With so many pivotal games on tap in UEFA, WGF was left with no other choice than to head out for a full day of drinking and qualifiers. Not only is drinking permitted during work hours, it’s encouraged. Inquire within!
There were a number of teams that took care of business, while others came up short. We are all about accountability, so we’ll take a look at both our hits and our misses.
Belgium 2 – Serbia 1 – Brussels, Belgium
The Belgians knew that in their race with Croatia there was no room for a slip up. The red devils contingent was out to support their boys and they delivered. Despite several near misses from Serbia, they were unable to break through until the dire moments. No matter the final score, all 3 points are what mattered. Serbia is only barely still alive due to the slip up from Croatia. There is no more margin for error.
Prediction: Belgium by 3
Result: Belgium by 1
Scotland 1 – Croatia 0 – Zagreb, Croatia
This was an absolute stunner. Playing against the only team that had been eliminated from UEFA qualifying at home, Croatia had to be feeling confident. Perhaps that overconfidence led to underestimation. Scotland supporters were insistent they would win and reporters seemed skeptical. They got the goal however and held on for the victory. This was an absolutely crushing blow for Croatia’s chances to finish first in the group. This was a huge miss for us.
Prediction: Croatia by 4
Result: Scotland by 1
Wales, Macedonia and Serbia all stayed alive with help from Scotland. Nothing changed other than Belgium’s odds of finishing first drastically improved. Here’s how the teams currently stand and updated odds on their qualifying chances:
|FYR Macedonia||4||-4||thru 6|
Malta 1 – Armenia 0 – Yerevan, Armenia
Another stunner. We warned that Malta was deceivingly tough, but certainly not to the point of a full 3 points on the road. Any hope Armenia had went out the window here. While not officially out, the road only gets tougher. If you can’t even get some scraps from Malta at home, you’re cooked. Malta is also still mathematically alive and did what they had to.
Prediction: Armenia by 1
Result: Malta by 1
Czech Republic 0 – Italy 0 – Prague, Czech Republic
This is pretty much what you get in a road Italy match. Sit back for 86 minutes, get a dive from Pirlo, and hope to grab a winner on a set piece. Makes you want to gouge your eyes out. This had to be Friday’s most disappointing match. Should have been a great one but just didn’t deliver. The Czechs are now in a world of hurt while Italy is looking strong to capture top spot in the group.
Prediction: Czech Republic by 1
Armenia 4 – Denmark 0 – Copenhagen, Denmark
We thought the Ukraine-Montenegro result was shocking until this happened. Denmark was fresh and Armenia had just lost at home to Malta. Let’s be honest here. This game could have been far worse! Denmark looked like a team that had absolutely no interest in playing in the World Cup and it showed. Armenia is still alive, but Italy are the real beneficiaries here.
Prediction: Denmark by 2
Result: Armenia by 4
Czech Republic was a big loser and Italy a big winner with the draw in Prague. Without playing a game, Bulgaria also went way up on their odds of claiming the 2nd place spot. Malta and Armenia are just biding their time at the bottom of the table.
|Czech Republic||9||2||thru 6|
Austria 2 – Sweden 1 – Vienna, Austria
Out of all the teams that had impressive showings Friday, none solidified themselves as surprise contenders more than Austria. Typically in qualifying you see teams like Sweden start slow but rebound in the 2nd half. Austria didn’t roll over, and even after allowing the Swedes to cut their lead in half they didn’t give in. The Sweden section was awfully quiet for this one as they know they’re in a dog fight until the end.
Result: Austria by 1
Republic of Ireland 3 – Faroe Islands 0 – Dublin, Ireland
Robbie Keane is timeless. He played for Ireland in their last World Cup appearance in 2002 and he’s still the key piece to their run. His hat trick got Ireland the 3 points they so desperately needed. This was just a formality. Faroe Islands are soon to be put to bed in Group C. As expected, it’s going to be a tight finish between 3 teams for 2nd place.
Prediction: Republic of Ireland by 4
Result: Republic of Ireland by 3
Sweden 2 – Faroe Islands 0 – Solna, Sweden
While it was in less than convincing fashion, Sweden got the job done and knocked out Faroe Islands. After the massive blunder in Austria, an effort like this certainly won’t inspire any confidence. With 3 teams on 11 points, Sweden is going to have to call a pow-wow to figure out why they are still so close to two other teams. They’ve made things much harder for themselves.
Prediction: Sweden by 6
Result: Sweden by 2
The Faroe Islands met their demise in June while Kazakhstan is somehow mathematically holding on. With Austria’s win over Sweden, Germany’s odds of finishing first greatly improved. 2nd place is going to come down to the wire.
|Republic of Ireland||11||2||thru 6|
|Faroe Islands||0||-18||thru 6||*Eliminated|
|Republic of Ireland||0.4%||11.9%||87.7%|
There were no matches played in June in Group D so we’ll post what we said in our preview in regards to this group.
