Nov 13, 2013, 11:49 AM EDT
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.
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.
May 30, 2015, 10:16 AM EDT
The United States picked up the only 3 points of the opening day games as Argentina, Panama, Ukraine, New Zealand, Ghana, and Austria all played to draws.
May 30, 2015, 8:56 AM EDT
After 503 Premier League appearances, 6 Premier League titles, and 81 caps for England, the former Manchester United great is calling it a career.
May 30, 2015, 8:24 AM EDT
After winning his fifth term atop FIFA, Sepp Blatter said the United States is overstepping its bounds by arresting members of his organization.
May 30, 2015, 7:38 AM EDT
The Fulham midfielder returned from injury to assist the opener and score the winner in a 2-1 victory.
May 30, 2015, 12:48 AM EDT
Three talking points from the latest installment of MLS’s “Viernes de Futbol.”
May 29, 2015, 11:20 PM EDT
Final: Sporting KC 4-0 FC Dallas
May 29, 2015, 10:01 PM EDT
Watch the lone first-half goal of the Sporting KC-FC Dallas match, televised on UniMas tonight.
May 29, 2015, 9:39 PM EDT
An important I.R.S official told The New York Times that more indictments in the FIFA corruption investigation will be released.
May 29, 2015, 8:35 PM EDT
Newcastle has released Ryan Taylor and Jonas Gutierrez.
May 29, 2015, 7:16 PM EDT
Orlando City SC made a big announcement earlier today regarding the future of the club.
May 29, 2015, 6:34 PM EDT
Barcelona has yet to pay the remaining 83 million euros of Neymar’s transfer fee, and his former club, Santos, will sue.
May 29, 2015, 5:41 PM EDT
The Men and Blazers speak with U.S. U-20 head man Tab Ramos ahead of the 2015 U-20 World Cup in New Zealand.
May 29, 2015, 5:05 PM EDT
FA chairman Greg Dyke thinks Sepp Blatter’s fifth term of FIFA presidency won’t last.
2014 MLS Cup rematch: For the New England Revolution, it’s a new season, different game against LA Galaxy
May 29, 2015, 4:10 PM EDT
On Fox Sports 1 this Sunday, the New England Revolution face LA Galaxy in a 2014 MLS Cup rematch.
May 29, 2015, 3:30 PM EDT
Chelsea’s title-winning team dominates our picks. But there are still plenty of surprise inclusions.
May 29, 2015, 3:20 PM EDT
As the soccer world continues to react to Sepp Blatter’s fifth-term as FIFA president, his 72-year-old former VP is basically telling the law to take a long walk off a short pier.
May 29, 2015, 2:05 PM EDT
We’re in the shadow of just one rushed afternoon, and the FBI and others are watching the money float off the yacht, hoping to strike.
May 29, 2015, 2:00 PM EDT
This award went down to the final vote. Do you agree with our pick?
Prince Ali Bin Al-Hussein withdraws from second vote; Cocky Blatter speaks in power, references “offshore” future
May 29, 2015, 1:28 PM EDT
“I’m not perfect. Nobody’s perfect, but together we go.” Inspiring.
May 29, 2015, 1:02 PM EDT
There were 209 votes, and nations could abstain from voting as well.
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