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World Cup Qualifying

Portugal drawn with Sweden, France with Ukraine in UEFA Playoff draw

CristianoRonaldoPortugal1-NorthernIreland (Getty)

By DAN KARELL

One of either Cristiano Ronaldo or Zlatan Ibrahimovic will not be present on the field at the 2014 World Cup next summer in Brazil.

Portugal and Sweden were drawn together in the UEFA Playoff-round draw, pitting two of the best goal-scorers in the world against one another in the two-legged qualification series. Head coach Paulo Bento and his Portugal side will host the first leg on November 15, with Sweden manager Erik Hamren hosting the second leg four days later.

The draw also placed Ukraine with France, Greece with Romania, and Iceland with Croatia. If Iceland can win the two-legged tie, they’ll make their first ever World Cup appearance as well as being the smallest nation to qualify in history.

Here’s the full list of the UEFA Playoff draw:

UEFA PLAYOFF DRAW: First leg on Nov. 15, second leg on Nov. 19

Portugal vs. Sweden

Ukraine vs. France

Greece vs. Romania

Iceland vs. Croatia

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What do you think of the draw? Do you see Ronaldo or Ibrahimovic making the World Cup? Do you believe Iceland can defeat Croatia? Which of these matches stand out to you?

Share your thoughts below.

102 comments
  • blokhin

    Unreal… Greece always gets a cupcake group and now an easy match up. So much for Ukraine…

    Like

    • Bilbo Baggins

      I was thinking the same thing. Greece did well in Euros a few years back but all they seem to be is filler while a team like Sweden or even Turkey is bound to miss out.

      Like

    • nato

      yeah last time they had Ukraine in the play-offs and got to the WC and sorta flopped. so don’t worry. EURO 2004 was such an outlier.

      I have a feeling Ukraine qualifies, Sweden, Romania and Croatia

      Like

      • Braden

        Thinking with your (USMNT) scarf on that one? I’d love it, but I’d happily bet you $100 it won’t happen,

        Like

  • P

    The UEFA and CONMEBOL playoffs are always a nice reality check about the difficulty of CONCACAF compared to other regions around the world.

    Like

    • dman

      Based on what? the names of the teams?

      Onlly head-Head competition could be a reality check

      Like

    • Increase

      I think anyone in the Top 50 has a chance of beating Uruguay right now. They are not that great right now.

      Like

      • KingGoogleyEye

        Uruguay played tough in the Confed Cup. Qualifying though seems like a different team—like they confused themselves with Paraguay.

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    • RB

      I’d like to see Iceland make it. Why not? And besides, imagine if they end up in our group and Bacon is there…

      Like

    • DCUPedro

      Ironic comment for a guy named “NATO” to make. Iceland is a member of the alliance, Sweden is not.

      Like

  • RB

    Elimination match-ups like POR–SWE are a good argument against things like CONCACAF getting 3.5 spots…

    Like

    • slowleftarm

      I think it’s a better argument against Asia having 4.5 spots. Generally Asian teams are 3 and out at the World Cup.

      Like

      • Justin

        Right on. Even if one has a problem with 3.5 out of CONCACAF, 4.5 out of AFC is even more ridiculous. If you do it by Fifa rankings, there are 5 CONCACAF teams ranked ahead of Japan, who are ranked first in Asia at 44.

        If you want to do it head-to-head, Mexico, who are clinging to the bottom rung of CONCACAF qualification, defeated Japan in a summer where Japan cruised in Asia and Mexico struggled mightily in North/Central America.

        If we are going to talk about re-allocating bids (which is moot, anyway), they should be coming from Asia first, then take a long look between CAF and CONCACAF. Outside of Japan and South Korea, no Asian nation has ever demonstrated that they consistently belong at the World Cup.

        Like

      • Bird

        3 and out? Like Japan and korea in 2002? Or like Japan and Korea in 2010? Or Australia in 2006? Asian teams have fared better than CONCACAF in the last few World Cups. Japan and South Korea would do well in CONCACAF and play the US and Mexico very tight. Japan has very recently had a string of bad matches which has dropped them in rankings, but they were also one of the first to qualify so they have been playing youth looking for a legit striker and CBs. I will agree with you that outside of Korea, Japan and Australia there isnt much.

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      • MidWest Ref

        In other words, the top of Asia is no different than the top of CONCACAF. So why is everyone ready to throw CONCACAF under the bus and not Asia? For that matter, is Africa that much better to get 5 teams this year and 6 in 2010? I think not.

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      • Justin

        He said “generally”, and he was absolutely right – generally, the top AFC teams go out quickly. It’s really just a pissing match that doesn’t mean that much. If you are evaluating the relative World Cup “success” of these confederations, you are basically just comparing South Korea and Japan vs. USA and Mexico – so take your pick. I think it stands as a relevant point that for all the “CONCACRAP” jokes out there, our confederation looks like it might be improving while the AFC teams look flat and occupy even more spots at the WC.

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      • KingGoogleyEye

        Well said Justin and MidWest Ref. Bird disagreed then proceeded to make slowleftarm’s point.