Netherlands: The Dutch have won all 6 games in qualifying after going undefeated in their 2010 World Cup qualifying campaign. They still play the bottom two teams in the group, and they shouldn’t have any problem grabbing Group D’s automatic qualifying spot. They should be able to lock it up in September. There was actually a scenario which Netherlands finished 2nd, but this seems beyond unrealistic. They have the highest probability of qualification right now of any team in Europe.
Romania: Despite currently sitting 3rd, xCRO likes Romania more than Hungary. Romania still has 3 home games, and their only road game is at winless and goalless Andorra. Their match against Hungary on 9/6 is massive. With a win, they’re clearly the favorite to claim 2nd place. Even a draw wouldn’t be all that bad as Hungary still must travel to Amsterdam. 2nd is probably their best bet at this point.
Hungary: The Hungarians do not have an easy path. They host Andorra, but as mentioned before they travel to the Netherlands and Romania. We think they only have about a 20% chance of reaching the 2nd place play-off. They must have at least a point at Romania, but if they are able to somehow get all 3, they’ll be in great shape.
Turkey: If the match against Latvia was any indication, Turkey is in serious trouble. They’re in serious trouble of finishing no higher than 4th. Only 1.2% of our scenarios projected Turkey reaching the play-off. The schedule is tough and they’re far back in points. The road seems long and arduous, so I’d be shocked if Turkey is able to make any noise. They’re on borrowed time.
Estonia: After surprisingly reaching the play-off for Euro 2012, the Estonians surely had high hopes for World Cup qualifying. With all 6 points against Andorra thus far, Estonia’s chances are very slim. They need to somehow beat the Dutch if they want to stay alive. Like Turkey, they’re on borrowed time.
Andorra: Andorra might not even have to play a game to be eliminated. If Romania-Hungary doesn’t end in a draw, they’re out. If Andorra doesn’t win at Turkey, they’re out. For all intents and purposes, they’re out. It’s just a formality at this point.
Albania 1 – Norway 1 – Tirana, Albania
Finally! A game we nailed to the T! Not only did we predict the result correctly, we also predicted the stands in Tirana being set ablaze. Here’s Albania’s first goal:
When the bar you’re in tells you they have 150 Albanian supporters coming in, you know they mean business. Unfortunately Norway left their magic until the end again with an 87th minute strike from Tom Hogli. The good news for Albania is that despite the draw, they’ve moved up to 2nd place in the group. Norway also got a solid road point, so each of these teams should be feeling a little better than before, but dropping points at home is never a good thing.
Slovenia 4 – Iceland 2 – Reykjavik, Iceland
What a back and forth game this was. A crazy 1st half saw Slovenia jump out to an early lead followed by 2 quick Iceland goals. Slovenia then responded 5 minutes later to make the game 2-2 just a half hour in. The match stayed level until the 61st when Slovenia finally grabbed the lead again for good. Iceland blew a golden opportunity here especially given the Albania-Norway draw. Everything went perfectly for Slovenia as the win and the draw in the other match have allowed them to get back into it.
Prediction: Iceland by 2
Result: Slovenia by 2
Switzerland 1 – Cyprus 0 – Geneva, Switzerland
As expected, we thought our predictor was full of it here. Switzerland is a notorious underachiever in terms of large goal output. The fans in Geneva had to wait until the 90th minute for the Swiss to finally break through on an awful defensive play from Cyprus. 3 points is 3 points, but if style points were awarded the Swiss would be dead last. Cyprus is a tough squad, but they just didn’t have enough in the end to come away with anything to show for a valiant effort.
Prediction: Switzerland by 5
Result: Switzerland by 1
This group is even tighter than we expected. Switzerland certainly looks like they have a grasp on 1st, but nothing is certain in this group. Slovenia did what they needed to do to stay alive. Iceland’s chances took a huge hit with the loss to Slovenia.
Azerbaijan 1 – Luxembourg 1 – Baku, Azerbaijan
We gave both of these teams no shot to advance coming into this game, and we still feel the same way. In the case of Azerbaijan, if you can’t beat Luxembourg at home, there’s a problem. This has to be the weakest group in all of qualifying. The teams at the bottom of the standings are just brutal. Respect to Luxembourg for fighting back to steal a point. This is a game that had to be played I guess. Azerbaijan will likely be eliminated from qualifying before they take the pitch again.
Prediction: Azerbaijan by 3
Portugal 1 – Russia 0 – Lisbon, Portugal
In what was seemingly the theme of the day, big games just did not live up to their hype. Russia finally conceded a goal early, and the rest of the match was mostly forgettable. A couple of oohs and aahs, but nothing came to fruition. Russia is still the favorite to top the group, but Portugal is surely thrilled getting 3 points. The real loser in this one was Israel, as they were hoping our predictor was right and Russia could at least hold Portugal to a draw.
