With all of this weekend’s great Euro 2008 and MLS action, it is easy to forget that World Cup qualifying is taking place in the countries of Africa, Asia, North America, Oceania, and South America. Two of today’s more interesting results were Malawi upsetting Egypt, who were the champions of the 2008 African Cup of Nations, as well as Venezuela drawing away against Uruguay.
Malawi is currently ranked 136 according to FIFA. The Flames have never qualified for the World Cup; yet, after their shock victory in stoppage time over Egypt today by a score of 1-0, the team sits in first place in Group 12. The twelve group winners and eight runners-up with the best records will advance to the second group round. In a group with Egypt and Congo DR, Malawi controls its own destiny. Amazing.
Venezuela is currently ranked 64 according to FIFA. Venezuela is the only national team in CONMEBOL never to have qualified for the World Cup. This fact is hard to phantom when you look at the nation’s recent results. In a friendly held in Boston on June 6, Venezuela defeated Brazil for the first-time ever 2-0. La Vinotinto followed up its historic victory with an important away draw against Uruguay. Playing a vital role in the outcome of both triumphs was the play of midfielder Ronald Vargas. He scored against Brazil and his second-half goal tied the match today against Uruguay. It should be noted that his club stock skyrocketed over the last few months ending with his transfer to Belgian side Club Brugge. Has Venezuela found its hero who will finally lead the country to the World Cup? We will know soon enough.