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. Teams relocated outside of eastern Ukraine ahead of new season

    Jul 23, 2014, 11:40 AM EDT

    waxtap AP

    The show will go on, but not in eastern Ukraine as fighting between pro-Russian rebels and the military continues.

  2. World Cup winner Joachim Low will stay on as Germany’s manager

    Jul 23, 2014, 10:52 AM EDT

    Coach Joachim Low of Germany sings the National Anthem of Germany before their friendly soccer match against the Netherlands in Amsterdam Reuters

    German boss reveals he will stay on as manager until at least 2016. Can you smell a dynasty?

  3. Barcelona sign French defender Jeremy Mathieu for $27 million

    Jul 23, 2014, 10:18 AM EDT

    Everton's Robles and Valencia's Mathieu fight for the ball during a cornerkick at their Guinness International Champions Cup soccer match in Miami Gardens

    Substance over style: Barca sign towering defender from La Liga rivals Valencia.

  4. Javier ‘Chicharito’ Hernandez linked with move to Inter Milan

    Jul 23, 2014, 9:29 AM EDT

    Manchester United's Javier Hernandez keeps the ball from Newcastle's Cheik Ismael Tiote during their English Premier League soccer match at Old Trafford Stadium, Manchester, England, Saturday Dec. 7, 2013. (AP Photo/Jon Super) AP

    Will the Mexican international be moving on this summer?

  5. “Luis Suarez treated like a murderer” – Former Liverpool teammate Iago Aspas

    Jul 23, 2014, 8:46 AM EDT

    Liverpool v Crystal Palace - Premier League Getty Images

    Aspas to Spanish radio: “They are treating Luis like a murderer and not like a footballer.”

  6. Ashley Cole hits back at critics, takes a swipe at Major League Soccer

    Jul 23, 2014, 8:07 AM EDT

    Juventus v Chelsea FC - UEFA Champions League Getty Images

    Cole: “People were killing me about possibly playing in the USA, saying it’s for the money and easy lifestyle, I choose to play in a more demanding place and team.”

  7. Louis van Gaal criticizes Manchester United’s U.S. tour schedule

    Jul 23, 2014, 7:38 AM EDT

    France v Netherlands - International Friendly Getty Images

    Van Gaal: “You have to fly a lot, you also have jetlag – that is not very positive for a good preparation. The tour was already arranged so I have to adapt.”

  8. Omar Gonzalez still dreams of Europe but “committed to the Galaxy”

    Jul 22, 2014, 11:17 PM EDT

    Marouane Fellaini, ,Omar Gonzalez AP

    L.A. Galaxy Insider report also speculates that Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez could take a Designated Player spot in Major League Soccer if he leaves Old Trafford.

  9. Reds’ Rodgers won’t be baited into criticizing “sensational” Suarez

    Jul 22, 2014, 10:45 PM EDT

    Cardiff City v Liverpool - Premier League Getty Images

    “It’s obviously a shame he’s not here, but Liverpool is a club that’s bigger as any individual,” Rodgers said from Fenway Park.

  10. Cardiff’s promotion hopes take hit: Caulker to QPR; Medel to Inter?

    Jul 22, 2014, 10:03 PM EDT

    steven-caulker-interview-160064-1775672_1600x900

    Inter Milan and Queens Park Rangers have swooped in for two of the Bluebirds’ best players, and Vincent Tan probably isn’t too happy.

  11. EXCLUSIVE: Luke Shaw speaks out about Manchester United move

    Jul 22, 2014, 8:42 PM EDT

    Courtesy: Manchester United Courtesy: Manchester United

    Shaw speaks to PST: “Manchester United are the biggest club in the world. I didn’t think twice when they wanted to sign me.”

  12. Pep Guardiola praises Jurgen Klinsmann’s team concept, USMNT movement

    Jul 22, 2014, 8:39 PM EDT

    Jurgen_Klinsmann_1381686c AP

    When a guy many consider a footballing genius gives the United States coach praise, that’s a pretty cool feather in Klinsmann’s cap.

  13. Premier League teams on US Soil: Tuesday’s roundup and look ahead

    Jul 22, 2014, 7:40 PM EDT

    10406860_10101280893066982_394995962427761541_n

    Premier Leaguers in the U.S. on Tuesday = A day of open training sessions, autographs, football helmets and golf clubs.

  14. Racial incident against Man City’s Fofana ends U-21 match in Croatia

    Jul 22, 2014, 6:43 PM EDT

    twitter.com/sekofofana twitter.com/sekofofana

    The 19-year-old is a promising prospect, but is dealing with negative headlines after being subject to abuse on Tuesday in Croatia.

  15. Southampton fail in bid to bring England WC goalie back to Premier League

    Jul 22, 2014, 6:24 PM EDT

    England Training Session and Press Conference Getty Images

    Fraser Forster will be sticking at Celtic, for now, after Southampton reportedly lowballed the Scottish powers.

  16. Beckham visits Manchester United; Team responds with many ‘selfies’

    Jul 22, 2014, 5:30 PM EDT

    BtLQf7KCQAAehgb

    Hand on shoulder, hair-coiffed, warm smile… next! Becks makes the rounds on the United’s U.S. tour.

  17. Sorting through the most recent DaMarcus Beasley-to-MLS reports

    Jul 22, 2014, 5:00 PM EDT

    APER SOC BEASLEY

    There have been reports of where the 32-year-old American left sider will not be going, but little as to where he will.

  18. WATCH: James hugs pitch invader; Bernabeu goes bananas for new star

    Jul 22, 2014, 3:56 PM EDT

    James Rodriguez Officially Unveiled At Real Madrid Getty Images

    For every “stars… they’re just like us” moment a player gives you, there are moments like this, which will not happen to 99.9999% of us at work in our lives