Chris O (follow on Twitter: @COakleyFtbl)
Fri 17 October 2008

World Cup 2010 Round-up: October 2008

It's been another busy week of World Cup 2010 qualifiers so let's round up all the important information from around the globe, starting off with…

Africa

…and here we have exciting news about the climax to Round 2 and the teams that have battled through to win a place in the last round.

Many of the continent's heavyweights such as Cameroon, Nigeria and Ivory Coast predictably finished top of their groups, but for others there was disappointment.

Angola and Senegal, both recent attendees at the World Cup Finals, failed to make it through to Round 3. Senegal's fate was sealed following a disappointing 1-1 draw at home to Gambia which left both teams unable to qualify from Group 6 behind Algeria who finished top. Angola's 3-1 win over Niger proved too little, too late as they finished two points adrift of eventual group winners Benin.

Elsewhere there were smiles all round as Malawi, Mozambique, Rwanda and Sudan all made it through to the last round having played formidable opposition in their groups. Joining them will be Togo who were undoubtedly boosted by the return from exile of Emmanuel Adebayor. He bagged four of his side's six goals as they thrashed Swaziland in Accra.

Winner of the award for the most comfortable qualification goes to Nigeria who eventually topped Group 4 by a whopping eleven points. The Super Eagles won all six of their games and conceded only one goal along the way. South Africa, who qualify for the 2010 World Cup as hosts, finished second in the group on goal difference and could only manage two wins throughout the campaign.

The draw for the final round of qualifying in Africa takes place on October 22nd, and here are the teams that will be involved in their seeding groups:

Pot 1 (Seeds)
Cameroon
Egypt
Ghana
Nigeria
Ivory Coast

Pot 2
Guinea
Morocco
Tunisia
Mali
Algeria

Pot 3
Burkina Faso
Gabon
Zambia
Kenya
Benin

Pot 4
Rwanda
Togo
Mozambique
Sudan
Malawi

Europe

Carlos Queiroz's honeymoon period as coach of the Portuguese team appears to have shuddered to an almighty halt after two successive goalless draws in Group 1 this week - one of them against an Albanian side that played with a man down for around half the match.

A 0-0 draw away to Sweden last weekend means Portugal are currently third in the table with only one win from four. Denmark, who beat Portugal 3-2 last month, remain top of the group ahead of Hungary following a 3-0 win over Malta.

Having slumped to a 2-1 defeat against Luxembourg last month, Switzerland bounced right back with two wins on the trot this week. A 2-1 victory over Latvia plus an impressive repeat scoreline against Group 2 leaders Greece means Ottmar Hitzfeld's team are now up to third in the table. Israel are second despite struggling to a 1-1 draw against the Latvians.

For a while it looked like Germany might fail to pick up all three points at home to Wales on Wednesday. Some excellent Welsh defensive play frustrated the Germans for well over an hour until Piotr Trochowski finally grabbed the winner to open up a four point gap at the top of Group 4.

Russia occupy second place in the table having lost 2-1 to Germany last weekend, but a 3-0 win over Finland put their campaign back on track and keeps them level on points with Wales who cruised to a 2-0 win over Liechtenstein last Saturday.

European champions Spain picked up their fourth win in four games to remain top of the group, but they had to come back from 1-0 down against a resurgent Belgian side to eventually pick up all three points in their second match this week. Andres Iniesta had equalised Wesley Sonck's opener for Belgium shortly before half time but it wasn't until David Villa scored two minutes from the end that Spain could finally relax.

Another team with four wins out of four are England who top Group 5 following their 5-1 win over Kazakhstan at the weekend and Wednesday's 3-1 victory away to Belarus. Fabio Capello's side had their unconvincing moments in both matches, but with half the goals coming from Wayne Rooney along with contributions from Rio Ferdinand, Jermaine Defoe and Steven Gerrard, England now have a five-point lead over nearest rivals Croatia. A goalless draw for them against third-placed Ukraine last weekend means they have much to do when the qualifying campaign resumes again next April.

The number of voices calling for the dismissal of French coach Raymond Domenech grow bigger by the day, but the team remain supportive of him following a decent second-half performance against Romania last Saturday. Two goals down at half-time, France looked to be heading for their second loss in the competition but Domenech change his team's tactics and an altogether more fluent team came out to force a 2-2 draw thanks to goals from Franck Ribery and Yoann Gourcuff.

France are now third in Group 7, five points behind their next opponents Lithuania (although they have a game in hand) and Serbia who beat the Lithuanians 3-0 and Austria 3-1 this week.

In Group 8, it was a case of 'as you were' for Italy as they remained top of the table following a goalless draw with Bulgaria and a 2-1 win over Montenegro while Ireland kept in touch with a narrow 1-0 win over Cyprus. Group 9 sees the Dutch go five points clear of nearest challengers Scotland after beating Iceland 2-0 and Norway 1-0. Scotland lost ground by drawing 0-0 with the Norwegians but it could have been oh so different if Chris Iwelumo hadn't missed that sitter at Hampden…

Asia

Just a handful of games took place in Asia on Wednesday, but among them was a convincing 4-0 win for Australia over Qatar. Blackburn Rovers' Brett Emerton scored two for the Socceroos while Everton midfielder Tim Cahill grabbed another to put the Aussies top of Group A by two points. In the other game in the group, Japan were held to a 1-1 draw at home to Uzbekistan.

