World Cup Saturday – Live Blog

All times Pacific.

9:14 p.m.

Ryan and Me, one more time, post the great U.S. result: [ mp3 ]

9:09 p.m.

The U.S. is through to South Africa. It’s just starting to sink in, but the joy of winning against a quality opponent is right there. Great win in Honduras.

But what of Honduras? They’re now fourth and with the U.S qualified, the match at RFK takes on a different dynamic.

Would it be all bad for CONCACAF if it;s Honduras and not Costa Rica that ends up in the playoff?

I’d be interested to hear your thoughts.

8:58 p.m.

The United States with an epic victory! For everybody like me that knows the talent Honduras has, be sure to note the result!

The U.S. is on to South Africa.

Let’s talk about it, the match, let’s keep this going for a little while. Ryan and I will record something quick and then we’ll be back.

8:53 p.m.

Wow! A horrible couple of minutes for Pavon!

The U.S. has created breaks and they’ve gotten breaks tonight. That’s how matches goes. The breaks they’ve gotten, though, are clustered in these last couple of minutes.

8:51 p.m.

Could this match get any more classic? Carlos Pavon skies that penalty kick. How will Honduras react?

We had some kind of weird mark-up issue with WordPress that was solved by purging half the live blog. During the interim, the comments were disabled. No idea how the problem was caused.

8:44 p.m.

This has turned into a great match to cap the day. Honduras is showing a lot of heart in trying to respond to a couple of weird goals, and the U.S. has shown great resourcefulness in getting the goals. This is a great result for the U.S., if it holds, but Honduras is showing that there is still a lot of work to do.

Bornstein is down holding his left thigh.

8:41 p.m.

Costa Rica’s reaction to the second U.S. goal. With the U.S. already qualified …

Second goal for Honduras. Howard went for a walk, and Honduras has pulled one back.

Still, the U.S. appears like they’re going to at least draw this match. They should still win. Either result allows the Ticos to get into the top three and get a lifeline to an automatic spot from the region.

But that’s the next match.

8:38 p.m.

Sign of relief, as the U.S. almost left Honduras back into it. Now, I think that might have been onside, but that happens in these matches, and the U.S. keeps their two goal lead.

8:35 p.m.

What the hell was that goaltender doing? Unbelievable! He has been horrible in preceding matches, but that takes the cake. He jumped behind his own wall!

3-1, United States. A spectacular result, and USMNT fans should rejoice. The ticket is punched!

Honduras, on the other hand, will be fourth in the hex when the final whistle blows. More on that in a second.

8:32 p.m.

Give credit to the U.S. Now with the lead, they are playing smart. They just strung together seven or eight touches. They’re playing patient. They’re holding the ball.

I would like to see them do that more after the opening kickoff, but hey, they’re up 2-1, and the approach works now, too.

Conor Casey, all. Whomever that commenter was that called our myself and Ryan, your guy got the results. Bravo!

8:30 p.m.

Did Conor Casey just punch his ticket to South Africa?

8:29 p.m.

Conor Casey is engineering a qualifying miracle! The worst defending I’ve seen from Chavez and Figueroa in a while is taken advantage of by Casey. 2-1, U.S., and South Africa is within reach!

8:28 p.m.

With a fourth goal by Costa Rica and a good save be TImmy (TIM meh!), we’re going to be focs=using on the main event from here forward. Keep up with Ray in the comments to talk about T&T, as he notes you should not be acquiring T&T defenders.

8:25 p.m.

The Third Half’s Johnathan Starling gets in touch to tell us Costa Rica is up 3-0. Are they back on track? After a bad preceding break and a bad half? Or, is this just T&T on the road?

8:24 p.m.

Ray and Kartik update us on Costa Rica, now up 2-0.

8:20 p.m.

Valladares has been a disaster for a while now. Kartik noted in the comments before the match that has was Honduras’s weak link. If you’re a goaltender and you come off that line, you have to get that ball. Say whatever you want about what happened in the air between the two players, but that ball has to be won, and the U.S.’s advantage in that area (Howard’s made a number of good reads tonight) has manifest on the scoreboard.

We’re back even, and the Yanks have a good chance to get a result in this one.

8:13 pm

How does Bob adjust? Ideas?

Bob needs to put on a team that can keep more possession and build attacks. But this gets back to the same problem we’ve always talked about with this team. But also, wouldn’t it be nice to have Castillo to overlap behind Donovan?

But what about right now? What can Bob do in this moment?

I think you need to take off one of the deep two for Benny …

Give me my crow! Casey just tied it!

More in a second.

8:11 p.m.

The States give up a foul in a critically bad spot, and Honduras converts. 1-0, Honduras, and now it must be seen how each side adjusts.

More in a second.

8:02 p.m.

I imagine everybody is going to take what they want from the first half. The optimists are going to look at the opportunities garnered from the counter and see hope. The pessimists will look at Honduras’s control of play and ability to move into attack and see clouds.

We are probably looking at a situation of which one works first. I would rather be Honduras, but that doesn’t mean the U.S. can’t score a goal and get three points. Regardless in the faith you have in the Yanks to do that, they’re still going to have to find a way to make it tougher on the Hondurans to get into attack. Be it down the flanks or over-the-top, the U.S. is not stopping them, and it’s only a lack of quality in the last ball or touch that’s failing the hosts.

Ray’s latest update on CR/TT.

We’re at halftime in Honduras. As with any close match, there are two ways to look at the action.

I don’t know anybody that would be happy with how the U.S. has played, but they’ve had moments, particularly Holden-Davies teaming up for a goal.

However, based on how the bulk of the half was played, you have to feel better if you’re supporting Honduras.

Thoughts? Suggested changes?

7:45 p,.m.

So how about Conor Casey, huh?

That’s harsh, considering the sample size, but on MLS Talk podcast we spent a lot of time talking about the virtues of trying to clog the midfield against Honduras, and right now the U.S. is not seeing enough of the ball, Honduras is having far too much ease getting into attack, and Casey is a non-factor. I also think Altidore and Ching would have ineffectual. I would love to have another midfielder out there, but if Feilhaber in a deeper role or Torres.

Just somebody different.

7:41 p.m.

Another incredibly dangerous cross from Honduras. There have been multiple times when a ball is played and you can tell looking at Howard that there isn’t much he could do, if the ball is played well. That’s nothing against Howard. It’s a comment on the ease with which Honduras is being allowed to target men in the box.

But for all these problems, the U.S. has still had moments where they have been dangerous, and the U.S. has shown an aggression in the counter that makes them a serious threat.

7:34 p.m.

Costa Rica in front. Ray’s report.

So now, in addition to getting down either flank freely, Honduras is showing they can go over the top and get into attack, playing balls from the back (U.S.-style).

Somethings’ going to have to give.

And just like that! Davies get two great chances off of an initial cross from Holden. THe U.S. has the athleticism to be a constant threat, and that shows you how.

Figueroa completely misjudged that cross.

7:31 p.m.

The U.S. seems to have little idea a.) how to keep Honduras from penetrating down the flanks (updating previous note: they haven’t gone through Holden’s side in 10 minutes), or b.) how to prevent good opportunities once Honduras is there.

It’s like the U.S. defense says “Well, they got deep.

“I sure hope they don’t convert this opportunity.”

Obviously, that’s an exaggeration, but even when Bornstein let that ball get played behind him for that brilliant opportunity, you have to ask what’s going on.

7:27 p.m.

Both teams seem to be settling into the match around the 20th minute. I’m not sure that’s a good thing for either side.

The U.S. is playing passively until presented with a giveaway or other mistake. Then, they pounce. That’s a fine strategy, testing in many forms, but it requires better play at the back than we’ve seen from the U.S. It has, however, led to three corners and two other important dead balls, and the U.S. have got to love getting those dead balls.

For Costa Rica, they have found in-roads into attack, and have made themselves dangerous numerous times, but they are not doing what it takes to score goals – providing that last bit of quality on the last ball. They also don’t see to be concerned about this, and they really should be using this time of the match to put the U.S. to the sword.

The longer this goes, the more time the U.S. has to get their bearings …

… and the Tim Howard has to come off his line to get a ball. So much for those bearings.

7:24 pm

Ray updates everybody on what’s going on at Saprissa. NOthing much, surprisingly, as Costa Rica looks unchanged from the poor team we saw last break.