Result: Portugal by 1
If you didn’t think this one was down to three teams before, it certainly is now. Portugal got the signature win they desperately needed, but the needle hasn’t moved all that much. It’s looking very much like Russia 1, Portugal 2.
|Northern Ireland||3||-4||thru 5|
Greece 1 – Lithuania 0 – Vilnuis, Lithuania
It’s one thing to lose a game at home. It’s another to be done in by a man whose last name is 18 letters long. Such was the case in Vilnuis as Lithuania couldn’t muster anything of form against Greece. In typical Greek fashion, 1 goal was enough to get the job done. But given another performance in Group G, this kind of effort will not get it done in the long run. Lithuania is now on borrowed time as they face certain elimination.
Prediction: Greece by 2
Result: Greece by 1
Bosnia-Herzegovina 5 – Latvia 0 – Riga, Latvia
Looking at the score you’d never know Latvia was lucky to get off this easy. Bosnia outshot them 35-1!! I can’t remember the last time I’ve seen a performance this dominating. Unable to break through until the 48th, the floodgates opened and there was nothing to stop it. If this game had gone on any longer there would have been many more goals. Of all the teams in Europe right now, I have to say Bosnia has looked to be the most impressive. They made Latvia look downright awful.
Prediction: Bosnia-Herzegovina by 2
Result: Bosnia-Herzegovina by 5
Liechtenstein 1 – Slovakia 1 – Vaduz, Liechtenstein
We thought our predictor was underestimating the power of Slovakia. Turns out, Slovakia had to fight to even get anything from this match. For awhile it looked like Liechtenstein would get their first win in qualifying, but it was not to be. They did just enough to stay alive in qualifying, but their chances are still virtually non-existent. But the real story here is a 2010 World Cup team failing to beat one of the worst teams in UEFA. This is how you get left out of major tournaments. Greece must be thanking the gods that some of the pressure on them has been alleviated.
Prediction: Slovakia by 2
Things ended up pretty much how we expected other than Slovakia’s slip up. It would be totally shocking at this point if the top 2 were not Bosnia and Greece. Bosnia is thoroughly dominating this group.
Ukraine 4 – Montenegro 0 – Podgorica, Montenegro
This is by far the most shocking result in Europe. Montenegro was cruising along in 1st place of Group H and had not lost in more than 18 months. The match was headed to a 0-0 halftime when Ukrainian Roman Zozulia was shown a straight red just before the break. I don’t know what happened in the locker rooms before returning to the pitch, but a 10 man Ukraine scored 4 second half goals against Montenegro. By the time the match had ended, Montenegro only had 9 players remaining. This was just a complete mental breakdown and puts a severe blow on Montenegro’s chances of finishing 1st. Ukraine is back in it.
Prediction: Montenegro by 2
Result: Ukraine by 4
Moldova 1 – Poland 1 – Chisinau, Moldova
Push guy!! This is a pivotal blunder by Poland. A win would have had them on 11 points right in the thick of it with the other top 3 teams. But Champions League hero Robert Lewandowski couldn’t solve the difficult Moldova. Moldova isn’t officially out of it yet, but they needed 3 points if they wanted to have any shot at all at moving towards the top.
Prediction: Poland by 2
As expected, San Marino was officially eliminated from qualifying with these results. Some would say they were out before it began. This is by far the most competitive group in qualifying and the most uncertain. England must be feeling much better, while Ukraine has found new life. Montenegro’s odds fell off a cliff. They went from a 9% chance of finishing outside the top 2 to a 62% chance.
|San Marino||0||-29||thru 6||*Eliminated|
Finland 1 – Belarus 0 – Helskinki, Finland
In the first leg of this home-and-home series, Finland came out on top. It was an absolutely vital three points if the Finns wanted any chance of reaching Brazil. Belarus just did not have enough to get back into the match after the 57th minute winner. The win for Finland put Belarus on the brink of elimination knowing that without any points in the return leg 4 days later, Belarus would be eliminated. It was nice for Finland to finally get the first goal in a match in qualifying.
Prediction: Finland by 2
Result: Finland by 1
Belarus 1 – Finland 1 – Gomel, Belarus
How quickly fortunes can change in this dangerous game of qualifying. Finland got the home win they needed and got a first half tally in this one. They weren’t able to hold on, however, as Belarus scored in the final 10 minutes to all but eliminate both teams. In a group with Spain and France, if you can’t beat Belarus, you’re cooked. We anticipated this, and the standings look exactly as we projected.
No real surprises in this group. It’s the Spain and France show. Finland needed 2 wins to have any chance, and they didn’t get it.
As always, thanks for reading. While this post was very lengthy, we hope you enjoyed our UEFA qualifying coverage. There really is nothing like watching games in public to get the great atmosphere of World Cup Qualifying. Follow us on Twitter @We_Global and be sure to stay up to date with all future posts.