Chris O (follow on Twitter: @COakleyFtbl)
Sat 17 November 2007

World Cup 2010 Update

It's been a month since our last look at what's going on in the FIFA World Cup 2010 qualifiers, so let's get you up to speed with recent happenings...

Asia has been by far the busiest continent of late with lots of First Round matches going on recently. There'll be five rounds of qualifying to get through before we find out which four or five teams make it to South Africa, but here's an overview of how it all works.

There are 43 teams taking part, of which the five that are ranked highest (Australia, South Korea, Saudi Arabia, Japan and Iran) get a bye to Round 3. The 38 that remain all take part in the home-and-away knockout games of Round 1, and of the 19 winners that come from that, the 11 that are ranked the highest will also get a bye to Round 3.

The remaining 8 teams play in Round 2 where four further home-and-away knockout games will ensue. The four winners of these games join the 16 teams that have been waiting impatiently for their arrival in Round 3. We won't concern ourselves with Rounds 4 and 5 as frankly it'll only blow your mind at this stage.

So anyway, Round 1 has seen most of the higher ranked teams win their two-leg ties with a few exceptions. Bahrain beat Malaysia 4-1 following a goalless first match to go through while Uzbekistan finished off the first leg demolition of Chinese Taipei to win 11-0 on aggregate.

There were other big wins for China (surprisingly unseeded) who beat Myanmar 11-0 on aggregate and Hong Kong whose 8-1 second leg victory over Timor-Leste ensured an 11-3 overall win.

Leaving the competition at the first stage were Palestine who lost 4-0 and 3-0 to Singapore, India (beaten 6-3 over two legs by Lebanon) and Asian Cup 2007 quarter-finalists Vietnam who lost 6-0 on aggregate to the United Arab Emirates.

Of the other big names on the continent, there were comfortable aggregate wins for Asian champions Iraq, Qatar and most comfortable of all Indonesia who qualified automatically due to the withdrawal of Guam.

Round 2 is already underway and the first-leg scores are as follows:

Yemen 1-1 Thailand; Singapore 2-0 Tajikistan; Indonesia 1-4 Syria; Hong Kong 0-0 Turkmenistan.

The second-leg ties all take place tomorrow (November 18th 2007) and we'll have news of those in our next update a month from now.

This month saw the start of Round 2 in the Oceania section and we're now down to the final four teams who are hoping to qualify for a play-off with the fifth-best team from Asia. New Zealand are tipped to be hot favourites to get that chance and they began the second round last month with a 2-0 win over Fiji and earlier today they picked up another three points by securing a 2-1 win over Vanuatu. Also taking place earlier today was Fiji's second game, this time against New Caledonia which ended in a 3-3 draw.

Coming up this Wednesday are two more games - New Zealand at home to Vanuatu and New Caledonia playing host to Fiji.

Meanwhile over in South America, all ten teams playing in the round-robin league have now played their second games and will later today play their third before getting a fourth under their belt on Wednesday.

So far, only Argentina can claim to have won both their opening matches, winning 2-0 away to Venezuela after a win by the same scoreline against Chile in the opening game. Brazil are second in the table having drawn 0-0 against Colombia and beaten Ecuador 5-0, while Paraguay also have four points having beaten fourth-placed Uruguay 1-0 in their most recent tie.

At the bottom, Ecuador are the only team without a point so far having lost to Brazil and before that Venezuela (1-0). Bolivia and Peru have only one point each so far, and it doesn't get any easier for them as they look forward to playing Argentina and Brazil respectively this weekend.

Finally to Africa where the Round 1 draws to a close this weekend. Djibouti are through to Round 2 already having beaten Somalia in a one-off game by one goal to nil, and they'll be joined by the winners of the matches between Sierra Leone and Guinea Bissau (First leg: 1-0) and Madagascar and Comoros (First leg: 6-2)

Round 2 is where the rest of Africa joins the party. There'll be a total of 48 competing countries in twelve groups of four where the winners of each group go into the final round to determine the five qualifiers for South Africa 2010.

If you're wondering whether the action's underway in Europe or the CONCACAF sections, the answer is 'no', but good news - next Sunday (November 25th) sees the draw take place in Durban, South Africa, for the 2010 World Cup Preliminary Round, so that's where we'll see who's playing who and when in those continents where play hasn't already started.

You can rest assured that a review of the draw will feature here on SPAOTP as soon as possible thereafter...

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