Anguilla
Nicaragua v Netherlands Antilles
The rest of the nations join qualifying in the second round when they will be seeded again based on FIFA World Ranking. The winners of the 12 two-legged ties will move into round three.
USA v Winner Match 1
Guatemala v Winner Match 2
Trinidad & Tobago v Winner Match 3
Winner Match 4 v Cuba
Winner Match 5 v Mexico
Jamaica v Winner Match 6
Honduras v Winner Match 7
Canada v St Vincent/Grenadines
Winner Match 9 v Costa Rica
Winner Match 10 v Guyana
Panama v Winner Match 11
Haiti v Winner Match 12
This next round is done on a league basis, with three groups of four countries. The top two teams in each group advance. The final stage sees one, six-team group from which the top three will qualify. The fourth placed team earns a play-off against a nation from South America.
Honestly, does it have to be this hard?? This is confusing ...
Anyways, on to Europe where qualification is somewhat simpler. Then again, graduate level Calculus is easier than North America's qualifying ...
European qualification starts in September 2008. The 53 national teams will be divided into eight groups of six teams, and one group of five. The nine group winners will qualify directly and the best eight runners-up will play home and away play-off matches for the remaining four places.
Group 1: Portugal, Sweden, Denmark, Hungary, Albania, Malta.
Group 2: Greece, Israel, Switzerland, Moldova, Latvia, Luxembourg.
Group 3: Czech Republic, Poland, Northern Ireland, Slovakia, Slovenia, San Marino.
Group 4: Germany, Russia, Finland, Wales, Azerbijain, Leichtenstein.
Group 5: Spain, Turkey, Belgium, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Armenia, Estonia.
Group 6: Croatia, England, Ukraine, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Andorra.
Group 7: France, Romania, Serbia, Lithuania, Austria, Faroe Islands.
Group 8: Italy, Bulgaria, Republic of Ireland, Cyprus, Georgia, Montenegro.
Group 9: Holland, Scotland, Norway, FYR Macedonia, Iceland.
Juicy match-up in Group 6 with England once again meeting Croatia.
Italy doesn't lookin danger of not making it and Holland-Scotland looks fun ...
As for South America, whose qualifying already started, here's how the group looks after 4 games:
Team Pts W D L
1 Paraguay 10 3 1 0
2 Argentina 9 3 0 1
3 Brazil 8 2 2 0
4 Colombia 8 2 2 0
5 Venezuela 6 2 0 2
6 Uruguay 4 1 1 2
7 Chile 4 1 1 2
8 Ecuador 3 1 0 3
9 Peru 2 0 2 2
10 Bolivia 1 0 1 3
South America has the simplest system. Ten participating teams play each other twice in a single group.
The qualification process takes about 25 months. The top 4 teams advance to the World Cup finals while the 5th place team goes into a playoff with the fourth placed North American nation.
The fun's just started! So what do you think???