Wednesday, March 30, 2022

Qualified and not qualified

We are in the last stages of the World Cup qualifiers. 

In Europe two decisive playoff matches saw Portugal and Poland qualify by defeating North Macedonia and Sweden respectively; both were 2-0 home victories. The Macedonians were never really close to pulling another surprise against the Portuguese, while the Swedes play without fantasy or passion, and will not really be missed in Qatar. One team remains to qualify: Wales will face the winner of Scotland-Ukraine, which was postponed due to the war in Ukraine.

In South America there was little to play for for everyone but Peru and Colombia. A victory for Peru against Paraguay would put them in the play-off match, while Colombia had to defeat Venezuela and hope that Peru did not win. Both Peru and Colombia won, but it was not enough for Colombia, who will be missed in Qatar (I am personally very sad not to see them qualify), but they only have themselves to blame for missing another World Cup (the last they missed was 2010). Peru in the meantime is going into a play-off match in June against Australia or the United Arab Emirates. It seems it will be Australia, and against them I think Peru's chances will be 50-50 of making it to their second World Cup in a row.

In Africa there was enormous excitement as the second legs of the playoffs took place with some upsets. Firstly, Nigeria will miss their first World Cup since 2006 when they only managed a 1-1 at home to Ghana, who I am personally happy to see back in the World Cup after they missed Russia 2018! 

In a near-repeat of the Africa Cup of Nations final Senegal eliminated Egypt after penalty kicks, following a 1-0 victory that had equalized Egypt's 1-0 victory in Cairo. The Senegalese fully deserved the victory as they were the ones looking for it, rather than the defensive Egyptians. That said, the victory was marred by the fans, who abused laser-lights at the Egyptian players, making the match appear like a rave party.

The other big upset was Cameroun, who defeated Algeria 1-2 in Algeria after having lost 0-1 at home. The match had to go into extra time, and after Ahmed Touba scoring an equalizer for Algeria in the 118th minute, Cameroun seemed eliminated, but a goal by Karl Toko Ekambi in the last kick of the match (124th minute!) put Cameroun in Qatar in what was surely a devastating blow for the talented Algerians. At the same time it will be great to see Cameroun back in a World Cup after the missed out on Russia 2018. 

Tunisia and Morocco will make up the rest if African contingent to Qatar.

Only three teams remain to qualify, and it will (likely) be decided among these: Wales, Scotland, Ukraine, Peru, Australia, United Arab Emirates, New Zealand and Costa Rica.

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