October has a full slate of World Cup Qualifiers on the schedule, a fact I set out in my Octoberfest post back in September. It is time for the top teams to secure their spots in South Africa in 2010, and it is time for the inferior squads to be sent home to start dreaming of 2014. Let’s check in on each confederation’s qualification progress:
AFRICA: South Africa got a free pass, but six other CAF sides will have to earn their way to the World Cup. Ghana has already booked their ticket, and a slew of other teams (Cameroon, Tunisia, Algeria, Cote d’Ivoire, etc) are hoping to do the same this month. I can’t give you a run down of who needs to beat who because it’s too elaborate.
ASIA: Asia started with 43 teams, and it is now down to five, with four already penciled in for South Africa in 2010 (Australia, Korea Republic, Japan, and Korea DPR). Fifth place finisher Bahrain will now play Oceania champion New Zealand twice to see who gets into the World Cup. The first leg is a mere two days from now.
CONCACAF: The US leads the group with 16 points, but El Tri sits one point back and Honduras and Costa Rica have refused to back down. One of these four teams will have to face a South American opponent in the playoff, and that could be terrible as it looks like ARG could end up being that opponent. SLV is down, but not out yet too.
CONMEBOL: South America has had some unpredictable results in WCQ. Sure, everyone expected Brazil to be in by now (and they are), but Paraguay has been a surprise. Even more shocking is the fact ARG sits in 5th behind Ecuador and Chile (and with three teams on their heels). A World Cup without Messi? I certainly hope not.
OCEANIA: Well, Oceania actually wrapped up its WCQ back in November of 2008, and New Zealand has earned the right to play Bahrain for a spot in the 2010 World Cup. Now, New Zealand is obviously at a huge disadvantage due to the fact they have not played together regularly (or against tough teams) like Bahrain, but I like the Kiwis.
UEFA: Finally, the European WCQ chart still looks clouded. There are still 28 teams in the running, and 13 spots available. We know the Netherlands, England, and Spain are in (but then again, we knew they would be). But, it looks like Ronaldo’s Portugal side may not make the cut. I could handle a World Cup without him, but not Messi.