Sunday, October 09, 2005

More teams heading for the World Cup 2006

Yesterday, a number of new teams joined the already qualified, to book their tickets for Germany 2006.
All the African teams are ready:
  • Ghana: It was just a formality for the strong Ghanaians to ascertain their participation, by destroying Cape Verde. Go Ghana!
  • Togo: Most Europeans probably hardly know where Togo is... But they won their group ahead of the popular Senegalese from the 2002 World Cup, and shall not be underestimated.
  • Côte d'Ivoire: A very strong team, with Chelsea star Didier Drogba in front. They had some luck in the last game though, as Cameroun missed a last minute penalty against Egypt at home, that gave the spot away to the Ivorians.
  • Angola: Another newcomer that won the group ahead of the strong Nigerians; they will surely be interesting to watch in Germany.
  • Tunisia: The defending African Champs got their spot with a 2-2 at home against Morocco.

In South America, Argentina and Brazil were joined by two teams:

  • Ecuador: With 0-0 in Quito against Uruguay, the Ecuatorians have made it to their second world cup in a row. In 2002, they were out in the first round, but after defeating a strong Croatian side.
  • Paraguay: After defeating Venezuela away 1-0, they will be participating in their 7th world cup, third in a row.

There is still a strong fight for the fifth spot in South America, which gives a play-off match against Australia. The contenders are Uruguay, Colombia and Chile. I will not hide my strong sympathy for Colombia, who will be facing Paraguay in Asuncion on Wednesday.

In Europe, Germany and Ukraine have been joined by six teams:

  • Netherlands: With an impressive 2-0 victory in Prague, the Orange machine (and their great fans) will be a welcome nation in Germany.
  • Italy: The Italians are now qualified with a typical 1-0 victory against Slovenia.
  • Portugal: Maybe the Portuguese were not out for revenge against little Liechtenstein (after their 2-2 in October 2004, Liechtenstein's first point ever!), so although their 2-1 home-victory may seem meager, it still booked them tickets for Germany.
  • Poland: The Poles were already mathematically qualified, and they did not play yesterday. They still have one match against England, to fight for the first spot of the group.
  • England: With a hard-fought 1-0 victory against Austria, the English are mathematically qualified, at least as one of the best runner-ups. Next Wednesday's match against Poland is about the honour of who wins the group.
  • Croatia: Their third World Cup in a row, after defeating the strong Swedes 1-0 in Zagreb.

Sweden and Serbia-Montenegro are both only one step away from qualifying. In the meantime, France is having difficulties in Group 4, which is now being led by Israel. Other teams are struggling for the runner-up spots, and thus a play-off match: Turkey, Denmark, Spain, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Slovakia, Russia, Romania, Czechia. All these teams still have a lot of sweat and hardship ahead of them...

In the Central- and North American zone, one new team joined the USA and Mexico:

  • Costa Rica: The Ticos were an entertaining team in both 1990 and in 2002, and will be very welcome in Germany. They qualified last night after a resounding 3-0 victory against the USA in San Jose.

The number four of this zone, will get a play-off match against either Uzbekistan or Bahrain. It is now Trinidad and Tobago, closely followed by Guatemala.

The Uzbekistan-Bahrain match (which had to be re-played due to a strange referee decision) ended 1-1, so it still remains to be seen which of these four nations we will see in Germany. But it will certainly be a newcomer.

We now have 24 teams out of the 32 to go to Germany. Next Wednesday and Thursday, we will know a few more!

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