Footballing superstars Ronaldo and Lionel Messi have much in common: known throughout the world as skillful players that can win a game single-handedly. Yet they also share the possibility that they may not appear in next year’s World Cup finals. In addition, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Andre Arshavin, Luca Modric, Thierry Henry, Karim Benzema, Michael Ballack, Samuel Eto’o and Kun Aguero may not be playing in South Africa in June 2010. In this week’s main report we are going to look at some of those teams that still have quite a lot to do in order to qualify.
The biggest story is of course Argentina. They currently lie in 5th position in the South American qualifying zone which would mean a play-off against a team from the North and Central American region. However, The teams lying in 6th, 7th and 8th are only 1 and 2 points behind meaning that Argentina need at least 4 points from their final two matches to make it to the finals next year. One of those games is against Uruguay who are only one point behind the albiceleste. Coach Maradona is under real pressure and he will almost certainly lose his job if they do not make it. But I think they will get through and the whole of the country will breath a sigh of relief.
As for Ronaldo’s Portugal side they have struggled all the way thrugh this qualifying section and are standing in third place – almost certainly they cannot catch leaders Denmark. However, they will hope to overtake Zlatan Ibrahimovic’ Sweden over the final two matches but they will need to score some goals something that the Portuguese have not done with much success recently – only 10 goals in 8 games from a group that includes Hungary, Albania and, with all due respect, Malta. The best that they can hope for is a play-off spot and with FIFA’s u-turn on seedings they will feel they can make it. I am not so sure they will though. Sweden to go through in second and the end of the Golden Generation.
Surely Michael Ballack will be there with Germany? After all, they are always at the World Cup, right? Well, yes but despite the fact that they have 22 points from 24 they are still nervous because they face Russia in Moscow this weekend. That’s an in-form Russia lead by World Cup master Guus Hiddink, playing on artificial turf meaning the cards are stacked against the German side who have struggled to score goals of late. A draw will do, however, I think they will win. It’s Germany, remember. But what about France? The World Cup finalists of 2006 have a stellar line-up yet have struggled throughout the qualifying campaign. How can a team that boasts Henry, Benzema, Nasri, Gourcuff, Ribery not make it to South Africa? The easy answer is probably the coach Raymond Domenech who seems to have lost all respect among fans, the media and even the players. France will make the play-offs but their lack of team spirit will mean I don’t think they will make it to 2010.
18 months ago Turkey and Croatia were the surprise packages of the European Championships but this time round the Turkish side have been poor and will not even make it to the play-offs – losing out to this year’s surprises, Bosnia. Croatia still have a chance but they have to win away in their last game and hope England do them a favour by preventing a Ukrainian win this Saturday. This might happen but I am not so sure the Croats have enough to get through a play-off in November.
The African qualifiers continue this weekend and the remaining 4 qualifying spots could be filled if results go a certain way. Cameroon are top of their group but they need to win to make sure that Togo do not catch them. That means either Inter Milan striker Eto’o or Manchester City star Adebayor will miss out. Other sides in trouble include the Super Eagles from Nigeia who need to win their last two games to stand a chance of progressing to next year’s tournament and Egypt who are the African champions but who will not be going to next year’s tournament.
Yes, Egypt will be missed, it would be a pity if Croatia or Russia didn’t make it but Argentina? That’s unthinkable isn’t it?
single-handedly: On their own, without any help
albiceleste: The nickname of the Argentinian national side (light blue and white)
with all due respect: Respectfully; this phrase is often used when someone criticises someone else but does not wish to insult them (can be patronising)
u-turn: To compete change your opinion
the Golden Generation: A group of players that have come through the ranks together (here it represents the great Portugal side of the past 15 years)
in-form: To be playing very well at the moment
cards are stacked: To be up against it
stellar line-up: A team full of stars
boasts : Includes very good players
Super Eagles: Nickname of the Nigerian national team