Players are off with their countries again this week and next and, for some, all the marbles are on the line. 14 Viola players were called up, three were unable to answer. Ante Rebic and Josep Ilicic were called but had to decline. Also, sadly, Facundo Roncaglia, for a long time dreaming of a call up by Argentina, cannot make the call, due to a muscle issue.
These matches will still be important for those teams already qualified as FIFA announced earlier that "the top seeds in the 2014 World Cup groups will be host Brazil and the seven best-ranked teams in the October standings."
Currently, the top seven teams are Spain, Argentina, Germany, Italy, Colombia, Belgium and Uruguay. Brazil is ranked No. 8. The other draw pots will be determined by "geographic and sports criteria."
World Cup Qualifying
European qualifying group play will complete over the next couple of days. First place in group qualifies directly to the World Cup. The eight best second place finishers will play off in a two leg tie in November with the four leg winners advancing to Brazil 2014 next Summer.
Ante Rebic will be missing a huge match for Croatia, as they host group leading Belgium today. Belgium lead Croatia by 5 points, with two matches left. To take the group, Croatia will have to win that match and beat Scotland in Glasgow on Tuesday, as well as hope that Wales can beat Belgium in Brussels. Croatia have already clinched second place, but, with 17 points, will probably need to get some points to make the playoff round.
Croatia, currently tenth in the FIFA standings have an outside chance of moving up to the top seeded pot with two wins.
In third place and out of the running Nenad Tomovic's Serbia will play a match at Macedonia on Tuesday.
Italy have already clinched the group, but will be looking to get results to keep their top 7 rankings and a spot in Pot 1 in the seeding. Alberto Aquilani, Giuseppe Rossi and Manuel Pasqual will be available for San Cesere and the Azzurri.
Italy play in Denmark today and host Armenia Tuesday. Denmark, currently in third place with 12 points, one point behind Bulgaria will need a win in this match and another while hosting Malta on Tuesday looking to skip into second place. 6 points are a must for the Danes if they hope to get into the playoffs. Bulgaria travel to Armenia and host the 4th place Czechs, who have 9 points.
Mario Gomez's Germany are all but through with 22 points, 5 ahead of second place Sweden, who have 17 points. Germany can clinch the group today, while hosting the Republic of Ireland, while Sweden can clinch second place as they host third place Austria, who have 14 points. Tuesday, Sweden host Germany. Germany will be looking for a result for their ranking and Sweden will be looking to ensure a spot in the playoffs.
Netherlands are already qualified, with 22 points. So, at first glance, their matches at home against second place Hungary, who, with 14 points are 8 points behind and away to Turkey, currently in third place with 13 points seem virtually meaningless. However, the Oranje, currently ranked 9th in the world, will have to get results in hopes of moving ahead of Brazil and Uruguay and into the top Pot.
Hungary and Turkey will be looking for results to secure second and in hopes of a playoff spot, and each team has, what should be, an easy three points in their other matches as Turkey travel to Estonia and Hungary host Andorra.
However, further complicating the group are Romania, who are tied for third place with 13 points and travel to Estonia and host Andorra and could very likely get 6 points in the final two matches to sneak past both Turkey and Hungary. Whether 19 points would be enough to get Adrian Mutu's home squad into the playoffs will remain to be seen. Sadly for our boy Adi, his days of playing for his country are long over.
Switzerland are all but through with 18 points, 5 points ahead of second place Iceland. Switzerland travel to Albania today looking to finish it off.
Second place is WIDE open in this group as Iceland have 13 points, Slovenia have 12, Norway have 11 and Albania have 10. Because of the infighting, it's likely that whomever finishes second will miss out on the playoffs unless one squad can secure 6 points from this break. This will be a fun group to watch,
Russia and Portugal, with 18 and 17 points respectively, are fighting it out for qualification in this group. Russia has a slight edge as they travel to Luxembourg and host Azerbaijan, while Portugal have third place Israel and Luxembourg. In Portugal's favor are that both matches are on home soil.
Whomever finishes second is very likely to make the playoffs.
Bosnia-Herzegovina and Greece are tied with 19 points, and both squads have clinched at least second place as third place Slovakia are 7 points behind. Bosnia host Liechtenstein in what should be a sure 3 points and travel to Lithuania, while Greece host Slovakia and Liechtenstein. Second place looks fairly good to make the playoffs as they are currently the highest point total of the second place teams.
Group H is wide open as well as England, with 16 points, lead Stefan Savic's Montenegro and the Ukraine by 1 point. Poland are only 3 points behind.
Today, Montenegro travel to London to play for the group, while Poland travel to the Ukraine. England host Poland, while Montenegro host Moldova on Tuesday.
Spain and France are tied with 14 points, but Spain have the advantage of a game in hand with both matches left at home, against Belarus and Georgia. France will host Finland. With a win, France are fairly certain of a playoff spot.
With Brazil already qualified as hosts, top 4 teams automatically qualify while 5th place plays a home and away playoff against Jordan. Each team will play 18 matches.
Argentina are through, they will play a virtually meaningless match against Juan Manuel Vargas' Peru and will travel to Uruguay. Argentina will wants points, however, to retain their FIFA ranking.
Juan Cuadrado and Colombia will need two points to ensure qualification, without a playoff match. They host David Pizarro and Matias Fernandez and Chile today and travel to last place Paraguay on Tuesday
Chile are but one point from securing at least the playoff spot but will need to do well as they play Colombia and host fourth place Ecuador.
Ecuador host Uruguay today in a match that will likely decide who faces off against Jordan, which, for all intents and purposes, should be nothing more than a formality, but anything can happen in football.
Africa have 5 available spots for Brazil and 10 teams are currently playing off for those spots. First legs will be played this week and the second leg will be played on the next break in November
Jordan beat Uzbekistan in a barn burner. Both legs finished 1-1 and extra time could not decide the issue and it went to penalty kicks. Jordan won 8-9 and will face the 5h place South American team.
New Zealand won group play and will play the fourth place team from North, Central America and the Caribbean
North, Central America and the Caribbean
USA, 16 points, and Costa Rica, 15 points, have qualified, while Honduras(11), Panama(8), Mexico(8) and Jamaica(4) still have hopes alive.
Honduras host Costa Rica and travel to Jamaica
Panama travel to Mexico and host the United States
After the Panama match Mexico travel to Costa Rica
Before the Honduras match, Jamaica travel to the USA
Meanwhile, UEFA are engaged in qualifying for the Under 21 Championships to be played in 2015.
Marko Bakic and Montenegro will play Germany in Group 6 play,
Rafal Wolski and Poland play Sweden and Turkey