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Oct 182013

Fifa World Cup 2014 Brazil 269x300 Three Quick Thoughts on The Latest Round of World Cup Qualifiers


#1 Experience Matters

While it is always nice to see new teams break through the glass ceiling that is world football, there is a reason why it seems like the same teams always make the World Cup. When you look at the USA-Panama match from last night, there is no reason whatsoever why Panama should be celebrating in the 84th minute in the manner that they did. There was still 6 minutes left in the match (plus stoppage time) and they were playing against the United States, a team that they had only beaten once before. If it was the 92nd minute and there was no chance for the United States to even up, then dance until your heart is content. But you cannot let up against a team of the caliber of the United States. And that is just what they did.

The same can be said for Egypt in the Ghana match. Although Egypt had looked very sharp in World Cup Qualifying before Tuesday’s match, there is a difference between playing Lesotho and playing Ghana. Playing a lesser opponent you can hide weaknesses in your defense and general match fitness. But it was evident from the start of the first half that Ghana had a considerable advantage in the midfield and on the attack. As I said in the preview on Tuesday, most of Egypt’s defenders play in the Egyptian Premier League, which has not played since 2012 after the violence in the Port Said Riot, which left 179 people killed.  It is very difficult to go from playing in scrimmages and Lesotho to playing against Asamoah Gyan and Sulley Muntari of Ghana. That is why Ghana thrashed them 6-1. Egypt will need to make some considerable adjustments before the second leg of their playoff against the Black Stars to give them even a glimmer of a chance of qualifying.

I think that there are some lessons that both Egypt and Panama can take from Bosnia –Herzegovina. In the past two qualifying campaigns, Bosnia has come very close to making the World Cup, losing to Portugal both times in a two-game playoff. The country, much like Egypt, was in the process of recovering from a civil war that left their country divided (it still is in certain regards.)  Also like Egypt, Bosnia has a rich footballing history as a part of the Yugoslavia. Despite not making the World Cup, they continued to work on developing players, finding players outside of the country who could play for Bosnia (like Neven Subotic and Vedad Ibisevic,) and like Panama got their best players to play outside of their home country so that they can gain experience.  All of the hard work in developing a quality program paid for Bosnia, as they are heading to the World Cup in Brazil.

It is very difficult to qualify for the World Cup, and there are plenty of other countries that would like to be in the position that both Egypt and Panama find themselves in (Canada, China, and India, to name a few.) To make that next step, they should look to Bosnia-Herzegovina on how to get that experience to beat the better teams in their region.

#2 UEFA’s Qualification System Needs to Be Fixed

With the exciting qualifiers going on in Africa, North America, and South America yesterday it is pretty easy to overlook some of the qualifiers going on in Europe. Well mostly because so many of them involved incredibly poor teams. Oh, Poland v England was a good match. As was Armenia- Italy, and Iceland- Norway had its moments. But San Marino-Ukraine?  Greece –Liechtenstein? Hungary-Andorra? Three of these teams were in the running to qualify for the World Cup or a playoff spot. The other three had a combined record of 0-2-28 and a goal differential of -79. Although UEFA may have some of the best teams in the world, they also have some of the worst.

UEFA and CONMEBOL are unique among the different confederations in that they are they only two groups that do not have more than one qualifying round. But as opposed to CONMEBOL, which only has 10 countries, UEFA has one round with 53(!) countries playing. I find it very odd that UEFA and their fans, which constantly look down upon American club soccer for not a having promotion and relegation system would essentially employ the same system for international competitions. You won’t see Japan play Afghanistan or the United States play Dominica unless Afghanistan or Dominica qualify through many rounds of qualification, earning their spots by playing against teams of relative strength. But you can see in the final round of European Qualifying the Faroe Islands play Germany. Not because the Faroe Islands earned the spot, but because a man picked a ball out of a bowl and drew their name.

This needs to change. A preliminary round where smaller countries would otherwise be cannon fodder for the Netherlands would help address the problem. It would give the minnows an opportunity to play against teams on their level and be able to develop realistic standards for themselves. Occasionally, they will knock off a better team as well. North Korea and Trinidad and Tobago have both made recent World Cups and did not make it through to the final round of qualifying.  It will also foster competition within the lower ranks of European national teams and ultimately creates better teams. Furthermore, it would make qualification games matter more. Who would not want to see a final day of Germany v Austria or Italy v Czech Republic? The current system does not work and with plans to expand the European Championship in the next few years, I am not sure if they are moving towards my system.

#3 There are going to be some very interesting playoff matchups

November 19th cannot come soon enough. With a lineup that includes playoff matches in CAF, UEFA, and continental clashes between Jordan and Uruguay, and New Zealand and Mexico, World Cup Qualifying looks like it will end with a bang.

One of the great things about World Cup Qualifying is that every so often you get one or two teams that shock the world and qualify over a more established opponent. With countries like Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Iceland, Jordan, and New Zealand still with a shot to qualify, we could still see one or two upsets.

There has been some resolution with first set of matches in the CAF playoffs. Unless Ghana capitulates on itself, I don’t see Egypt going through. It also looks like Cote D’Ivoire is going through after beating Senegal 3-1. Unfortunately for Senegal their home match will be played in Casablanca, Morocco, a penalty for the fan violence after a home match last year. Another wasted opportunity for the likes of Papiss Cisse and Demba Ba.

But the other three matches are up for grabs. Although, a tie was not ideal, Tunisia showed tremendous poise against an aging Cameroon squad and have at least given them a shot in the second leg in Yaounde, Cameroon. Burkina Faso put them in a decent position to qualify, having beaten Algeria 3-2 at home. And Ethiopia still has a chance, though not a great one, to get a decent result against Nigeria.

Despite most pundits believing Mexico will defeat New Zealand, I am still not sure. I think that they have been given a tremendous advantage by having the first match played in Mexico City, but bear in mind this is a team that will have their fourth manager in a calendar year. There seems to be tremendous strife within the Mexican F.A., which has shown up on the pitch. New Zealand is not a great football team. Their last win against a team ranked in the top fifty in FIFA’s world rankings was against Honduras in May of last year.  They do have Marco Rojas (Stuttgart) and Winston Reid (West Ham,) but the rest of the team is made up of players from New Zealand’s first division or the A-League. Mexico has a clear advantage in talent, but as they have shown through qualifying, that matters little if they cannot work together.

I am also really interested to see how Jordan does against Uruguay. Uruguay are the kings of the playoff system, having entered two of the past three World Cups through the playoffs. Jordan should be a much easier task than their two previous opponents (Australia and Costs Rica,) but I wonder how they are going to do in Amman. Remember: this is the same Jordan team that beat Japan at home in March. Winning in Uruguay may be near impossible, but if they can sneak out a favorable result at home, Jordan may at least make things interesting in the second leg,

Of course, the more interesting matchups are still yet to be determined in Europe, with their matches being announced on Monday. Without knowing how UEFA picks the names out of the hat, it at least looks like the teams who have qualified are quality squads. Greece, France, Portugal, Ukraine, Sweden, Iceland, Romania, and Croatia would all make excellent additions to the World Cup field.

Please continue checking out the Global Football Today page for the latest and World Cup news and information!


Sean Maslin

Writer for Global Football Today, Soccerly, D.C. Soccer, Soccer Without Limits, and Blatter's Blotter. Lifetime D.C. United, Newcastle United, and Washington Warthog fan. Can be reached at @SeanMaslin on twitter or at

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