Europe, drawing dead.

July 16, 2009 at 11:40 pm Leave a comment

CONMEBOL has the toughest qualifying cycle of all yet there’s a far greater chance big teams will fail to qualify in Europe.  It’s all about the format each conference chooses, the number of teams they can qualify and finally, the draw.

Thanks to an easy draw the Netherlands became the first team to qualify for 2010, but is that really good for a nation that wants to challenge?  Meanwhile France probably wish they had been drawn into a different group, but they might have been just as susceptible to upsets by Switzerland or Ireland as they have been to the teams in their group.  Portugal and the Czech Republic are also notable teams that have stumbled and may not recover in time; even if they do they may have to play-off against each other or a France or Croatia.

If you simply look over the tables the biggest surprise might be Hungary.  It’s quite something to see them with a shot at qualifying again for the first time since 1986 and while they won’t remind anyone of 1954 it’s always nice to see some variety in the nations that do make it.

If you can’t tell yet from my previous short recaps, I hate predictions.  They’re tempting and hard to avoid, yet bound to embarrass you now and then.  So I like that UEFA makes predictions impossible in one way – the second-placed teams are randomly drawn against each other.  Let me say I expect most of these stumbling big teams – France, the Czech Republic and yes, even Portugal to make the playoffs.  Disappointed that I have yet to make a bold prediction?  Don’t worry, once the action is near I won’t be able to help myself.  At this distance I get to be pragmatic and go with the safe bets.

Europe will have only 13 teams in the World Cup this coming year and with the smaller numbers come greater chances at upsets.  Such is the cost of playing in Europe as the game expands.  For the fan it adds drama ahead of the big event and keeps you guessing as to who will be this year’s Turkey, Greece or Portugal.  Like CONCACAF, UEFA will fit some games in on August 12, but like CONMEBOL they won’t see a full slate of games till September.  Among the highlights will be Denmark x Portugal and Serbia x France.

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Entry filed under: Country, Other national teams.

Mexico, the USA and one… or is it? … and the rest of the world.

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