June World Cup Qualifying Preview – UEFA Groups A-C

Can the Czech Republic's old dogs provide some new tricks?
Can the Czech Republic’s old dogs provide some new tricks?

 

The most represented confederation in the World Cup has yet to have a single nation officially clinch a spot in Brazil. We Global Football will preview every game played this June, and in the future, with unprecedented coverage.  We will make use of our simulator xCRO, predict the outcome of the games, and then show you what things might look like once the dust has settled in June.  Let’s get right into it.

 

Group A

 

Percent of Total
Team Auto Play-Off Out
Belgium 66.2% 33.8% 0.0%
Croatia 33.8% 66.2% 0.0%
Serbia 0.0% 0.0% 100.0%
FYR Macedonia 0.0% 0.0% 100.0%
Wales 0.0% 0.0% 100.0%
Scotland 0.0% 0.0% 100.0%

 

Belgium and Croatia will be battling it out to grab Group A’s direct qualifier to Brazil.  Our simulator does not see a scenario where these top 2 teams do not stay as the top 2 teams of the group, which is not all that surprising.  There is just too much ground to be made up.

 

June 7

Belgium v. Serbia – Brussels, Belgium

If Serbia is unable to come up with anything in Brussels, they will be officially eliminated from qualifying.  Given that Belgium won 3-0 at Serbia in October, things are looking very bleak for the Serbs.  This is a remarkable turn of events.  Serbia finished first in their qualifying group ahead of France on the road to South Africa, and here they are, about to be knocked out of the competition in June.  Especially given they were placed in Pot 2 during the Brazil draw, the Belgium rise to prominence was probably the most unfortunate draw in the world in the lead up to Brazil.  Belgium meanwhile can ill afford to take their foot off the gas pedal.  They will travel to Croatia in October and must take 3 points here.  I’d expect a rout.

Prediction: Belgium by 3

 

Croatia v. Scotland – Split, Croatia

This match is equally as important for Croatia as Belgium’s.  Scotland has absolutely nothing to play for as they are the first team officially eliminated from UEFA.  Coming from Pot 4, this is quite the surprise so early in the game.  Croatia have risen to 4th in the FIFA Rankings and has drawn much criticism.  While we also criticize that ranking, we currently have Croatia as #16.  Their place among the elite is no joke.  Croatia qualified for 3 straight World Cups before missing out on South Africa, and you can be sure they’re desperate to get back.  Mandžukić is fresh off his Champions League tally, and he will keep the momentum going.  Another rout in Group A.

Prediction: Croatia by 4

 

When the dust settles on June 7th, Group A should be even more clear than it is today.  Belgium and Croatia wins will eliminate Wales, FYR Macedonia, and Serbia in one fell swoop.  Here is what the standings would look like at that point.

Team Points GD Games Status
Belgium 19 13 thru 7
Croatia 19 11 thru 7
Serbia 7 -2 thru 7 *Eliminated
Wales 6 -8 thru 6 *Eliminated
FYR Macedonia 4 -4 thru 6 *Eliminated
Scotland 2 -10 thru 7 *Eliminated

 

Group B

 

Percent of Total
Team Auto Play-Off Out
Italy 77.0% 14.5% 8.5%
Bulgaria 9.9% 38.7% 51.4%
Czech Republic 11.1% 30.1% 58.8%
Denmark 2.0% 16.5% 81.5%
Armenia 0.0% 0.2% 99.8%
Malta 0.0% 0.0% 100.0%

 

There is still a lot of football left to be played in Group B.  Malta isn’t officially out of it yet, but in only 1 of our 1,000 simulations did they even finish 4th.  Armenia, likewise, is not out of it, but they have a lot of ground to make up.  Armenia also may run into issues in the 2nd place standings should they somehow manage to sneak up as all of their points have come from matches against Malta.  The rest of the group is certainly wide open, but Italy appears to have the inside track on the automatic qualifier.

 

June 7

Armenia v. Malta – Yerevan, Armenia

This is the easiest match in all of qualifying for Armenia, as they host Malta.  Despite that fact, a win here is not a given.  They only won 1-0 in the reverse fixture and just got spanked at home by the Czech Republic.  Malta actually plays pretty well against poor competition, so they should put up a decent fight here.  In the end, they will most likely be put on the brink of elimination despite a valiant effort.

