Wednesday’s Qualifiers: A Quick-Hit Guide
Quickly, I wanted to prime everybody for a big day tomorrow, one of the last in this World Cup qualifying cycle. Here are the critical matches – the matches I will be tracking – along with some very brief thoughts:
[Group Number] Home Nation (Group Place) vs. Visiting Nation (Group Place) in Location
 Hungary (2nd) vs. Portugal (4th) in Budapest – If Portugal play like they did in their 1-1 draw Saturday in Copenhagen, they are likely to win the first of their road-home exchange with Hungary. They will need to win both to have a chance to beat Sweden, Group 1’s third place team. The only way for Portugal to get into the playoff is to win out and hope Sweden loses next month at Denmark.
 Latvia (3rd) vs. Switzerland (1st) in Riga – Latvia just beat Israel in Ramat Gan and sit third in the group. If they win, the playoff spot is within reach. If Switzerland loses, we could have a three-way tie at the top of Group 2, provided Greece wins at Moldova.
 Northern Ireland (2nd) vs. Slovakia (1st) in Belfast – Northern Ireland needs a win here or they’re done. They are only two points behind Slovakia for the group lead, but Slovakia has a game in hand. Northern Ireland maxs out at 20 points, but if Slovakia wins, they can’t be caught by their hosts. Even a draw means Slovakia would need only one point in their final two matches to beat out the Northern Irish, who trail on goal differential by five.
 Bosnia and Herzegonvina (2nd) vs. Turkey (3rd) in Zenica – Turkey’s four points back but need three here to be in place to take advantage, should Bosnia and Herzegonvina lose in October when they host Spain in what is likely to be a meaningless match for the Spanish.
 England (1st) vs. Croatia (2nd) in London – England, perfect through qualifying, wins the group with a win or a draw. A draw for Croatia would give them the upperhand on Ukraine for the playoff birth. Do you see where the two circles meet in the vend-diagram?
 Serbia (1st) vs. France (2nd) in Belgrade – As bad as France has played, a win would move them within one point of the Serbs with the group leaders closing qualifying by hosting Romania before visiting Lithuania. Yes, as pathetic, disorganized, and disappointing as they have been, the French could still auto-qual.
 Norway (3rd) vs. Macedonia (4th) in Oslo and Scotland (2nd) vs. Netherlands (1st) in Glasgow – It’s the final day of qualifying in Group 9. Scotland wins the playoff-eligible spot with a win or a draw. If they lose, they can get in with a draw in Oslo. Else, they will lose out on differential to either Norway or Macedonia.
[A] Cameroon (3rd) vs. Gabon (1st) in Yaoundé – Cameroon vaults into first with a win, which they are expected to get, having won 2-0 at Gabon on Saturday. Any other result and Cameroon will likely miss out on South Africa while Gabon goes.
South America (CONMEBOL)
Uruguay (7th) vs. Colombia (5th) in Montevideo – If Colombia wins, they threaten to climb into fourth (pending the Argentina result) while Uruguay is practically eliminated, being four (Argentina loss) to seven (Argentina win) points behind the fifth place, playoff spot. It Uruguay wins, they stay alive, potentially climbing into fifth pending Ecuador’s result in Bolivia. A draw hurst both teams, as Ecuador (tied on points with Colombia) is favored to win in Bolivia.
Post-publish, editorial note: I again originally spelled Colombia incorrectly as “Columbia” and had to come back half-an-hour later and correct it. Can we either petition every “Columbia” in the U.S. to change its name or arrange some kind of “swear jar” analog for me to contribute to whenever I do this? It’s been a problem for years.
Paraguay (3rd) vs. Argentina (4th) in Ascuncion – Paraguay is all but qualified and can punch their ticket with a win. Argentina now has two teams within distance of passing them for fourth, with Ecuador likely getting to 23 points (Argentina has 22).
Brazil (1st) vs. Chile (2nd) in Salvador – Brazil is going to play a weakened team, having qualified on Saturday. Chile, like Paraguay, is all but qualified, so Brazil is unlikely to be affecting an outcome by letting some key players go back to their clubs.
Central and North America (CONCACAF)
Mexico (3rd) vs. Honduras (1st) in Mexico City – The two best teams in the region, but it would be quite a coup for Honduras to go into the Azteca and derail a Mexican team that is playing this well. Mexico’s Round 9 and 10 fixtures likely will put them in regardless of this result, and if Honduras can get even a point here, what little doubts they have should be alleviated, barring an upset in Round 9.
Trinidad and Tobago (6th) vs. United States (3rd) in Port of Spain – Using the same standards I’ve used for picking the other matches in this article, this one does not deserve mention. Though I did pick this match to draw, I have to acknowledge that my predicted result is unlikely according to many analysts I respect. The United States should roll through Port of Spain and, if Honduras fails to get a win at Mexico, will lead the hex come Wednesday night.
– Richard Farley/The Kartik Report