World Cup qualifiers heat up

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Pretoria - International football teams yearning for a spot in the 2010 FIFA World Cup will be back in action this evening, as most group phase qualifying matches reach a conclusion.

Teams in Europe, South America, the Caribbean and North and Central America Zones are anticipated to battle it out.

In Europe, teams like Switzerland and Slovakia look set to book direct tickets to South Africa while the runners-up will use everything at their disposal to claim a place in the play-offs.

The Swiss and Slovakians need only three points to register their names in Africa's very first FIFA World Cup.

Led by their lethal striker Alexander Frei, Switzerland outclassed Luxembourg 3-0 on Sunday and tonight play against Israel in Basel. The victory will guarantee their place in the finals.

Meanwhile, Slovakia is expected to astonish in their crucial clash against Poland tonight. The win will see them qualifying for the World Cup after struggling to make the grade for France in 1998, Korea in 2002 as well as Germany in 2006.

The tension will not end there for the European Zone as the world waits to see whether the potential runners-up - Portugal, Ukraine, Greece and Slovenia, reach the play-offs after failing to qualify directly.

The play-offs will be played over two legs on 14 and 18 November. The draw for these matches will be conducted on Monday next week in Zurich.

The Portuguese, led by the talented and most expensive footballer Ronaldo, will clash with struggling Malta tonight at home. They need only three points to reach the play-offs.

The Greeks will lock horns with Luxembourg in Athens to claim their spot in the play-offs which will determine the four teams that will play in the finals.

Slovenia, who is second in Group 3 with 17 points, might be able to qualify directly if Slovakia, who has 19 points, loses to Poland, but lady luck will have to play a big role.

Ukraine defeated England 1-0 last weekend and are set to beat the imperfect Andorra La Vella who have lost all their matches and conceded 33 goals in all nine matches.

France, Ireland, Russia as well as Bosnia-Herzegovina have all reached the play-offs after settling in second spot in their respective groups.

In South America, the temperature continues to soar as Argentina, under legendary Diego Maradona, urgently needs three points to qualify directly to South Africa next. They are in position four in their respective zone.

Led by skillful striker, Lionel Messi, the Auriverde will play against Uruguay in a mouthwatering clash as Uruguayans have not given up hope to qualify directly to the finals.

This will be a thrilling fixture as Maradona's charges are in fourth position with 25 points and Uruguay in fifth spot with 24.
After 90 minutes the winner will qualify directly and the loser will have to clash possibly against Honduras - who is in the fourth spot of the North, Central America and Caribbean Zone - in the play-offs.

Meanwhile, Costa Rica has to beat or draw against the already qualified United State tonight to register its name in the 32 teams to participate in the finals next year.

In Africa no qualifying games will be played this week but on this date next month, teams like Cameroon, Algeria, Nigeria, Tunisia and Egypt will battle it out.

Only 13 teams are left to make up the required 32 as USA, Mexico, Chile, Italy, Serbia, Denmark, Germany, Ivory Coast, Japan, South Korea, North Korea, England, Brazil, Ghana, Australia, Netherlands, Paraguay, Chile and host South Africa are already in the list. -