Saturday, November 14, 2009

Advantage France, Portugal, Russia ... Greece?

The first half of the four home-and-home playoffs between second place teams out of European group qualifying ... are complete.

The scores on Saturday: France 1 at Ireland 0 ... Bosnia-Herzegovina 0 at Portugal 1 ... Slovenia 1 at Russia 2 ... Ukraine 0 at Greece 0.

And the advantages now lie with the four seeded teams -- France, Portugal, Russia and Greece. In that order.

Here is why:

France won on the road, at Croke Park in Dublin. It wasn't decisive, but a road victory is a very big deal for les bleus, who have struggled to beat anyone anywhere. But especially on the road. France now needs only a tie at Stade de France on Wednesday to secure passage to South Africa.

Portugal had a victory, at home, without the injured Cristiano Ronaldo, which is nice, because all it needs now is a tie at Zenica on Wednesday. And that might be about all the Portuguese can hope for against the testy and talented Bosnians.

Russia also has a victory, but it is stained a bit by the "away" goal the Russians surrendered in the 87th minute. Slovenia has to win, yes, but it has a little wiggle room in types of victory. To wit: A 1-0 Slovenia victory (in Maribor) sends Slovenia to South Africa 2010 because of that "away" goal. No extra time (or eventual penalty shootout) needed. But Russia still has the upper hand. A tie will do, as will any defeat in which Russia scores two goals or more.

Greece ... this isn't much of an advantage. Ukraine now gets to play at home, and will be favored to win. The advantage to a scoreless tie at home is that "away" goal thing, again. Any tie that isn't 0-0 sends Greece to South Africa. Ukraine has only one way into the finals that doesn't call for a victory, and that would be another 0-0 tie ... capped eventually by a shootout victory.

Africa had a wild day, but it was typical European order, Saturday. No victory by more than a goal, and everyone still with a shot to win on Wednesday.


  1. advantage algeria for the one-off in sudan

    but nobody knows for sure

  2. Former Galaxy veteran Simon Elliott was on the bench for New Zealand when they qualified in Wellington - maybe he'll be there in South Africa.

    There's only six matches left now - still 12 teams with a shot. Wednesday breakdown:

    Ukraine - Greece in Donetsk. First leg in Athens ended 0 - 0. Greeks will play for penalties but Ukraine will find a way to score.

    Bosnia-Herzegovina - Portugal in Zenica. First leg in Lisbon ended P 1 - 0 B-H. Home team will score more than once. Portugal is out.

    Slovenia - Russia in Marlbor. First leg in Moscow ended Russia 2 - 1 Slovenia. The late away goal for Slovenia might be the difference. Slovenia is in.

    Uruguay - Costa Rica in Montevideo. First leg in San Jose ended CR 0 - 1 U. If Uruguay blows this opportunity there will be suicides.

    France - Ireland in Saint-Denis. Same scenario after Irish 0 - Bleus 1 in Dublin. But the Irish may have a better shot than Costa Rica at stealing the goods. This French team smells like Holland used to -- too many egos.

    Algeria - Egypt in Omdurman. As you noted this one is off the charts for intensity. It's possible the teams will not live up to the hype but there's always a chance. Let's hope the Sudanese cops and military are neutral, same for whoever FIFA selects to officiate. They should call in that bald-headed "Night of the Living Dead" Italian to make a fist of this one.

  3. Here's the officiating team according to FIFA:

    * Referee: Eddy MAILLET (SEY)
    * Assistant Referee 1: Evarist MENKOUANDE (CMR)
    * Assistant Referee 2: Jason DAMOO (SEY)
    * Fourth official: Jean-Claude LABROSSE (SEY)

    SEY = Seychelles
    CMR = Cameroon

    Why FIFA picked a crew dominated by guys from a light-weight island nation that didn't qualify is worth examining.