Skip to content

European World Cup qualifying playoff round: Excellent matchups across the board

Nov 13, 2013, 11:49 AM EDT

Cristiano Ronaldo AP

The playoff round in Europe’s World Cup qualifying procedure are a fantastic reminder that not only does Europe have just an unbelievably strong lineup of teams, but also how difficult it truly is to make the World Cup.

The following have already qualified: Italy, Belgium, Switzerland, Germany, Spain, Russia, Netherlands, Bosnia, and England.

However, that leaves four more spots for European teams to snatch, and the matches to take place Friday are a treat.

First up is Iceland at Croatia at 2pm ET.  The Croatians are the favorites in the tie, but the team is in a state of flux and with the first leg in Reykjavik, it’s a chance for Iceland to not only make a statement but put themselves in an envious position.

With Croatia losing their last two matches in the group stage of qualifying to Belgium and Scotland, manager Igor Stimac decided to resign after a tumultuous one year in charge. Niko Kovac has taken over, and the Blazers will look to follow the Berlin-born man’s half-German, half-Croatian playing mentality.

At 2:45 the other three matches get under way.  These will no doubt be headlined by the matchup between Cristiano Ronaldo’s Portugal and Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s Sweden in Lisbon.

Both teams are coming off vastly different stories in their group stage travels.  Portugal got what appeared to be a cake walk of a draw, but could not overcome a surprisingly strong Russia side and finished in second place by 1 point.  Their 21 points was the second-most of any group-stage runners up.

Sweden, on the other hand, faced a very difficult draw with Germany, Austria, and Republic of Ireland all in the mix and surprised a few by qualifying for the playoff round, even coming back from 3 goals down to draw 4-4 with Germany in Berlin.

The Swedes have come out swinging in the press before the match, with Ibrahimovic saying that “we deserve to go to Brazil more” despite the Portugese being the favorites.

source: AP

Ballon d’Or favorite Franck Ribery will look to help France overtake Ukraine en route to Brazil.

France hosts Ukraine in another exciting draw.

Les Bleus had a horrendous draw in the group stage, with the presence of defending champoins Spain in the five-team group making automatic qualification almost impossible.

However, their trek to the 2014 World Cup won’t be a guarantee either against a Ukrainian side that has kept seven clean sheets in a row. Seven!

France, despite boasting big attacking names like Karim Benzema, Paul Pogba, and Ballon d’Or favorite Franck Ribery, have also held a strong defensive unit, allowing just two goals to Belarus in their last six matches dating back to June.

Finally, Greece has Romania in their path to Brazil as the Greeks only missed out on automatic qualification on goal differential having finished level on points with Bosnia.

The Greeks come into the match in Athens having kept a whopping 11 clean sheets in their last 12 matches, a 3-1 loss to Bosnia the only exception.  Their outstanding defensive form is being led by Borussia Dortmund’s Sokratis Papastathopoulos, who has taken the defensive leadership all on his own in the long-term injury absence of young star Kyriakos Papadopoulos.

The Romanians are no slouch, however, having pipped Turkey and Hungary for their spot in the playoff round.

Latest Posts
  1. Post-match: Redknapp lauds QPR character after draw with Stoke City

    Sep 20, 2014, 5:07 PM EDT

    harry_redknapp Getty Images

    QPR manager credited Potters’ solidity while extolling the value of his team’s point.

  2. Brendan Rodgers post-match comments: “A day with too many mistakes”

    Sep 20, 2014, 5:01 PM EDT

    Screen Shot 2014-09-20 at 5.00.13 PM

    The Liverpool boss didn’t see enough dynamic play from his squad after a mid-week UEFA Champions League match against Ludogorets.

  3. WATCH: Celta Vigo backheel goal is an instant contender for goal of the year

    Sep 20, 2014, 4:33 PM EDT

    Club Atletico de Madrid v Real Club Celta de Vigo -La Giga Getty Images

    Former DC United player Pablo Hernandez can take as many bows as he’d like after his stunning backheel volley put one past Atletico Madrid.

  4. Watch Live: Portland Timbers vs. Vancouver Whitecaps (Lineups)

    Sep 20, 2014, 4:23 PM EDT

    Get use to seeing more south American players heading to MLS, as Opta's office in Uruguay will help to unearth Latin American gems (see, Diego Valeri) on the cheap. AP

    NBCSNs Major League Soccer doubleheader kicks off at 5 p.m. ET in Oregon. Here are your lineups and streaming information:

  5. WATCH: AC Milan rolls out A-plus tifo before Juventus match

    Sep 20, 2014, 4:03 PM EDT

    AC Milan v Juventus FC - Serie A Getty Images

    Roughly-translated, it said, “A year of rage to be great again.” That’s good stuff, and the noisy crowd made it even better.

