2014 World Cup: 5 Teams That Will Disappoint During Qualifying
The Perils of World Cup Qualifying
When it comes to the FIFA World Cup, it seems that there could never truly be enough teams invited to the final competition. After all, inviting only 32 out of the 209 nations that have associations to the event inevitably results in some of the best teams and players in the world being left out of in the cold.
The 2010 incarnation of the World Cup Finals was a perfect example of this, as fans were robbed of the chance to see Venezuela, Colombia and Belgium amongst others because of qualifying mishaps. This meant that excellent footballers such as Falcao, James Rodriguez, Eden Hazard and Jan Vertonghen were at home in the so-called marquee event for the world's marquee sport.
But while some will view this exclusion of great teams and players as a downfall of the FIFA World Cup, others would surely say that it only adds to the tournament, as it makes the qualification process much more exciting. After all, how many times do you get the guarantee of such rivalries as Brazil vs. Argentina, or Mexico vs. U.S. with so much on the line?
Regional games such as these can often match the intensity of any game that is played at a FIFA World Cup, in large part due to the fact that they decide who even gets to this point. The current incarnation of regional qualifiers is having directly this effect, as many teams enter their final game or two or qualification at risk of not making the big tournament. Teams in this position include Ivory Coast, Mexico and even France, and will result in a number of proud footballing nations feeling quite disappointed next June when the sport's marquee event begins in Brazil.
With these big qualifying matches for the 2014 FIFA World Cup in mind, I took a look into the crystal ball to identify the five teams who will look back on their qualifying campaigns and think of what could have been.
After qualifying for the previous two incarnations of the FIFA World Cup, it was thought that Serbia would surely qualify for the 2014 FIFA World Cup. But after a wretched 1-1-3 record to start qualifying, this expectation began to start slipping away for Serbia, and heading into the nations final qualifying game this Tuesday, it has become impossible. While Serbia is by no means a competitor to win a World Cup, the inability to even come close to qualifying (they sit six points behind the playoff spot in Group A) is an immense disappointment and an undoubted step back from recent successes.
With one game left to play in their 2014 FIFA World Cup qualifying campaign, it seems all but a certainty that Portugal will be finishing second in their group behind Russian. The result of this is that Portugal will face a two-game playoff to qualify for the 2014 FIFA World Cup in early November, which could see them pitted against impressive nations including England, France, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Sweden or Croatia. Failure to win this playoff will be seen as a monumental failure around the world, especially when one considers that Portugal features one of the world's best players in Cristiano Ronaldo. Recent times have shown us that Portugal has a tendency to drop their production when the lights get brightest, leaving little reason to believe that the nation will qualify for the 2014 FIFA World Cup. One could say that this would be a slight disappointment, or maybe just a national disaster. Either would be accurrate.
From fourth place in the 2010 FIFA World Cup and champions of the 2011 Copa America to not even qualifying for the 2014 FIFA World Cup? That is the position that Uruguay may face themselves in, as they would need Chile to lose and to gain five goals in goal differential with a win over Argentina in the final matchday of CONMEBOL World Cup qualifying to ensure direct qualification into the 2014 FIFA World Cup. The likelihood of this combination of events occurring is nearly zero percent, and leaves Uruguay in the unfortunate and disappointing position of having to win a two-leg playoff against Jordan in November to advance to the 2014 FIFA World Cup. Losing this two-leg playoff would only make this qualifying campaign even more disappointing and quite possibly could send the entire nation of Uruguay into a state of depression.
Heading into the final game of qualification in the CONCACAF Hexagonal, the normally proud footballing nation of Mexico sits in the precarious situation of sitting three points behind an automatic qualification spot and three ahead of being knocked out contention for the of the 2014 FIFA World Cup. The result of this is that there is nearly no chance that Mexico will move either up or down, and in all likelihood they will face a two-leg playoff against New Zealand in November to decide whether they will advance to the 2014 FIFA World Cup. Just being in this position at all will have Mexicans feeling extremely disappointed, but a loss over the deciding two-leg playoffs may just register as a national catastrophe.
With a two-game playoff upcoming against Ghana to decide who will advance to the 2014 FIFA World Cup, there is little doubt that Egypt fans are getting antsy. In recent years, an amazingly talented Egypt squad has consistently underperformed during the biggest moments, which explains the nations inability to qualify for the World Cup since 1990, despite winning the African Cup of Nations four times in this time period. A 6-0 record in the second round of qualifying may have some people feeling as if head coach Bob Bradley may have unlocked this nation's World Cup qualifying curse, but we beg to differ. After all, second-round foes Guinea, Mozambique, and Zimbabwe can not even begin to compare to the team that Ghana possesses, and the last meeting between the two nations resulted in a comprehensive 3-0 loss for Egypt. History will again repeat itself over this two-leg playoff, and the Egyptians will feel the pain of just missing out on competing in the biggest tournament in the world.