If I was let down by the match’s first ten minutes, Honduras has changed that since, as they’ve controlled minutes eleven though seventeen. The U.S. just pounced into attack and won a corner – one of the few viable ways the team can score goals (dead balls) – but it remains to be seen if minutes 11-16 are just a stretch.

Now, seeing those two corners, I would be very worried if I were the Honduras staff.

7:20 p.m.

On the last MLS Talk, I mentioned you don’t know a player’s weaknesses until he’s playing full 90 minute matches at this at this level.

Early, Honduras is going through Stu Holden’s side, starting their attacks high.

7:19 p.m.

Spector is beat, beautiful cross played through the box the neither Honduran forward nor U.S. back was there to play. That two times in minutes that the Hondurans have been able to play a ball aggressively through the box, with the U.S. not doing anything about it.

7:16 p.m.

Perhaps I’ve watched too much football today or my expectations were high because the U.S. is involved in this match, but I expected more out of the first twelve minutes of play. Both teams have asked questions, but more often they’re just reading, at this point.

7:09 p.m.

We saw there one weakness in Palacios’s game. He is not good in distribution at this point in his development. Bornstein stepped in, started a break, and Costly had to pull down Donovan. The U.S. can take advantage of those mistakes and should continue looking for them.

Shortly after, Honduras was almost put in on goal. It’s a very mixed back for both sides at this point. Very early.

7:06 pm

You can see that there is no formation change for the U.S. (and likely no tactical change) Casey is up top with Davies, and it’s the 4-2-2-2 all around.

6:57 pm

Look at the atmosphere in Honduras. It is beautiful. Let’s hope we don’t here the horror stories we heard from Azteca, but these pictures are amazing. Congratulations to Honduras for having a night like this in the middle of what they’re going through.

Get your last thoughts in now. Let’s hope all of the guys play hard.

6:50 pm

Ryan and Me: Our last thoughts on the match: [ mp3 ]

6:33 pm

We’re gearing up for the match.

6:07 p.m.

Kartik has posted the lineup to our comments section: Howard; Spector, Onyewu, Bocanegra (c), Bornstein; Holden, Clark, Bradley, Donovan; Casey, Davies.

Thoughts on Conor Casey?

I find it unbelievable. We talked about Brian Ching, and I was essentially “might as well go 4-5-1.”

Imagine how I feel about Casey.

5:32 p.m.

If you are going out to see the match tonight, check with The Kartik Report on your handheld. Some of us will be updating the site that way.

5:30 p.m.

We’re in the slow burn right now, people. Thoughts on what’s about to happen in Honduras? There are a lot of angles on this match, be it the U.S. defense, how the attack deals with Palacios and Figueroa, or the political situation.

I’m going to look at news, play in the comments, and get ready for 7 p.m.

5:25 p.m.

How to kill the time between now and the USMNT match?

Ryan and I talk about it and a few other things. And, he sings his favorite football chant. [ mp3 ]

5:03 pm.

It is over in Quito. Stunning, stunning win for Uruguay. They are now in fifth, and that’s bad news for Argentina. Now, there is a scenario by which they miss the World Cup.

If Ecuador wins in Chile, they’ll get fifth. Then, the team that wins in Montevideo will get fourth. If they draw, Uruguay is out and Argentina likely beats Ecuador on a tiebreaker.

Not good news for Argentina, but a great result for Uruguay. For Ecuador, it could have been much worse. The other results broke their way.

5:01 p.m.

A PERFECT CONVERSION FOR FORLAN. Uruguay will win, vault into fifth, and Uruguay-Argentina on Wednesday could now put the loser out, depending on what Ecuador does earlier that day.

5:00 p.m.

Stoppage time penalty kick given to Uruguay in Quito! This could save their World Cup hopes. Ecuador keeper takes down a man in the both. Diego Forlán will take it.

4:50 p.m.

Just when I turn my back, Argentina and Peru exchange stoppage time goals. It’s 2-1 in Buenos Aires towards the end of the match. Palermo has one of the goals!

4:56 p.m.

Both Ecuador and Uruguay have asked questions in the last four minutes, but they are not throwing people into attack like they have at earlier points. Forlan is one of the players who’ve asked, but he’s only good for spurts of effort, at this point. Ecuador looks the more capable, but they’ve show little stomach for the kill.

Rondón’s pulled one back for Venezuela, but they really need two more.

México has a third goal. Sorry, have to say it: This is the same El Salvador that had a point-blank shot to draw in Utah.

4:48 p.m.

We’re fifteen minutes away from a break the break before the USMNT qualifier. Some of us will watch some of the Revolution-Crew. Others of us will sleep. Others will eat or do all those other little things we tend to forget to do when watching football.

Some of us will do all of the above.

Around the hemisphere. Ecuador and Uruguay have again settled in. The game got a bit chippy after the Suárez goal. It’s as if Uruguay is happy the responded (they should not let themselves be content) and Ecuador is cautious of giving up another goal.

In Argentina, it’s what you’d expect. Argentina has not poured it on, but who expected them to?

And Paraguay has, in all likelihood, eliminated Venezuela. Ray tells you how, here.

4:42 p.m.

Chile and Mexico have both doubled their leads, with Chile punching their ticket to South Africa. Congratulations to them, as they’ll become the third CONMEBOL team to book passage.

Blanco is getting credit for Mexico’s second goal.

4:39 p.m.

It was the work of Forlán, the finish of Suárez, and the lack of quickness at the back line for Ecuador that allowed Uruguay to respond. There was a particularly long goal celebration for Ecuador. I wonder how much that helped Uruguay regroup and answer quickly.

Regardless, we have a fatigue casualty, as Diego Perez has to leave for Uruguay.

Edison Méndez’s free kick from 27 meters does nothing.

4:36 p.m.

Luís Suárez scores second after the kick off. Ecuador’s defense breaks down, allowed penetration, a bouncing cross, and Suaréz finishes. 1-1!

As Claude tells us, Chile has taken the lead back through Jorge Valdivia, who came on earlier for Fernández. Given the timing of Fernández’s substitution, it looks like he got hurt.

Ecuador just broke through. Antonio Valencia, set up but substitute Jefferson Montero, gives Ecuador the lead and likely clinches a top five finish for them. Valencia’s scoring “touch” does not fail him that time.

And everything continues coming up roses for Argentina.

4:32 p.m.

Gioavanni Morano has tied it in Medellin. The star of their win last break against Ecuador has finally gotten his first international goal (had one poached from him last break), and it’s a big one. Colombia needs a win to stay alive in qualifying. A draw puts them five behind Argentina and four behind Ecuador (given current results).

Both sides have used all their subs. Remarkably, both Matías Fernández and Mark Gonzalez are off for Chile. I’m surprised.

4:28 p.m.

Jefferson Montero is now on for Ecuador. They had not threatened Uruguay all half, and the fresh legs will help as we move beyond the sixtieth minute and the Uruguayans start to feel effects. Ecuador has just increased the pace, and it looks like they’re gearing-up for a final surge to end the match.

What did the last line of my previous update mean?

If Venezuela does not win (they’re down 1-0), Colombia loses (they’re down 2-1), and Ecuador wins (they’re tied), Argentina clinches top five despite not playing well at all. Some might want Ecuador to lose so Argentina can pass them, but for the Albiceleste, they should be happy guaranteeing they’ll play Costa Rica next month.

Uruguay just made their first change. Luis Suárez is still active.

4:22 p.m.

This was something we cautioned about in our preview, though we actually recommended they do it.

Ray tells us that Venezuela had caught throwing people forward, and Paraguay has taken a 1-0 lead.

Everything is breaking right for Argentina.

4:21 p.m.

Martin Palermo is on the sideline with a bloodied nose. Just just now getting up. Actually, he’s just been waved on.

Ecuador and Uruguay are more of the same, so we’re going to have to wait for a few more minutes to see if the Uruguays start to fade like they did in the first half. Edison Ménez just forces a corner with a burst of speed. That may be the first hint this half.

4:11 pm.

Gonzalo Higuain, the man who Maradona continuously claimed was not ready for national team duty, the man who was pursuing other passports, scores to get Argentina on the board against Chile. A great, threaded, perfectly weighted ball from Pablo Aimar is put home, and Argentina may be saved. More than saved, if Ecuador win and Venezuela draws, they will survive the week.

4:08 pm

Martin Palermo is coming on for Argentina.

4:06 p.m.