In Group B, a four-way tie for the lead has emerged with South Korea top of the pile on goal difference. They managed to thrash United Arab Emirates 4-1 with two goals from Lee Keun-Ho.

Like South Korea, Iran also picked up their first win of the round by beating North Korea 2-1. Eintracht Frankfurt's Mehdi Mahdavikia was on hand with the first goal for the home side before Osasuna's Javad Nekonam added a second after 65 minutes.

All of which leaves Saudi Arabia down in third place in the group, but they'll be in action on November 19th when they play host to South Korea while Iran visit the UAE looking to inflict their fourth straight defeat on them.

Also next month, Australia travel to Bahrain in Group A while Qatar are at home to Japan.

South America

Take a leap of faith with us as we proclaim with justified exuberance "Paraguay are the kings of South America." Yes, it's probably the right time to start looking upon Gerardo Martino's side as the best side on the continent as they maintained their excellent start to the South American qualifying competition.

Up to now, Paraguay have only lost one of their ten games (a 4-2 defeat away to Bolivia in June) and this week saw them add another couple of 1-0 wins to their tally against Peru and Colombia. They now head the table on 23 points - three more than they accumulated in the entire 2006 qualifying group, and they still have eight games left to play.

Brazil now occupy second spot thanks to a third straight goalless draw at home against Colombia and a 4-0 away win in Venezuela. The former of those games saw head coach Dunga subjected to the sort of booing that makes the Ashley Cole story seem like a whole load of fuss about nothing.

Luckily for Dunga, Brazil seem to be playing better on the road and are still able to boast just one defeat in ten like Paraguay. It's just a shame they've only won four out of those ten, otherwise they'd probably have qualified for the next World Cup by now.

Freefalling in a big way are Colombia. They're now seventh in the table and have now gone 532 minutes without scoring a goal. Admittedly their last two games were against the might of Brazil and Paraguay (of which they earned a creditable draw against the former, as we've mentioned), but they've now gone six games without a win and have scored just four goals in the whole campaign thus far.

That's good news for Chile, amongst others, who have climbed to fourth following an excellent 1-0 win over Argentina on Thursday night. Fabian Orellana grabbed the vital winner shortly before half-time to put Chile level on points with their opponents.

The impact of that win for Chile - their first over Argentina since 1973 - was monumental insofar as it cost Alfio Basile his job as coach of the Argentinean side. Basile quit his post for personal reasons yesterday after a recent poor run of form and though Argentina picked up a useful 2-1 win over Uruguay last Saturday, the damage, it seems, had already been done. Argentina now lie third in the qualifying table with eight games remaining.

Luckily for the AFA, the search for Basile's successor can now be conducted at a leisurely pace as the South American qualifying campaign goes into hibernation until March 28th 2009 when the competition begins once again.

North and Central America

Costa Rica became the first team to qualify for the final group stage in the CONCACAF region last weekend following their 4-1 away win over Suriname. A 2-0 victory over Haiti four days later secured top spot in Group 3 as El Salvador also booked their place as group runners-up. A 3-0 win over the Surinamese means they'll be in the group of six that battle it out for the three qualifying spots for South Africa when the competition begins in 2009.

Elsewhere, the USA added their names to the list following a comprehensive 6-1 rout of Cuba on Saturday. DaMarcus Beasley scored two and Landon Donovan, Brian Ching, Jozy Altidore and Oguchi Onyewu picked up one each in a victory that did much to boost the fans spirits just days before Trinidad & Tobago inflicted a 2-1 defeat on them to improve their own chances of qualifying.

T&T are now second in Group 1, three points ahead of Guatemala and need just a draw at home to Cuba on November 19th to book their place in the last round. Guatemala travel to the States on the same day hoping that their hosts have the same relaxed mentality that they showed against Trinidad and Tobago this Wednesday.

Finally to Group 2 where Sven's Mexico side suffered a shock 1-0 defeat away to Jamaica last weekend, stalling the Mexicans' chances of securing a place in the next round. Ricardo Fuller's 14th minute strike gave the Jamaicans their first win of the campaign, swiftly followed as it was by their second on Wednesday at home to Honduras, 1-0. Luton Shelton was on hand with the winner this time to force a three-way fight for the two qualifying spots in the group.

Honduras are the meat in the Mexico/Jamaica sandwich, and they retain second spot following a 3-1 win over Canada on Saturday. All of which means the last round of Group 2 fixtures a month from now are crucial in deciding the two teams to go through. The crunch match is undoubtedly the one between Honduras and Mexico where a draw for Eriksson's side will prove enough for them, while Jamaica have the considerably easier job of trying to beat Canada at home.

So have Honduras stumbled at the wrong moment? Will the crack in Mexico's form turn into an irreparable crevasse that sees them fail to qualify for a World Cup for the first time since 1982?

Join us next month to find out…

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