Tension mounts as 2010 qualifying matches near end

Thursday, September 3, 2009

FIFA 2010 World Cup qualification action is heating up in football loving countries all over the world as qualifying matched near the end, writes Proffesor Ndawonde.

Over 75 qualifiers will take place between 5 and 10 September, and they are as large in number as they are high in temperature with South American derbies, Asian play-offs, European tussles and African duels.

Many soccer enthusiasts have started guessing whether football giants like Brazil, England, Germany and Spain will join the six countries that have already qualified for Africa's first World Cup.

Netherlands, North Korea, South Korea, Australia and Japan have already qualified. Italy and South Africa will automatically be able to participate.

The 32 teams, who will take part in the World Cup, will be known before the end of October.

All eyes will be on Europe and South America over the next week as Brazil, Argentina and Chile lock horns in the fight for a spot in the World Cup.

The 2009 Confederations Cup champions, Brazil will play their archrivals, Argentina mentored by the soccer legend, Diego Maradona, on Saturday in South America.

If Brazil wins this round as well as the match against Chile on Wednesday next week, they will have a great chance of qualifying as they lead the South American zone with 27 points. They are closely followed by Chile with 26 points and Argentina is in fourth position with 22 points behind Paraguay with 24 points.

The top four teams from the South American zone will qualify for the World Cup. The fifth placed team will play against the fourth place team from the North, Central America and Caribbean zone, at the moment this team is Ecuador with 20 points.

All South American teams, who play two qualifying matches between 5 and 10 September, have four qualifiers to play ahead of the World Cup draw, to take place in Cape Town on 4 December.

Meanwhile, the tension is extremely high in Europe as one of the continental giants Netherlands has already qualified, leaving its rivals such as Spain, England, France, Germany, Russia and Portugal to battle it out.

Spain, Germany, and England are anticipated to join their archrival, Netherlands, but only if they manage to win their two September clashes.

Spain has won all their qualifiers thus far and leads with 18 points, hence they are the favourites in group five. The European champions will play Belgium on Saturday and clash with struggling Estonia on Wednesday.

With the charges of Fabio Capello, England is leading group six with 21 points. They are expected to seal their qualifying mission when they take on Croatia on Wednesday next week.

Meanwhile, the host of the 2006 FIFA World Cup, Germany, is leading group four with 19 points and on Wednesday they play Azerbaijan. Germany will lock horns with South Africa's Bafana Bafana in an international friendly at home on Saturday.

Other European teams expected to qualify to the World Cup include Denmark, Greece, Slovakia and Serbia as they lead their respective groups.

Pressure in Africa is swelling as some of the so-called powerhouses of African football, such as Cameroon, Morocco and Nigeria, are expected to come back prove their critics wrong, despite criticism from their fans.

Gabon, Tunisia, Algeria, Ghana and Ivory Coast are currently leading their groups and are anticipated to qualify. However, they have a lot of hard work ahead of them. Giants Egypt and Nigeria are expected to bring missiles in their next games to confirm a spot in the event.

Gabon is playing a double head with star-dominated Cameroon on Saturday and Wednesday. Cameroon stars like Samuel Eto'o of AC Milan and Alexendre Song of Arsenal would not like to miss the World Cup at the expense of Gabon, thus these two matches are crucial for both sides.

Meanwhile, the Asian Zone four teams, Australia, Japan, Korea Republic and Korea DPR, have already qualified. Bahrain and Saudi Arabia will clash in two play-off matches on Saturday and Wednesday to fight for the fifth position.

New Zealand won the Oceania Zone qualifying section and will have to go up against the side which finishes fifth in the Asian Zone.

It is crunch time in the North, Central America and Caribbean Zone as the final 'hexagonal' round is about to end. The region's heavyweights all have their sights squarely on the three-and-a-half places left in the World Cup.

Regional champions the United States, Mexico, Costa Rica, Honduras, El Salvador and Trinidad and Tobago are also in the fight for the top three places. But Mexico, the US and Costa Rica are the favourites.