Everybody gearing up for the main event? We’re still three hours away from kickoff, but the match a lot of our readers want to see is yet to come. Honduras hosts the United States, and given the U.S.’s form and the political unrest in Honduras, predictions for this one are hard. Predictions or not, what are your thoughts?

Around the Western Hemisphere, Argentina has been horrible, but they are still playing Peru and need only one goal. That they haven’t found it yet it quite an indictment, but Maradona is still set to skate through (again), and if Ecuador can beat Uruguay, they are actually in somewhat good shape – especially of Venezuela does not get three points.

At some point, it’s unfair that a team in such disarray, with such incompetent leadership might make it through, but because Uruguay had that incredible loss in Lima, Argentina, though they’ve been horrible today, are still favorites to finish in (at least) fifth.

Yeah. I know.

How to solve Argentina’s problems?

3:56 p.m.

Ecuador goes in to halftime utterly disappointed not the have broken through. They look at each other, then the referee, in disbelief that the first half played out like that. They still look good bets for three, but Uruguay has held out, and now Ecuador is either doubting or questioning. They’re frustrated.

All matches are at half, with no score change from the last update. Time to chat-it-up with everybody to get ready for the second half. Let’s hear from everybody what’s going on in the hemisphere’s five matches.

3:51 p.m.

They’re at half in Buenos Aries, and despite the Albicelestes having all the good chances, it’s scoreless.

Ecuador and Uruguay are headed for a similar fate. They’re minutes from half time, and while Uruguay had the best early chances, Ecuador has been the more inquisitive over the last half hour. Uruguay’s going to get the break to recharge, try to find an early goal, and get a desperately needed result.

Venezuela hasn’t found a goal versus Paraguay, and Chile and México still have their one goal leads.

3:44 pm

Ecuador just had another good chance through Benítez, but for the most part both sides have settled in. Ecuador supporters are becoming a bit perplexed by their team’s willingness to give the ball away in the final third.

Argentina seems to have finally figured out Peru. They’re runs have become more frequent and aggressive, and combine with more (and greater ease of) possession in the attacking zone, Argentine is controlling the match. It is, however, still scoreless.

Chile’s back on top of Colombia. Claude tells us how.

3:33 p.m.

Ray updates us on Venezuela, who gave Nestor Ortigoza a start. Ortigoza is the Argnetina who Gerardo Martino (and Argentine) has brought in. For the most part, other than that, Paraguay is starting a full squad, including Salvador Cabañas.

This is a match Venezuela should win, and if you want a Cinderella story, follow them. They’re a young group that was not expected to compete until next cycle, but with the mediocrity of Argentina and Uruguay, htey have a chance to qualify for their first World Cup.

3:30 pm

Christian Naboa has picked up a yellow card in Quito, the first the referee has given after a number of opportunities to open his book. Like almost every match with Ecuador, this one is becoming physical (not dirty, physical).

Uruguay is looking like they’ve either started pacing themselves or are getting winded. They’re not pressuring as high as they were. They’re probing is less frequent. Ecuador is controlling play a bit more.

Blanco has gotten Mexico on the board. It’s 1-0 Mexico, but we knew that was going to happen.

That control isn’t leading to anything, yet.

3:19 pm

In addition to getting to threatening down the flanks, Ecuador is now able to create opportunities through the middle, and while they have not clearly solved their Forlán-Suárez problem, keeping the ball from the Uruguayans has solved a number of evils. We’re still 0-0 at the Olimpico.

An own goal has Colombia up 1-0 over Chile. Unbelievable that Colombia continues to find ways – remarkable ways – to stay alive. This match is far from over (I’d still beg money on Chile) but it’s another struck of fortune for Colombia.

Ray updates us on Mexico. Despite shaking things up, they are doing fine.

3:13 pm

Ecuador just had the best opportunity of the young match when a sliding Christian Benítez barley missed an Antonio Valencia start. You’re seeing some signs of fatigue from Uruguay – players bunched together and not reestablishing their shape, people not fully developing attacking opportunities – but it’s too early to know for sure.

Ray’s keeping us up-to-date on the Mexico match, which had to be stopped because of bees. They’ve taken a fire extinguisher to them.

Forlán just had a great chance for Uruguay, and an active Luis Suárez is giving the Ecuador back line problems.

3:11 pm

Ray let us know that Javier Aguirre’s doing to use tonight’s match to get Carlos Vela a start.

Uruguay has come out strong against Ecuador, but that was less the issue than whether the altitude will keep them from maintaining that strong start. We’ll see after a few more minutes. We’re in the the now.

Argentina has had a couple of early chances against Peru, and the crowd has been a of great support. That could change of the team goes long without breaking through.

3:00 p.m.

Argentina is a litany of changed faces: Higuain, Perez, Di Maria, Aimar, E. Insua, Schiavi.

I’m just … a bit shocked. I knew this was coming, but to see it officially happen.

We’ll see if they can beat Peru, a team that’s won twice in sixteen qualifiers.

2:50 p.m.

Players are on the pitch in Argentina. I see Mascherano, so it looks like he is fit enough to play. There was a murmur about a leg injury.

2:35 p.m.

With Portugal having pulled-away from Hungary and into the UEFA playoff (in all likelihood), it’s time to take a break but also start shifting out focus.

In 25 minutes, all four CONMEBOL matches start:

Ecuador hosts Uruguay
Colombia hosts Chile
Venezuela hosts Paraguay
Argentina hosts Peru

During the match, I’ll be linking to the comments that keep us all up-to-date. I’m going to back jumping around but focusing mostly Ecuador-Uruguay.

Pre-match thoughts? I think Colombia’s run ends, Ecuador and Argentina stay on course, while Venezuela sits stays in the wings, waiting for one of Argentina or Ecuador to stumble on Wednesday.

2:30 p.m.

Kartik updates us, from half-a-world-away, on the U-20 World Cup:

I tried to catch some Zs here to be ready for Mexico and the US early morning here, but the Costa Rica- UAE game was too entertaining. Costa Rica scored a stoppage time winner in extra time after a man had been sent off for the Emirates.

Looks like there are two sleep-deprived authors at TKR.

BTW, figured out why the audio on the quick cast was so choppy. Sorry, using the laptop.

2:24 pm

A third goal, a second from Simão who beat the keeper near post with a great finish: taking a cross from the left and volleying a good ball into the ground, bouncing over the keeper, into the goal.

This match is turning into more than just a rise to second place, which would be huge in-and-or-itself. This is turning into a confidence booster for the whole Portugal squad. This is turning into a vindication for Queiroz. This is turning into the memory these players will carry into the playoffs and, when their next moment of adversity arises, the memory will be called upon to give them the confidence needed to recover.

If this type of game had been played a year ago, Portugal would have never drawn twice (scoreless) with Sweden. But then again, given the stakes, this match COULDN’T have take place a year ago.

Portugal has FINALLY broken through for a second goal. Lisbon erupts with satisfaction as Portugal will leave tonight’s match in second place and back on track for a World Cup appearance. They will be one of the beneficiaries of the seeded system for the UEFA playoffs, though they will have difficulty with almost any of the teams.

Deco has been very good. Raul Meireles has also stepped-up. Even wit Ronaldo going out, this is the best match Portugal has played in qualifying. If they play like this through the playoff, they will go to South Africa.

However, it remains to be seen whether they can consistently play at this level.

2:12 p.m.

Portugal continue to dominate their match with Hungary, but it’s still 1-0, but whereas Portugal’s attack had been toothless, they’re not having goals stolen from them but Hungarian goalkeeper Gabor Babos has had two great saves in the last six minutes (one shot was probably going wide, though). As opposed to fifteen minutes ago, when you felt Portugal could go empty all match, now you feel like it’s a matter of time, unless Gabor Babos continues these heroics.

2:04 p.m.

Italy needed Albert Gilardino stoppage time goal to get a draw in Ireland. The result, 2-2, was far more goals than most expected, and it certainly didn’t play out in the “we both want a draw” way, but it’s the same in the end. Italy is now on to South Africa. Ireland is in the playoff.

Kudos to Giovanni Trapattoni and Ireland on a great qualifying tournament. I would not favor them in the playoff, but if they are in South Africa, I would not be shocked.

With late goals from Nicolas Anelka and Karim Benzema, France ended up winning 5-0 over the Faroe Island. They are now locked into the playoff, with Serbia winning that group.

