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In this week’s main listening report we preview the final set of matches of World Cup qualifiers in Europe, South America, Central America and Africa. This listening report is a shortened version of the regular weekly podcast. You can listen to the report by clicking on the link above.
It is the business end of the World Cup qualifying stages with 10 teams already guaranteed places in the finals in Brazil next summer – hosts Brazil, of course, Spain, the Netherlands, the USA, Costa Rica, Japan, Australia, South Korea, Iran and Argentina. Many of the remaining 22 spots will be decided over the next few days though thanks to a series of play-offs and second leg qualifiers in Africa we will not know the full list of 32 until November.
Perhaps the tightest group of them all is Group H where four teams are separated by only three points meaning England, the Ukraine, Montenegro and Poland all still have a very good chance of making it to Brazil next summer. England face Montenegro and Poland at home over the weekend so they very much still have their fate in the own hands but they will only be guaranteed a qualification spot with two wins. Any slip ups will probably allow the Ukraine to go top as they face lowly San Marino in their last game. This is really difficult to call but England should just about make it.
Elsewhere, Spain, Switzerland and Germany should seal their qualification this weekend but it is tight at the top of Groups F and G with Bosnia hoping to qualify from Group G – though they have wobbled in recent months and Greece are now level with them on points. In Group G Russia lead Portugal by a point and face two relatively easy games which they should win to send Cappello’s men to Brazil and Ronaldo’s team to yet another play-off. France, Croatia and Sweden should all come second in their respective groups to also make the November play-offs but Group D sees three teams (Turkey, Hungary and Romania) only separated by one point, while Group E’s play-off battle is between Iceland, Slovenia, Norway and Albania with only three points between them. Indeed, this could be an historic weekend for one of Albania or Iceland who have never qualified for any major tournament before.
Argentina have already wrapped up their qualification spot and it looks like Chile and Colombia should do the same over the weekend leaving one direct qualification spot up for grabs between Ecuador and Uruguay – with Venezuela hoping to sneak into fifth place which would give them a play-off chance. There is an increasing rivalry between Uruguay and Ecuador and the fact that they face each other over the weekend means it is all to play for and though Uruguay must travel to high altitude they are the team in form and might just make it.
The USA and Costa Rica have already booked their places meaning there remains only one direct qualification spot left which is currently held by Honduras. Three points behind them are Panama and Mexico and with only two games to go el Tri are in real danger of not making the World Cup finals. They face Panama and Costa Rica over the next five days and really need to collect all six points to stand a chance.
We are down to the final ten sides in the African qualification tournament and the five spots for Brazil will be decided by home and away play-offs. The first leg games take place this weekend with the return legs in November and there are some intriguing ties. Ghana face Egypt – two powerhouses of the continent – and if the Egyptians can get some sort of positive result away in Ghana then the return leg will be something special. Burkina Faso take on Algeria and should make it through as Algeria are not as strong as in previous years, while the Ivory Coast play Senegal and with little love lost between these two sides it will be a close call though as this will probably be Drogba’s last chance at a major tournament expect the Ivorians to make it through. Tunisia are only in the draw because Cape Verde fielded an ineligible player and they will find it difficult against Cameroon, while in the other game African champions Nigeria face surprise package Ethiopia and though many would be pleased to see the Ethiopians progress there is a feeling that Nigeria may be better equipped to do well in the finals next year.
Football vocabulary and phrases used in this week’s listening report
the business end of: The most important part of the tournament
the tightest group: The most difficult to qualify from; the most equal
have their own fate in the own hands: They can decide their own destiny; if they win they qualify; they do not have to rely on others
slip ups: Mistakes; errors
lowly: Low ranked; a poor side
they have wobbled: They have not played so confidently; have made mistakes under pressure
seal their qualification: Ensure they qualify
wrapped up their qualification spot: Sealed their qualification; ensured, finished as winners comfortably
up for grabs: Available; for the taking
to sneak into: To qualify but without anyone knowing or expecting it
el Tri: The nickname of the Mexican national side
first leg games: The first game of two
there are some intriguing ties: Really interesting games
powerhouses: Traditionally strong teams
little love lost between these two sides: They do not like each other very much
close call: Difficult to predict
fielded an ineligible player: One of their players was not allowed to play and so they were suspended
may be better equipped to do well: They are a stronger team
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