With the World Cup Qualifying to Brazil 2014 more than half way through, it’s already easy to mark three teams that were favorites to qualify from their groups as being in deep trouble – Uruguay in South America, Mexico in the North American final group stage and Turkey in Group D of the UEFA qualifying, falling behind Romania and Hungary while it’s impossible to catch up with the Netherlands.
Uruguay, South America
After reaching the semifinal of the 2010 World Cup and winning the Copa America in 2011, Uruguay emerged as the new force in South America, spearheaded by Luis Suarez and Edinson Cavani, creating one of the most fearsome attacking duos in global football. But the qualifying tournament which began with five undefeated matches, including beating Chile 4-0 and drawing in Paraguay took the wrong turn after the Olympic games. Uruguay came back to the qualifying with a 4-0 loss in Colombia, going six matches without a win, losing all of their away matches. Now, they might see Suarez suspended for a long time, and as they fall to sixth place in the qualifiers, with even Venezuela above them in the standings, a very rough finish against Colombia, at Ecuador and a final home match against Argentina will probably decide if this will be one of the most talented sides not to make the World Cup in quite some time.
Mexico, North America
The last time Mexico missed a World Cup was 1990, being banned for playing over aged players in youth competitions, causing suspensions for senior sides as well. The last time they failed to qualify was 1982. Since then, Mexico haven’t just qualified to every World Cup, they’ve never missed qualifying from the group stage. But as the rise of Honduras and the United States is continuing as continental forces, Mexico find themselves with a side that’s too European and struggles to score, ending their first three matches in the competition in draws: Two home 0-0’s and one 2-2 draw. While it’s hard to believe they won’t make it into the top 3 or even 4 (needing a knockout two-leg clash to make it), they still have to play in the United States, Costa Rica and the red hot and surprising Panama.
Being in a group with the Netherlands meant it was always going to be a battle for second place most likely, but the Turkish team, always filled with talent, is only fourth, with both Romania and Hungary above them in the chase for second. They’ve won only two matches out of the first six thanks to some awful defending, beating only Estonia and Andorra, while losing at home to Romania and drawing at home with Hungary. There’s no one that will argue about the side being the second strongest in the group, but something about the desparity in which they attack and the unraveling tactics each time tell you it’s not going to end well once again for a side that hasn’t been to the World Cup since 2002.