An Portugal continues to toothlessly brutalize Hungary. Still 1-0, but Hungary’s not seeing any of the ball.

1:54 p.m.

Audio Catch-up A brief message from me and a friend who’s been hanging with me today: MP3 file

Claude updates up on Belgium FINALLY playing well. Too little, too late.

It’s halftime in Lisbon, an Portgual is up 1-0 after Hungary put one off the crossbar right before the whistle.

Serbia ended up winning 5-0 over Romania. I thought the Serbs would pull away at the end, but I completely underestimated by how much.

Nejc Pecnik was the one who added the last Slovenia goal.

With the European barrage of matches wining down, I will be catching up on comments and news while updating on the Portugal-Hungary match. At 3:00 p.m. Pacific, we’ll be watching a couple of the South American matches, with particular focus on Ecuador-Uruguay.

In a surprising result, Slovenia wins 2-0 at Slovakia and ends the Czech Republic’s hopes. Mathemetically, the Czech Republic’s alive, but Slovenia would have to lose at San Marino. No chance, Slovenia’s at least in the playoff and, if Poland beat Slovakia on Wednesday, are straight through to South Africa.

Portugal has given Hungary some good chances, but they remain aggressive. José Bosingwa seems fine, having missed his last match with Chelsea. Deco, in particular, has been active, and if he gets more time with Chelsea, Portugal will not only be a force in the playoff but also a team that can win a knock-out match in South Africa.

Time is running down in the first half, an Deco just found Carvalho for a free header. Carvalho put it over.

Geaks just scored his fourth goal for Greece, who is now up 5-2. What a day, and it probably got Greece into a playoff. Which, bares reminding …

The seeded pool in UEFA is starting to take shape. I will in all likelihood been Russia, Portugal, Greece and France. That will league Ukraine, Bosnia and Herzegonvina, Slovenia, and Ireland in the second pot.

Serbia is now up 4-0 on Romania. They are going to South Africa.

Slovenia is up 1-0 on Slovakia with the clock winding down. The win would basically guarantee them top two, with a trip to San Marino coming on Wednesday. Slovakia goes to Poland and may need a win to avoid the playoff (as Slovenia’s tiebreaker hopes are helped by getting to beat up on San Marino).

Nani was Ronaldo’s replacement.

Mentally, this could be dicey for Portugal. Let’s see if they ease up after a great start. It will be tempting to do so, after their best player left injured.

Given the pressure Portugal making maintained in the first five minutes after the substitution? So far, so good.

1:08 pm.

So, I had to restart my computer 😦

In the interim, Cristiano Ronaldo set-up Simão (indirectly) for the opener against Hungary. Portugal looks better than at any other time in qualifying.

Greece has added a fourth goal and are up 4-2.

France has scored a third goal against the Faroes. William Gallas has the third, adding to Andre-Pierre Gignac’s brace.

UAE and Costa Rica and in extra time in Egypt, another U-20 match needing more than 90.

Greece is now kicking the ball around a bit, and Latvia’s lost a bit of their desire.

Ronaldo, who created the goal, is being subbed off for Portugal. He clearly was not 100% healthy and probably deserves the credit for getting his nation a critical goal. Let’s see if Queiroz can make it hold it.
<hr />

12:54 p.m.

Denmark is through to South Africa, joining Germany and Cote d'Ivoire. They win in Copenhagen, 1-0. Sweden will fall to third in Group 1 unless Portugal-Hungrary ends in a draw. We will be focusing on that match, next.

Greece is up 3-2, but Gekas just had a chance for a FOURTH goal. Latvia is starting to push foward, and the Greeks are taking advantage.

Slovenia has pulled ahead of Slovenia. Robert Koren with the goal.

<hr />

12:48 p.m.

A well-organized Denmark back line has cuahgt Sweden offsides at three critical points in the second half, the last coming a few second ago as Sweden put the ball into the box. Denmark gets the call and gets to burn time setting up for the kick.

France is up by two forty minutes into their match with the Faroes. Serbia's scored a second goal. That group looks settled.

Czech Republic has gone up on Poland. It's 1-0 in Prague. Slovakia and Slovenia are still scoreless. If these results hold, the Czech Rpublic would vault to second place, though Slovenia has a match-up on Wednesday that would allow them to make up the one goal that would separate the two teams.

Gekas just scored his third goal of the match for Greece. The Greeks lead Latvia 3-2. Awesome match.

<hr />

12:42 p.m.

Denmark is packing it in when Sweden has the ball. They had eight in the box for Larsson's last cross. With the ball, however, Rommedahl and Bendtner have both gotten the ball in dangerous positions in the last two minutes.

Greece and Latvia is turning into a great match. In no match I've seen today have both teams played harder.

<hr />

12:38 p.m.

Greece just converted a penalty kick to draw even with the Latvians. It's 2-2 in Athens.

Andreas Isaakson should have done better, but Poulson has put Denmark into the lead, late, and likely has put them into South Africa. Poulson has also given Portugal their route to the playoff. It's 1-0 in Copenhagen.

<hr />

12:36 p.m.

Sweden has had enough chances, and it's been so long since Austria had a decent one, that there is starting to be a matter-of-time feel about the match. Austria has gotten a little rough-with-frustration with Ibra, another route by which the Swede could score.

They just kicked off in Athens.

Mauro Camoranesi, whose had a resurgence over the last month, got Italy's equalizer.

Denmark just threatened twice, though got no shots out of it. Time is running down in Copenhagen, and you can't help but think Denmark would be happy to get one point.

<hr />

12:32 p.m.

Kartik is getting only one match, the UAE-Costa Rica match form the U-20 World Cup in Egpyt. <a href="">His last update.</a>

Sweden almost had a moment of absolute brilliance from Ibrahimovic, whose back heel into space from the edge of the box was put on goal by an offsides Henrik Larsson. The linesman raised the flag.

I've switched to the Spanish audio for this match, and I"m having a much better time now.

Sweden is still all about Ibra, but Denmark has had fewer quality chances than they had at the end of the first. Bendtner is no longer a factor.

Ibrahimovic just set up another goal, and again Sweden was offsides.

Greece and Latvia are about to kcik off their second half.

Italy JUST equalized. More to come.

<hr />

12:20 p.m.

We're fifteen minutes into the second half in Copenhagen, and nothing much has changed. On the large, Denamrk has been the better side, and you can see where they will eventually earn a goal. In some ways, Sweden is the more dangerous side, as they are committed to getting Ibrahimovic as may chances as possible. I wonder if Ibra is going to be slack jawed at match's end, and if he is, there don't be the same late magic that helped Sweden last month.

<hr />

12:12 p.m.

Some goal updates:

Serbia's ahead against Romania. Nikola Zigic got it.

Latvia's ahead thanks to Maris Verpakovskis's second. They're one minute before time in the first.

Ireland's goal was .. well, <a href="">this says it better.</a>

<a href="">Calude updates on Belgium and Turkey.</a>

<hr />

12:10 p.m.

Potential shock result: Latvia has done up 2-1 just before half.

ANOTHER potential stunner: Ireland us up VERY early on Italy.

Goal scorers on the next update.

<br />

12:08 p.m

Franch has kick off against the Faroes. Likewise, Ireland and Italy.

Ireland and Italy stood to be a very sterile affair until Buglaria lost and ensured Ireland is in the playoff (they will beat Norway for at least eighth place). Trappatoni might open it up, or (at leasT) his players won't be afraid to be aggressive.

We're getting close to the second half in Copenhagen. I'm going to keep the Greece match in one eye but the Denmark-Sweden match in main focus.

<hr />

11:59 a.m.

In Egypt, UAE and Costa Rica are tied at one at half. UAE eliminated a good Veneauela side in the last round. Costa Rica is carrying the flag for CONCACAF.

Austria scored early against Lithuania though Marc Janko.

Greece continues to win corners and otherwise threaten Latvia. We're fifteen minute before half, still tied at one, and I don't have any idea how this is going to play out. Greece seems the better side, but they also seem …

OK, they just showed the goal highlights, and both of them wre absolutely beautiful goals. The Greek goal wen into the upper right hand corner of the goal, possibly hitting both crossbar and post, while the Latvia goal was scored off a scissor kick to finish a ball that had been popped 20 feet in the air.

<br />

11:52 a.m.

Greece certainly looks the better of these two sides, but Latvia has had two moments of danger in the 6-8 clock minutes I've watched. They are playing harder, if less efficiently, than Greece, who just forced a corner.

