There are 11 berths left to fill in the 2014 World Cup, with four more coming from Europe, five from Africa and two more teams coming out of the Intercontinental playoffs.
All the remaining playoff matches will be held in November, as the African process has already begun over the past few days, getting the first legs over with, including one amazing result of Ghana destroying Egypt 6-1, making the second leg pretty much a protocol thing and nothing else.
There were nine teams that finished second in the groups, but Denmark were the unlucky losers, having the worst record against the other top 5 teams in the group, excluding them from the two-leg playoffs.
Who does that leave us with? Croatia, Portugal, Greece and Sweden on the seeded side; France, Ukraine, Romania and Iceland on the unseeded side. Obviously France is the team everyone wants to avoid. They are world champions in 1998, finalists in 2006 and even though they’ve struggled in recent tournaments, they will be favorites against any of their opponents. Iceland are the obvious Cinderella of this ball, having their best qualifying campaign of all time, finishing second behind Switzerland, finishing above Slovenia and Norway, with the latter making them especially happy.
Romania aren’t an easy team to deal with as well, but they haven’t been to the World Cup since 1998. Croatia, Sweden and the Ukraine all missed out on the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.
Match dates: A first leg that will be held on November 15, and a second leg on November 19.
The African playoffs for the World Cup have already begun, with five matches already played. There are no group champions that automatically go to the World Cup. Instead there are 10 groups, and the 10 winners qualify to the playoffs.
On October 12, the Ivory Coast beat Senegal 3-1 with goals from Didier Drogba, Salomon Kalou and an own goal, while Papiss Cisse scored a 96th (!!!) minute goal to keep their hopes alive. The second leg will be held on November 16, but Senegal will host it in Morocco, serving a one-year ban from playing at their home stadium imposed by the CAF.
On the next day Ethiopia hosted Nigeria, losing at home 1-2 to a controversial penalty decision in the 90th minute, converted by Emmanuel Emenike. Emenike also scored the first goal for Nigeria, while Behailu Assefa scored for the home side. The second leg will be held on November 16 in Calabar.
Tunisia hosted Cameroon on the very same day, as the two ended their match in a 0-0 draw. Cameroon will host on November 17 in Yaounde.
Ghana are practically in the World Cup with a shocking 6-1 win over Egypt, getting goals from Asamoah Gyan (2), Abdul Majeed Waris, Sulley Muntari, Christian Atsu and an own goal, while Mohamed Aboutrika scored for Egypt, who at the moment will host the second leg on November 17 in Cairo.
Brukina Faso beat Algeria 3-2 with goals from Jonathan Pitroipa, Djakaridja Koné and a late penalty from Aristide Bancé, providing the winning goal. Sofiane Feghouli and Carl Medjani scored for Algeria. The second leg will be held on November 19.
Mexico got quite lucky by having the United States beating Panama, saving them from finishing fifth and out of the World Cup picture for good. An awful qualifying campaign can still end up with a sweeter taste, playing New Zealand in the CONCACAF vs OCF playoffs. The first leg will be held in Mexico City on November 13 or 14; the second leg will be played in Wellington on November 20. Mexico haven’t missed a World Cup for qualifying reasons since 1982, making the knockout stage every time since 1994. New Zealand have made the World Cup only twice: 1982 and 2010.
There’s also the CONEMBOL vs ACF clash, as Uruguay, finishing fifth in the South American group, playing Jordan. The first leg will be played in Amman on November 13, and the second leg will be played on November 20 in Montevideo. Uruguay have been to the World Cup 11 times, making it to the semifinal in 2010, and winning the Copa America in 2011. Jordan, ranked 71st by FIFA, have never made it to the World Cup.