2010 qualification race hots up

4 September 2009

World Cup qualification action is heating up in football-loving countries all over the world as the field for South Africa 2010 begins to take shape.

Over 75 qualifiers will take place between 5 and 10 September, and they are as large in number as they are high in temperature with South American derbies, Asian play-offs, European tussles and African duels dishing up exciting fare for fans of the beautiful game.

Many football enthusiasts will be keeping an eye on giants like Brazil, England, Germany and Spain to see whether or not they will join the six countries that have already qualified for Africa’s first World Cup.

Already qualified

The Netherlands, North Korea, South Korea, Australia and Japan have already qualified. Italy, as the defending champions, and South Africa, as the hosts, have earned automatic places in the elite field.

The 32 teams who will take part in the World Cup will be known before the end of October.

All eyes will be on Europe and South America over the next week as Brazil, Argentina and Chile lock horns in the fight for a spot in South Africa.

The 2009 Confederations Cup champions Brazil will play their archrivals Argentina, coached by the legendary Diego Maradona, on Saturday in Rosario.

South American standings

If Brazil wins this round, as well as the match against Chile on Wednesday next week, they will have a great chance of qualifying as they lead the South American zone with 27 points. They are closely followed by Chile with 26 points. Argentina is in fourth position with 22 points and trails Paraguay with by two points.

The top four teams from the South American zone will qualify for the World Cup. The fifth placed team will play against the fourth place team from the North, Central America and Caribbean zone. At the moment, this team is Ecuador.

All the South American teams, who play two qualifying matches between 5 and 10 September, have four qualifiers to play ahead of the World Cup draw, which takes place in Cape Town on 4 December.

Europe

Meanwhile, tension is high in Europe as one of the continental giants, The Netherlands, has already qualified, leaving rivals such as Spain, England, France, Germany, Russia and Portugal to battle it out.

Spain, Germany, and England are anticipated to join the Dutch, but only if they manage to win their two September clashes.

Spain are favourites to advance from Group Five, having won all their qualifiers so far. The European champions will play Belgium on Saturday and clash with struggling Estonia on Wednesday.

England, under coach Fabio Capello, lead Group Six with 21 points. They are expected to seal their qualification when they take on Croatia on Wednesday next week.

Bafana Bafana

Meanwhile, the host of the 2006 Fifa World Cup, Germany, is top of Group Four with 19 points, and on Wednesday they play Azerbaijan. Germany will also lock horns with South Africa’s Bafana Bafana in an international friendly at home on Saturday.

Other European teams expected to qualify to the World Cup include Denmark, Greece, Slovakia and Serbia, as they’re all sitting pretty at the top of their respective groups.

Pressure in Africa is swelling as some of the powerhouses of African football, such as Cameroon, Morocco and Nigeria, are expected to come back to prove their critics wrong, despite criticism from their fans.

Africa

Gabon, Tunisia, Algeria, Ghana and the Ivory Coast are currently leading their groups, but they have a lot of hard work ahead of them. Strong performances are expected from giants Egypt and Nigeria as they fight for a spot in South Africa.

Gabon is playing a double-header with star-studded Cameroon on Saturday and Wednesday. The Indomitable Lions will feature stars like Samuel Eto’o of AC Milan and Alexendre Song of Arsenal and need some good results to get their qualifying campaign back on track. It’s an ideal opportunity for Cameroon to make up ground; Gabon is currently top of Group A, while Cameroon is bottom.

Meanwhile, the Asian Zone four teams, Australia, Japan, Korea Republic and Korea DPR, have already qualified. Bahrain and Saudi Arabia will clash in two play-off matches on Saturday and Wednesday to fight for the fifth position.

Oceania

New Zealand won the Oceania Zone qualifying section, and will have to go up against the side which finishes fifth in the Asian Zone.

It is crunch time in the North, Central America and Caribbean Zone as the final ‘hexagonal’ round is about to end. The region’s heavyweights all have their sights squarely on the three-and-a-half places left in the World Cup.

Regional champions the United States, as well as Mexico, Costa Rica, Honduras, El Salvador and Trinidad and Tobago are also in the fight for the top three places. Mexico, the USA and Costa Rica to make it to South Africa.

Source: Bua News