One thing to say for this match. Being played at in Athens, that running track around the pitch is bad. When you're in a venue, it's horrible, and on TV it's unattractive.

Doesn't affect play, though.

<hr />

Off one of the many corners Sweden has earned, the visitors just got their best chance in Copenhagen, a header that went to a well-positioned Sorensen. Even though the Swedes are stil dangerous, Denmark is now starting to convert some of their patience into ambition. Minutes before half, Sweden might want to get to the interval and reset.

At half time, I'll be switching to Greece-Latvia, where the Latvians struck back within eight minutes of Theofanis Gekas's goal. Maris Verpakovskis got the equalizer.

We're only seconds before half in Copenhagen. NOw it's half.

<br />

11:40 p.m.

Serbia has kicked off against Romania, where they are looking to qualifying in their first qualifying cycle (they qualified as Serbia and Montenegro in 2006).

Greece has scored early against Latvia. If they win, they all but wrap-up at least the playoff spot, and they stay alive for a goal differential win of the group (if Switzerland loses to Israel on Wednesday). If Greece go into the playoff, they help push Ukraine into the unseeded pod and the whole world closer to a Ukraine-Russia playoff.

Denmark has gotten the measure of the match and are slowly starting to generate their first opportunities. That unproductive patience they showed earlier has become productive, and Bendtner is finding more of the ball. Sweden is stil getting opportunities, but they may need an adjustment in defense.

<hr />

11:33 a.m.

A series of match have started:

Greece versus Latvia (huge match)
Czech Republic versus Polan (big match, Czechs still alive)
Slovaki and Slovenia (big match, but draw helps both)
Austria versus Lithuania (Austria with faint hopes of catching France)

Denmark has had some sustain pressure and won some corners , but more importantly they help the ball away from the Swedes, which means Ibrahimovic has been without it, also. Larsson has been active in support of Ibra.

<br />

11:31 a.m.

Cyrpus got a third goal against Bulgaria, meaning Ireland will have a playoff spot guaranteed. Trapattoni may open it up against Italy, but he also may want to maintain his mornal tactics for pure organizational/disciplene reasons.

<strong>If anybody has insight into other matches or has news, post it in the comments and I will link to it in the main thread.</strong>

We're thirty minutes in at Copenhagen, and while there is no score, you have to ask why Sweden hasn't played like this more often. True, they have been single-minded in attack, but it's a good single-mind to have.

As I type, Jørgensen and Bendtner and Rommedahl have shown some life. Perhaps Denmark is about to find something.

<br />

11:22 a.m.

The Denmark-Sweden match is turning into a battle between Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Thomas Sorensen, and unfortunately for the Danes, that is not a battle they will win for an entire match. Zlatan is have a ton of balls played for him (it's the only thing the Swedes are even trying for a tactic). Ibrahimovic is active and looks more determined that I have ever seen him. It will take a great effort for the Danes and Sorensen to keep him off the bored.

Denmark is having trouble getting into attack. They've held a good amount of possession and seem to be trying to open up the Swedish defense. There is little direct play. We'll see how long Sweden holds out before Denmark changes their tact.
<br />

11:12 a.m.

Nil-nil and Copenhagen, so we haven't missed anything.

England's perfect qualifying record is gone, but they don't seem too distraut about it. Some supporters might care, but there's nothing to take from this match.

For Ukraine, they wait and see if Greece and Portugal make the playoff. If they do, Ukraine does into the unseeded pot. Regardless, having a match on Wednesday against Moldova, Ukraine appears destined to make it out of this group.

We now shift focus to the Denmark-Sweden match, where Henrik Larsson and Zlatan Ibrahimovic are up-top for the Swedes. That would be interesting if Sweden was on no points. As is, a win gives them a chance to win this group, while a loss (which is the likely result) puts Denmark through to South Africa.

<hr />

11:05 a.m.

With England down one, down a man, we're seeing a good example of a team that has no stakes in the match. They are playing hard and being respectful of the game, but there is no huge disire to win. If they get a spot kick outside the box or a ball on Rooney's foot at 22 meters, it looks like you're willing, but England knows the big picture, and as we go into stoppage time, they'll use Robert Green's red card as explanation for their explicable performance in a meaningless match.

English commentary have told me nothing – nothing! – about the Ukraine, except that Vorinen should be starting, so they are actually trying to detract from my knowledge.

<hr />

10:55 a.m.

A small channge of plans, as the lack of a second goal means I'll be joining the Denmark-Sweden match in progress. I'm going to see out the match in the Ukraine.

Elsewhere, Bosnia and Harzegonvina win, eliminating Turkey. Spain wins, making Wednesday's match meaningless.

Ukraine was just stoned by David James, who just saved England from going down two.

There are 10 minutes left in regulation time, with a probably two or three minutes stoppage. After that, we'll go to Copenhagen.

<hr />

10:40 a.m.

With a free kick just outside the Ukraine area, Lampard finds the wall. Just a reminder that England is one freak play away from sending Croatia into the playoff.

Denmark and Sweden starts in fifteen minutes. I'll be shifting my focus there. It's impossible to think of this match without remembering the qualifier for the 2008 European Championships. Let's hope for a good, clean, normal match.

Bulgaria has pulle done back against the Cypriots but still trail by one.

And a reminder that we will be here through the USMNT match in Honduras and for as long as people want to chat it up in comments.

<hr />

10:21 a.m.

Spain has given up a goal to Armenia, though they lead 2-1. It's only the third goal allowed in qualifying by Spain, who continue to dominate more and more of the possession in these matches. The other team's opportunities to score goals are limited to 25-or-so minutes per match.

James Milner is on for England. Why?

Bosnia nad Herzegonvina gets a second goal and is almost assured of the playoff spot. They're not losing this lead to Estonia.

Did this announcer REALLY just ask why Andrei Vorinin isn't in Ukraine's team? Wow.

Cyrpus scored two early against Bulgaria, meaning Ireland could have the playoff clinched by the time they kcik of with Italy. If that's the case, they might go for it, and we might actually see a goal or two.

Morocco disppointed again, losing 3-1 at Gabon. Maybe Cameroon won't have a problem with them next month.

<hr />

10:08 a.m.

<a href="">Ray updates us on Bahrain blowing their chances.</a>

<a href="">Kartik updates us on Egypt: Brazil with an extra time goal is through to the semis. Germany is out.</a>

Elsewhere, Switzerland is up 3-0 on Luxembourg and will go clinch a bid in South Africa is Greece and Latvia draw. Regardless, they would just need a draw Wednesday, at home, against Israel to go through.

Bosnia and Herzegovina's goal at Estonia means Turkey's probably going to be eliminated (and the B&H Spain match midweek will be meaningless).

Ukraine is up a goal and a man against England. If they win, Croatia is likely out, Ukraine in for the group's playoff spot. They will be a right on the border for a seed, and as such could be screwed by the ruling on the playoff's structure.

<hr />

10:01 a.m.

Germany beats Russia, 1-0 in Moscow. What a match. What a story …

But, we move on. In an hour, Denmark and Sweden, a huge match in UEFA's Group A, and let's hope a peaceful one. I will be focusing on that and again featuring the updates you provide in the comments. I'm going to be catching up on that now. Kartik's been following the U-20 World Cup while Ray has been keeping us up-to-date on Africa and the Asia playoff.

I'm going to have Ukraine on in the background, but for the next hour, my focus is getting up-to-date on the big picture.

Great start to the day!
<hr />

9:56 a.m.

German with a very impressive result, arguably the most impressive in this European qualifying cycle. Russia did not play poorly, but Germany got their goal and, while they were somewhat threatened at times, never lost a hold on the match.

Reactions? Germany has clinched their spot in South Africa. Congratulations to Jaochim Loew, who (to me) was the story of the match.

<hr />

9:50 a.m.

Remember, everybody, we're only just starting today. After this match, we'll be picking up the rest of the European coverage, funneling us through to some very important South American qualifiers and, ultimately, San Paulo Sula.

Germans are completely bunkered in right now, something they've earned the right to do. As Russian had it on the left, eight Germans were in the box, in front of their keeper.

Now, as far as the Ballack "foul." It was clearly a foul, not something any of us expect a penalty to be called on, but something that's a auto-whistle at midfield. We can debate the practice, but we can't debate that this is how the modern game is called.