  6. Bundesliga wrap: Hamburg holds Bayern; Newly-promoted club atop league

    Sep 20, 2014, 3:37 PM EDT

    Germany Soccer Bundesliga AP

    There were several eyebrow raisers on Matchday 4 even before Sunday’s Rhein Derby and a big Wolfsburg match versus Bayer Leverkusen.

  7. Cameroon to host 2019 African Cup of Nations; 2021, 2023 hosts announced

    Sep 20, 2014, 3:15 PM EDT

    cameroon squad AP

    Cameroon will host the ACON for the second time in their history in 2019.

  8. Premier League roundup: Arsenal, Southampton win, Liverpool upset

    Sep 20, 2014, 2:57 PM EDT

    Aston Villa v Arsenal - Premier League Getty Images

    Recaps, videos, reaction and analysis from Saturday’s six games in the PL.

  9. West Ham United 3-1 Liverpool: Early goals send Irons to big upset

    Sep 20, 2014, 2:26 PM EDT

    Britain Soccer Premier League AP

    Brendan Rodgers side lost its third match of the young season and Sam Allardyce’s West Ham United leapfrogged the Reds with a Saturday win.

  10. After summer of “crisis”, Southampton go second in Premier League

    Sep 20, 2014, 2:17 PM EDT

    Swansea City v Southampton - Premier League Getty Images

    Saints are flying high early in the season, as preseason predictions of relegation seem to be well wide of the mark.

  11. Danny Welbeck gets off the mark for Arsenal, links up with Mesut Ozil superbly

    Sep 20, 2014, 1:50 PM EDT

    Britain Soccer Premier League

    Can Welbeck and Ozil click and become Arsenal’s main offensive weapons?

  12. At the half: West Ham builds 2-0 lead, Liverpool pulls one back

    Sep 20, 2014, 1:21 PM EDT

    West Ham United v Liverpool - Premier League Getty Images

    Raheem Stirling has narrowed Liverpool’s deficit to 2-1 at halftime in a Saturday afternoon thriller on NBC.

  13. Cisse salutes cancer-battling Jonas, Pardew defends job as Newcastle drew Hull

    Sep 20, 2014, 1:14 PM EDT

    Britain Soccer Premier League AP

    “It’s not lost on me that I get accused of being arrogant but I’m also a proud man to be manager of this football club and I’m going to fight to keep it,” Pardew said.

  14. VIDEO: Real Madrid smash eight past Deportivo; Cristiano Ronaldo bags hat trick

    Sep 20, 2014, 12:25 PM EDT

    RC Deportivo La Coruna v Real Madrid CF - La Liga Getty Images

    Watch Real’s masterclass, as the Spanish giants batter Deportivo in La Liga.

  15. Burnley 0-0 Sunderland: Third-straight scoreless draw for Clarets

    Sep 20, 2014, 12:05 PM EDT

    Burnley v Sunderland - Premier League Getty Images

    Clarets and Black Cats still searching for first win of the season after stalemate.

  16. Swansea City 0-1 Southampton: 10-man Swans can’t hold off sub Wanyama

    Sep 20, 2014, 11:57 AM EDT

    RC Celta de Vigo v Southampton - Pre Season Friendly Getty Images

    The loss drops Swansea to fifth place on nine points, while Saints jump into second place with 10 points.

  17. Newcastle United 2-2 Hull City: Cisse’s brace saves embattled Magpies

    Sep 20, 2014, 11:55 AM EDT

    Cisse AP

    Cisse revealed an undershirt message of “Always looking forward Jonas” for his teammate Gutierrez, who revealed cancer struggles earlier this week.

  18. Aston Villa 0-3 Arsenal: Red-hot Ozil, Welbeck fire Gunners to victory (video)

    Sep 20, 2014, 11:53 AM EDT

    Aston Villa v Arsenal - Premier League Getty Images

    Three goals in three first half minutes do the business for Arsene Wenger’s men.

  19. Watch live: West Ham United vs. Liverpool (Lineups)

    Sep 20, 2014, 11:50 AM EDT

    Liverpool v West Ham United - Premier League Getty Images

    Liverpool will start Fabio Borini and Mario Balotelli up top after their last-gasp Champions League win over Ludogorets midweek.

  20. VIDEO: Arsenal score three goals in three minutes, as Gunners explode

    Sep 20, 2014, 11:21 AM EDT

    Aston Villa v Arsenal - Premier League Getty Images

    Ozil and Welbeck rip Villa apart in stunning three-minute spell for the Gunners.

Featured video

Breaking down Man City vs. Chelsea