Prediction: Armenia by 1

 

Czech Republic v. Italy – Prague, Czech Republic

What a tremendous opportunity for the Czechs to make a statement in Group B.  The Czechs are 5 points back of Italy and know this is the time to make their move to the top.  Italy has to be one of the most overrated teams in the world.  They continually squeak by with draws and 1-2 goal wins over lesser sides.  WGF frowns upon these results.  The good news for Italy is that Group B is arguably the weakest in UEFA, as we don’t have a team ranked higher than #31 in that group.  This is without a doubt the biggest match for the Czech Republic in almost 4 years, and we don’t think they’ll fold under the pressure.

Prediction: Czech Republic by 1

 

June 11

Denmark v. Armenia – Copenhagen, Denmark

Sitting idly on the 7th while teams around them pile up points, Denmark will be ready for an Armenia squad that likely will have new life.  That joy must quickly turn to focus, as there is no room for error if the Danes want to return to the World Cup.  Denmark knows that their final 5 games are twice with Armenia, twice with Malta, and a home match against Italy.  Despite currently occupying 4th, they are in relatively good shape.  We don’t think Denmark will waste any time in putting Armenia to bed.

Prediction: Denmark by 2

 

After these 3 matches, we anticipate the standings looking much tighter.

Team Points GD Games
Italy 13 7 thru 6
Czech Republic 11 3 thru 6
Bulgaria 10 7 thru 6
Denmark 9 3 thru 6
Armenia 6 -6 thru 6
Malta 0 -19 thru 6

 

Group C

 

Percent of Total
Team Auto Play-Off Out
Germany 95.0% 4.9% 0.1%
Sweden 4.6% 70.1% 25.3%
Austria 0.3% 19.1% 80.6%
Republic of Ireland 0.1% 5.9% 94.0%
Kazakhstan 0.0% 0.0% 100.0%
Faroe Islands 0.0% 0.0% 100.0%

 

Germany is in the pole position right now.  In only 1 of the 1,000 scenarios did they fall to 3rd, but this seems very unlikely.  Imagine if they hadn’t blown that 4-0 lead at home against Sweden.  The Swedes appear to have by far the best opportunity to escape the group in tact.  Kazakhstan and the Faroe Islands could be officially eliminated on the 11th of June.

 

June 7

Austria v. Sweden – Vienna, Austria

Coming from the depths of Pot 4, this is the opportunity the Austrians have been waiting for.  Sweden is hot on their heels and currently sit 9 spots ahead of our #28 team Austria.  Austria stole a stoppage time equalizer in Dublin to put the Irish hopes on thin ice.  If Austria is able to take 3 points at home, they surely would feel confident they could progress to the 2nd place play-off.  They will not be out of it with just a draw.  Sweden, meanwhile, would probably be happy with a point here.  A point would have them as the favorite for 2nd place.  These teams have a flair for the dramatic, so look for a late equalizer from Sweden to pull things all level.

Prediction: Draw

 

Republic of Ireland v. Faroe Islands – Dublin, Republic of Ireland

It’s rare that a game against the lowly Faroe Islands is considered a must-win, but that is certainly the case here.  Anything but a convincing 3 points would probably be the end for Ireland.  Faroe Islands is treading water and running low on stamina.  They’ve been outscored 15-2, and the 4 top teams in this group appear to be in another class.  It’s only a matter of time.  We had Faroe in 5th place in 34 simulations and dead last in the other 966.

Prediction: Republic of Ireland by 4

 

June 11

Sweden v. Faroe Islands – Solna, Sweden

When this match kicks off on the 11th, Sweden will have the opportunity to kill the proverbial two birds with one stone, and it shouldn’t be all that difficult.  Sweden’s Scandinavian brethren will have to somehow channel an unspeakable result to remain in the competition.  It is truly hard to fathom any result other than a complete annihilation by the Swedes.

Prediction: Sweden by 6

 

This should be a 4 horse race for the top 2 spots.  Although Kazakhstan won’t be mathematically eliminated, they’d need every possible result to go their way and also make up 22 goals in goal differential.  If Sweden-Austria doesn’t end in a draw, the Sweden win over Faroe Islands will mathematically eliminate them regardless of Sweden-Austria winner.

 

Team Points GD Games Status
Germany 16 15 thru 6
Sweden 12 9 thru 6
Republic of Ireland 11 3 thru 6
Austria 9 9 thru 6
Kazakhstan 1 -13 thru 6
Faroe Islands 0 -23 thru 6 *Eliminated

 

We will have more previews of the UEFA matches coming up soon.  Make sure to check our Twitter @We_Global and our Facebook to stay up to date!  Thanks for reading!

UEFA Correspondent,
Cro