Now, Bystrov being taken down by Friedrich. That as an easy call, in my opinion.

<hr />

9:47 p.m.

Arshavin on the break decides to cut across Westermann and draw a foul. Would Arshavin had been better off just staying straight, getting into attack? Maybe, but it looked like Westerman was gaining too much ground on him.

Pogrebnyak plays a nice ball across the six, but Mertesacker is there to deal with it.

Russia needs on of their special players to step-up. Arshavin has been constantly dangerous, and Zhirkov's had his moments, but if they're going to break through and take down a monarch, somebody is going to have to do something special.

With eight minutes left and needing two goals, it's going to have to be VERY special today.

<hr />

9:39 a.m.

Pogrebnyak is finally one. Semshov is off, and I have to reiterate and amplifying: I have not been impressed by Hiddink's management of this match. From the beginning, he has been far too passive about his decisions. The one decision I though creative – starting Denisov and Semshov – was ruined when he pulled Denisov.

<hr />

9:33 a.m.

For HIddink, burning two subs hurts more now, as he now will seemingly use his last sub to bring on Pogrebnyak.

Loew has brought on Friedrich to get another defender on. Predictably, Ozil is out.

Now with fifteen minutes left, what is Russia waiting for? A draw does no good, nor does moral victories.

Germany, however, continues to impress, even if they have lost a man. Russia has had a number of chances, but they have still not broken through.

Arshavin is FINALLY out on the right side, but a little too late. This puts his left foot as his attack foot, and thnkafully Lahm is still out there.

<hr />

9:32 a.m.

The foul: Boateng had to take him down, right? Well, what if that led to a goal? If's still a draw, and Germany has 11 men. Now, Germany is up one, but they're playing against a highly skilled Russian side for 20 minutes, down a man. Close call. This could be very bad for Germany, and it's possibly not worth it.
<hr />

9:30 a.m.

Adler holding up nicely in goal, making another nice play. This is only his seventh (maybe eighth) cap and he has been inconsistent at times, but he is another German player that's stepping up.

Boateng is gone. This match changes now. More in moments.

<hr />

9:25 a.m.

After Russia threatened twice in three minutes, Germany has settled in, and now German had a dangerous set piece that they got in on Akinkeev. On the counter, Torbinsky is pulled down (wisely) by Westerman, who has been moved up along with Mertesacker to play Ozul's in-swinger.

Russia is trying to develop their next tact (or figure it out) while Germany waits them out. They just got ANOTHER opportunity through the left of attack, where Zhirkov overlapped and outnumbered Boateng. which begs the question: What is Russia trying ot figure out?

They can go left. They can go right. It's just a matter of getting there.

I like how measured the Russians are playing, but Germany is settling in, and it's going to be harder to draw them out as the match goes on.

And Loew still has all his subs. Thinks ar elooking very good for the Germans.

<a href="">Kartik's last update on the U-20 World Cup.</a>

<hr />

9:17 a.m.

Two times in a row, right after a praise Boateng, Russia has gotten through on the German right. Arshavin had another great chance, again on his right foot (he is playing on the left, so this is expected) while Bystrov beats Adler but is off with his shot.

Germany appears to be adjusting defensively and not close to 56 minutes in, may be more willing to play deeper.

Hiddink has used two subs. Loew has used none.
<hr />

9:14 a.m.

Semshov, the man I wanted taken off, puts Kerzahov though, who lays off for Arshavin and Russian's best chance of the match. Unfortunately, it was on Arshavin's right (off) foot.

Germany's applying some high pressure to try and keep Russia from getting into attack as easily as they have. They're picking up their men at all depths of the pitch. If Russia's going to get back in this, they're going to have to work for it.

Pavlyuchenko is finally on.

<a href="">Ray updates us on Switzerland, Gabon and the New Zealand snore.</a>

<a href="">Kartik updates us on Germay-Brazil at the U-20 World Cup.</a>

<hr />

9:12 a.m.

In the comments, we're mention Loew out-managing Hiddink, and Jerome Boteng is a very good example of this. Boateng help solidify one of the sides on defensive (the other is still a problem) and has made a couple of very nice plays/reads.

<hr />

9:07 a.m.

Lokomotiv's Dmitri Torbinskiy is on for Russia. That's a surprise, as it was thought he was only brought in as the last man – a replacement for Denis Kolodin.

We're back playing, and both teams seem very caution in the first minute.

<hr />

9:05 a.m.

Updates from commenter Ray on some matches (Thanks, Ray!).

Cameroon's up 3-0 on Togo, and with Gabon up 2-0, form's still holding on Group A.

Bahrain is slowly breaking down New Zealand. It may just be a matter of time.

Another topic: If your Joachim Loew, do you start making adjustments now? Or wait to see the flow of the second half.

Great match we have going on, but again: This is German football, all.

<hr />

8:50 a.m.

Half time, everybody, after a very exciting match. Germany is Germany, and Russia is finding that out. Russia was down 2-0 in Dortmund, but they had a strong second half.

I'm going to be hanging out in the comments through half. I may also get some water. Let's talk about the match.

<hr />

8:48 a.m.

Schweinsteiger pounces on a bad pass and creates Germany's first counter, which goes nowhere. This opened up Germany to Bystrov coming down the left, and Boateng gets the game's first card. Russian get a dead ball from a werid angle. Arshavin with a great ball for 6'5" Vasili Berezutskiy, who barely misses.

Bystrov continues to play on the left. Hiddink must see something that he wants to exploit; or, he wants Bystrov coming in to the play that develops from the right, and he's willing to let Arshavin, Zyryanov, and Anyukov create it.

What adjustments do each manager make at half time? What would you do?

<hr />

8:45 a.m.

The implications of that goal:

Germany just needs a draw in this one to stay ahead of Russia. Now, Russia needs two goals; else, they're relying on Finland on Wednesday.

Russia has had their chances on the counter. Those will now go away, as Germany plays more conservatively. It's already happening, and Russia is not dealing with it well. We're in a adjustment period. YOu can already see Germany playing more balls backwards as they're more concerned with control.

Russia must – must – develop that right side of attack. Bystrov is drifting more and more central. He needs to stop. The need to go through the right.

I also think Hiddink should bring on a second forward soon, as they're going to need another big presence in the middle to provide size and pull the line back. The question is, if Hiddink does that, who comes off.

Great, great result for the Germans thus far. The Russians have not played bad at all.

8:39 a.m.

1-0 Germany!

A brilliantly set-up goal by the Germans, with Klöse getting the pay-off. Nobody along the back line picked up Kloe as he came across, to the ball.

Implications coming.

8:38 a.m.

Germany is now looking a lot like the team that lost to Spain last summer. Oh, how a match can change in a few moments, and it will chance again.

Germany can not keep up with the Russians when the hosts get a head of steam. Now, they are having to foul more in order to contain their faster, skilled opposition.

Germany can counter this by getting the ball back are reestablishing the patient approach they used in the first 25 minutes. Over the last first, they tries two direct plays with which the Russians easily dealt.

In contrast, Russia has the counter working, but they may also want to be a little patient themselves and continue developing options along their right side.

8:35 a.m.

Weve talked about the counter opportunities Russia has had, and another one gave Bystrov the best chance of the match. Rene Adler did a good job to come off his line to get in front of Bystrov, but the right winger (who had come in) couldn't convert a brilliant ball from Arshavin.

<hr />

8:32 a.m.

Westerman fouls Bystrov, who is so dangerous when he comes in off that wing. Zhirkov hits the top of the net, but the wrong side. Almost had enough dip on it, but Adler also looked like he might have been there. Best chance of the match so far, and again it comes to the right of attack.

<hr />

8:30 a.m.

Russia's second decent counter, the first that didn't get bogged down. But again, they didn't quite get a shot, as Adler and his defense were able to stop the attack at the edge of the box.

Just something to look for. That counter was started by a 50 meter throw from Akinfeev.

<hr />

8:29 a.m.

The first (maybe second) really good chance of the match, a blocked shot off the left foot of Lukas Podolski. It's the second decent shoot Germany has had blocked, and Russia has a problem. Germany has been able to hold the ball for too long as one player's feet deep in the Russian zone. Now the Germans are figuring out how to make the runs that will open up the Russian back line. In that last sequence, they were able to make two additional passes that they maybe should not have been given room to make.

Now Denisov fouls Schweinsteiger in midfield. Maybe Russia needs more of that aggression. Things are looking promising for Germany.

<hr />

8:24 a.m.

Is there a reason why Russia let Heiko Westerman walk into the attacking third and put a ball (at a bad angle, granted) across the face of goal? Westerman can be very dangerous like that, and if Russia is giong to be too concerned about Lahm coming up the flank, Westerman's giong to be able to jump in and contribute.

<hr />

8:21 a.m.

<a href="">Ray lets up know</a> Gabon is on the board against Morocco, to the chagrin of Cameroon supporters. We're on form in Africa's Group A, with Cameroon set to maintain control of the group.

Russia did nearly have a counter two minutes ago, but German, particularly Bastian Schweinsteiger, got back quitely. It's a common refrain about Schweinsteiger, who is so important as that seventh man back in defense. He is another player that raises his game for his country.

8:20 a.m.

A couple of times, Germany has been allowed to have the ball at their feet around the box with little pressure from Russian defenders. They man will be accounted for, witha defender in front of him, but there won't be an aggressive move for a tackle. Is that a nod to not wanting to give dead ball opportunities around the Russian area? Or, too soon to tell?

<hr />

8:14 a.m.

The first time Lahm is exploited. Two touches along the right side of the Russian attack and Zyryanov is behind the defense. Russia gets a corner kick, which Germany deals with easily. But look for that more: Russian down their right.

<hr />

8:12 a.m.

Kerzakov leaves Westerman behind with a nice turn off a ball from the left wing. The interesting part there was the ease with which Russia was able to get the ball into that position.

Germany wins a free kick from 26 meters, into the wall. That leads to a cross and and half-volley chance for Germany. More vaguely, that's a means by which Germany can win this match: winning/creating chances deep which will exploit their advantages on set pieces. Look for Russia to try and mitigate this with more possession, something they haven't had thus far.

8:10 a.m.

<a href="">Cameroon scored.</a> (credit Ray)

Announcers have noticed Simon Rolfes marking Andrei Arshavin – something to watch. If he's going to shadow Arshavin, it could help Russia get Denisov and Semshov into attack, through the middle, if Arshavin takes Rolfes wide.

8:08 a.m.


Germany will come out strong and try to put their boot on the Russian's throat. The hybrid 4-5-1 Russia is playing should help them weather the storm. The question is whether Denisov and Semshov can help spring a counter before bother teams settle in.

Boateng on the right side at the back solves a HUGE problem for the Germans: having Lahm match-up with Arshaving and Zhirkov. Unfortuantely for Loew, with Arshaving playing a supporting strikers, he can go right and attack Lahm with Vladimir Bystrov, and even more dangerous attacher than Zhirkov.

The tactics are already compelling.

7:59 a.m.

Surprises in the Russian lineup:

Hiddink goes with igor Denisov and Sergei Semshov in the central midfield. Sergei Semak is out. He is the best, deep presence in the midifeld. That seems to be how Hiddink has chose to go for the win. Aleksandr Kerzhaov stars up front with Ashavin in support (not wide).

Jerome Boatang is starting for Germany. Wow. Simon Rolfes also gets a start, surprising but a good move, considering how he's played in the Bundesliga. Mesut Ozil is starting in the attacking midfielder's role, as Low goes 4-5-1 (or 4-3-3, depending on how you see it). Klose is the striker.

About four minutes from kickoff.


7:55 a.m.

I'm going to miss watching Cameroon-Togo (good football there) and there's an important match between Gabon-Morocco (that Morocco would win), but it's time to switch to the Russia-Germany preview. Teams are on the pitch at Luzhniki, and the fans are all in their seats, ten minutes before kick-off.

I have not seen lineups yet. When I do, I'll post them. This live blog is going to be all about Russia-Germany for the next two hours. If you want to update other matches for me (thank you!) use the comments and I'll link to them from the main thread.

The Russian coverage has a level of majesty to it that gives this a Champions League final feel. Long, dramatic shots of the jerseys hung on the wall. Tape of the Russians arriving in their bus. Multiple sideline reporters, studio analysis. Beautiful shots of a beautfil nice in Moscow.

<hr />

7:43 a.m.

In the first ten minutes, we've gotten a good measure of the match. Cameroon is controlling possession, looks disciplened and measured, and preventing effective link-up. Togo has had one or two chances that they developed poorly, putting the ball toward goal with low-percentage shots rather than develop better opportunities.

Cameroon just won a free kick from 22 meters, off which Eto'o gave Togo a scare. All as expected in this one.

7:29 a.m.

I just realized this, so I thought I would share.

Russia-Germany starts in half an hour.

If you area at all hungry, get food in your system now. Do not wait until after kick-off, have your stomach growling, and not be able to move from the match until half-time.

All I'm saying: Start preparing now.

<hr />

7:26 a.m.

Craig Bellamy, one of the best players in the English Premier League this season, has pullled Wales even, but I've switched to watching the anthems being sung in Cameroon. Samuel Eto vs. Emmanuel Adebayor, anybody?

I picked Cameroon big in this one: 3-0.

Lineups are up. No big surprises.

<hr />

7:15 a.m.

It's still 1-1 in Malawi, and Cote d'Iviore has just brought on Yaya Touré to help maintain the result. With it, Cote d'Iviore is on to South Africa. There's two minutes of regulation time left.

Finald and Wales is making me long for Cameroon-Togo. The stakes are important, and they're non-existent in this one. Plus, I'm already tired of clichéd-ridden commentary.

For previous updates: <!–more–>
<hr />

7:07 a.m.

Wales is down five minutes into the match. Jonatan Johansson runs onto a through ball that split Wales' back line. It's 1-0, Finland.

Egypt is now even with Algeria, down two goals on differential, with the Algerians having a game in hand. If Algeria wins today, they will be up three points and at least three goals. Even with November 14's match in Cairo, you have to like Algeria to qualify for the the first time since '86.

I have no idea why the Egyptians were so happy.

<hr />

7:01 a.m.

Um … Didier Drogba's already scored. It's 1-1 in Malawi. Stunning.

We're now watching the beginning of FInland-Wales, but in half an hour we're going to catch the beginning of Cameroon-Togo before going to Moscow.

On Drogba, quickly: He is one play, maybe the only one, that could win next year's World Cup. He can't win seven matches for them, but if Cote d'Iviore can get Drogba in a position where he can steal the last two (or three) for them, they could lift the cup.

<hr />

6:56 a.m.

Joseph Ngwira has scored for Malawi to give them a shock 1-0 lead over Cote d'Iviore! Cote d'Iviore has not dropped points yet.

Predictable, Didier Drogba was immediately inserted.

Egypt won, stays alive, but 1-0 is a bad result. Algeria could increase their goal differential advantage.

<hr />

6:54 a.m.

Egypt is controlling this match, and although Zambia had one good chance a few moments ago, the Pharoahs look ready to survive. Keep an eye on the Algeria result to see how much deeper Egypt has dug itself (differential) as a result of this minimal performance.

Malawu and Cote d'Ivoire are playing out their draw. It's nil-nil.

We're about ten minutes away from Finland and Wales. Both teams are eliminated, though Finland still plays a part in UEFA's Group 4. If Germany wins in Moscow today, they would still need to beat Finland to win the group, as Russia closes qualifying with Azerbaijan.

Commenter Ray talking about Amr Zaki and Egyptians in Europe: <a href=""&gt; here</a>. I respond two posts down.

<hr />

6:38 p.m.

They've kicked off the second half in Malawi. Still 0-0. We're thirty minutes from kickoff of Finland and Wales in Helsinki and, more importantly, only a few hours from Russia-Germany.

Egypt fans seem happy, but their team is still not in great shape for South Africa. This result, if it holds, is the absolute minimum they needed to survive. It's entirely possible Algeria wins by more than one and Egypt ends the weekend worse off than they started.

Good question from Ray about Morocco, <a href="">here.</a&gt;

A contributor to RF Football is <a href="">also live blogging</a>, though I'm pretty sure he'll just be mocking me throughout the day (which should be fun).

<hr />

6:29 a.m.

Egypt has done it again.

Just liek in the last round, the let themselves be dominated for most of the match, held out, and then socred.

From 18 meters, Hasny Abd Rabo puts one high and to the left of the goalie, and unstoppable shot, set-up by substitute Ahmed Raouf (who ahd given the ball away a couple of times before that). Egypt is up 1-0 and their World Cup hopes are back to critical-but-stable.

Egypt still needs goals, though. Differential, and all.

<hr />

6:24 a.m.

Malawi and Cote d'Iviore go to half nil-nil, a result that would put Cote d'Iviore into the World Cup. Again, Cote d'Iviore are not playing their best team, so nil-nil might be how this finishes.

Zambia has survived Egypt's surge and the match has evened-out, for the time being.

<hr />

6:22 a.m.

For the first time in the match, most of th play is happening in Egypt's attacking zone. Ahmed Hassan is becoming the critical player, controlling the distribution from the Egyptian midfield. Ultimately, the Egyptians are relying on Amr Zaki, remarkable considering he spent the entire summer out of the team. Will Zaki's fitness hold up? Is he even in form to deliver a goal? I think the Egyptians need to find another tactic.

The Egyptians just made their first substitution, bringing on Ahmed Raouf for Mohammed Baraka, getting a second striker on the pitch. The effects were immediate, as the long balls being played at the back line are now being attacked by two players.

Egypt generated their first real chance, a blocked shot from 16 meters. The Zambians are spending more time on the ground as the Egyptians start to get aggressive.

Sixty-two minutes in. No score. Egypt a half-an-hour away from all-but-elimination.

<hr />

6:05 a.m.

Malawi and Cote d'Iviore is still scoreless. In the interim, Zambia and Egypt have kicked off for their second half. It's unclear to me if there have been any changes, but the main actors are on the pitch. Egypt seems more determined and have started the second half strong. Zambia seems more tentative, as if the half time break gave them time to reflect on what was transpiring. Just another way this is playing out like a typical Egypt match.

It's a slow news day ahead of the qualifiers, probably a good thing. On Twitter (@richardfarley), I'm reminded by EPL Talk's Christopher Harris that one of the big stories of the day will be consumption habits. Both England and the U.S.'s match distribution lends itself to piracy. I imagine EPL Talk will be on top of that story, as they have done a good job of keeping readers up-to-date on the chances in the U.S. football media landscape.

<hr />

5:47 a.m.

Half-time in Zambia, and I'll be switching to the Malawi-Cote d'Iviore match after getting something to drink, but you have to wonder about Egypt's mindset. They are not taking advantage of Zambia's ambition, and as a result, the hosts have looked the dominant side. The Egyptian analysts and noting that most of Zambia's chances have been merely near chances, a fair point. The Pharaohs still do not look good.

Still no score, and eleven minutes in with Malawi and Cote d' Iviore, no score there.

<hr />

5:40 a.m.

If Egypt's World Cup hopes are alive in an hour, Essam El-Hadary (Egypt's goalkeeper) will be the only one to thank. He just came up with his fourth great save, and I believe he has six (maybe seven) saves overall. Zambia's keeper has been tested once, and that was a weak shot that may have been a cross.

Again, this is not uncommon for Egypt. In the last qualifying round, there matches were like this. Granted, Zambia has been more threatening and for a longer period of time, but the scoreboard is still dormant.

Malawi and Cote d'Ivoire have kicked off. As expected, Cote d'Ivoire is not starting a full-strength XI. They are already practically in.

<hr />

5:28 a.m.

Egypt finally appears to be settling in, and although I have been saying how good Zambia's looked, this is has the form of a pretty typical Egypt match. It is not uncommon for them to look the less squad for long periods of time, but being a more efficient team than most with their limited opportunities, it often is not a problem. The few chances the Pharaohs have had to establish themselves in teh final third, you see them looking for the last ball rather than taking some of the low-percentage shots the Zambians are taking.

That said, Zambia just had their best chance of the match – a sharp angle shot from eight meters to the goalkeeper's left.

Kartik has posted some match day, Honduras-USA content to Major League Soccer Talk. Check it out, and use the comments to let me know about any content (US-related or otherwise) that readers should be aware of.

Wow. Zambia just had <em>another</em> good chance.

For previous updates: <!–more–>
<hr />

5:22 a.m.

Egypt finally looks dangerous, putting Amr Zaki through the left side of the line to create an innocuous shot. The news here: Zaki is playing. Coach Hassan Shehata has had problems with him as well as Mohammed Zidan, his two best attackers. Zidan, the Dortmund star, is not in thie team. Zaki, after missing the last round with fitness (possibly attitude) issues, is.

Zambia just generated another weak chance, but the crowd is now sensing something's afoot. Ever time the home squad touches the ball, the festive music and the vuvuzelas are drowned out by an anticipatory murmur.

<hr />

5:16 a.m.

Japan has beaten Scotland 2-0 in the countries' friendly in Yokohama. Almost all of Scotland's regulars pulled-out in the lead-up to the match, aggravating the Japanese, who are preparing for the World Cup.

Zambia continues to be the better of the sides with Egypt. The just scared the Pharaohs off a corner and had one other good chance go wanting since the last update. If Egypt doesn't win this match, they're done. If they don't win by multiple goals, it's unlikely a win next month against Algeria will be enough to qualify.

<hr />

5:09 a.m.

Egypt is not approaching the match against Zambia with the urgency I'd predicted. Egypt needs to not only win this match but use it as a means to make up their goal differential deficit with Algeria. Instead, they just gave the ball away at the back, leading to the first opportunity of the match. THe Zambian striker put his shot from 18 meters into the goalie's chest. Still nil-nil.

I'm going to check for news.

<hr />

4:51 a.m.

We're still 10 minutes away from kick-off in Zambia, and given Egypt should win this match (and do their part to set up a showdown with Algeria on November 14 in Cairo), I'm going to be using the time between now and the kickoff of Russia-Germany to jump around.

There are a lot of matches I've identified as key, most of which I've previewed here and at <a href="">Mad About Fútbol</a>. For the sake of going on record (and giving you an index for the previews), here are my picks for today:

Russia 1, Germany 0 [ <a href="">preview</a&gt; ]
Ireland 0, Italy 0 [ <a href="">preview</a&gt; ]
Serbia 3, Romania 0 [ <a href="">preview</a&gt; ]
Ukraine 2, England 1 [ <a href="">preview</a&gt; ]
Czech Republic 2, Poland 0 [ <a href="">preview</a&gt; ]
Slovakia 1, Slovenia 1 [ <a href="">preview</a&gt; ]
Greece 1, Lativa 0 [ <a href="">preview</a&gt; ]
Portugal 2, Hungary 0 [ <a href="">preview</a&gt; ]
Denmark 1, Sweden 1 [ <a href="">preview</a&gt; ]
Switzerland 2, Luxembourg 0
Estonia 0, Bosnia and Herzegovina 2
France 3, Faroe Islands 0

Cameroon 3, Togo 0 [ <a href="">preview</a&gt; ]
Nigeria 1, Mozambique 0 [ <a href="">group preview</a> ]
Tunisia 2, Kenya 0 [ <a href="">group preview</a> ]
Zambia 1, Egypt 4 [ <a href="">group preview</a> ]
Algeria 3, Rwanda 0 [ <a href="">group preview</a> ]
Malawi 0, Cote d'Iviore 3

<strong>South America</strong>
Ecuador 2, Uruguay 1 [ <a href="">preview</a&gt; ]
Venezuela 2, Paraguay 1 [ <a href="">preview</a&gt; ]
Colombia 0, Chile 1
Argentina 2, Peru 0

Honduras 2, United States 1
Mexico 3, El Salvador 0
Costa Rica 1, Trinidad and Tobago 0

<hr />

4:40 a.m.

The Zambia-Egypt prematch is up, but the sun is not. Welcome to life in the Pacific time zone, and welcome to The Kartik Report's live blog. It's going to be an important and exciting Saturday of World Cup qualifiers, starting in Zambia and ending in Honduras. I'm going to be here all day, emulating what I did for the last set big WCQ match day.

Here is the <em>tentative</em> plan:

5:00 a.m. – 7:00 a.m. – Zambia versus Egypt
7 a.m. – 8 a.m. – Finland versus Wales, 1st half
8 a.m. – 10 a.m. – Russia versus Germany
10 a.m. – 11:15 a.m. – Ukraine versus England, 2nd half
11:15 a.m. – 1: p.m. – Denmark versus Sweden
1:00 p.m. – 2:45 p.m. – Portugal versus Hungary
3:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m. – Ecuador versus Uruguay
5:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m. – Honduras – U.S.A. pregame/Catch-up chat
7:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m. – Honduras versus U.S.A.</ul>