        Like

      • Gene

        I am a USMNT fan, but that’s debatable (at least if you look at the last 30-40 years). US and Mexico generally exit at the group stage or make it to the round of 16 (we did make it to the next stage once and Mexico did, twice, years ago). Same is true for So. Korea and Japan and So. Korea did make the semis in 02 (albeit as hosts). If you look beyond the two strongest teams in each conference, Aussies have reached the round of 16 in 2006, and I don’t believe anyone in CONCAAF outside of Us and Mexico matched that result.

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      • MidWest Ref

        Didn’t the Aussie’s make the 16 in 2006 as a representative of Oceana, after defeating Uruguay in a play-off?

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      • Joamiq

        Yes, but regardless, they’re in Asia now. Asia doesn’t have much beyond the top 3, but that’s a pretty solid top 3. It’s a similar situation in CONCACAF, except it’s a top 2 instead of 3.

        Like

      • Edwin in LA

        Costa Rica in 1990 Italy WC. Made it to the round of 16. Put up a great run, they didn’t make the knock out rounds in 02 but did better than say Saudi Arabia or Iran in other WC’s

        Like

    • John

      Also if they had just done the draw based on FIFA rankings you wouldn’t have had that match up.

      Like

      • RB

        But the issue would still be the relatively limited number of spots, given the ones for other regions.

        Like

    • Beto

      Europe getting 13 (40% of the total bids) in enough. Qualification is so intense for a reason!

      I agree that once Asia steps up their game they could get more bids. Not right now tho, the only process that is not fair is the African qualification.

      Like

      • John

        While I agree I don’t like the African process I don’t see where they really deserve more spots.

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      • Joamiq

        If CAF qualification resulted in the best African teams making the WC consistently, their WC results would likely be better. Agree that it’s tough to justify more spots on current results, but it would be great if an extra half slot caused them to reconfigure the entire process, play more qualification matches, and have more deserving entrants.

        Like

    • Increase

      Well if we want it to be the “world” cup we can’t just give all the spots to Europe. That’s is pretty much my reasoning. It has nothing to do with the best teams. I mean… Costa Rica won’t win it but neither will Sweden so I would rather have Costa Rica there for variety.

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      • KingGoogleyEye

        BINGO! Someone who actually understands the meaning of the word “world.”

        If we just want it to be a competition between teams that can actually win it, then let’s call it the “GerFraItaBraSpa Cup” (or the “UEFA+CBA Cup”).

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      • RB

        Of course this is the same type of argument that supports awarding the World Cup to Qatar rather than the US…

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    • Roman Lewandowski

      No team on this list would be an appalling no-show at the WC.

      That is a very mediocre Sweden team without Zlatan and just a good team with him. Portugal always under-performs. Croatia probably is the best team on this list.

      I would like the US chances in a playoff with any of these teams.

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      • Eurosnob

        Dude, these teams have world class players like Ronaldo, Zlatan and Ribery. Do we have anyone of the same qualify on our team? France almost won their group, but were edged out by Spain. Their players are regular starters for Bayern, Real, ManUtd, ManCity, Arsenal, Tottenham, Juventus, etc. Sure, our boys would put up a good fight against a team like France, but they’d be underdogs against it.

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      • Roman Lewandowski

        France and Portugal share the same penchant for under-performing, but France sometimes does it in spectacular fashion.

        France always has more than its fair share of selfish, childish players, like the aforementioned Ribery. I don’t know what is Portugal’s problem, but that team seemingly is content with qualifying for tournaments and doing nothing notable.

        Obviously some of these teams have better players than the US on paper. My point is that they’re all in the playoffs for a reason. And not a single one would leave a gaping hole in the WC field of 32.

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      • Jon

        How does Portugal underperform? if anything they overperform in tournaments considering their low population and small pool of players available.

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    • bryan

      Europe gets 13 teams, that is plenty. this isn’t the Euros. it’s the World Cup. and i agree with the others who think Asia getting 4.5 is more ridiculous.

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    • Lorezno

      Portugal has pretty much done it to themselves. They always make things difficult for themselves it seems like. Tying Northern Ireland, tying Isreal twice, almost tying Luxemburg.

      One side of my family is Portuguese, and I will root for them. But it’s not because their group/UEFA process is tough. It’s because they painted themselves into a corner.

      And I don’t think Sweden is some amazing team either. Yes, they are tough and have a star forward. But the world is good and many good teams won’t make it.

      Like

    • AdamFromMich

      And match-ups like Greece/Romania are an argument against (semi-)random draws. Portugal being matched up against Sweden has nothing to do with CONCACAF. If those teams wanted to avoid the playoff they should have won their group.

      Like

      • RB

        Well of course the match-up has something to do with CONCACAF. The overall limit on the number of teams is divided between each region, so ultimately any team in any region that is at least on the margin of qualifying is related to the other regions via that distribution. By the same token, Mexico potentially qualifying has something to do with UEFA.

        Like

      • AdamFromMich

        Mexico is capable of beating either Portugal or Sweden (not guaranteed, just capable), so I’m not sure what the problem is. All 3 teams have a shot (individually) to get to the World Cup. After underachieving in their qualifying runs, that’s all they deserve.

        By the way, it’s called the “World Cup”, not the “Cup of European Also-rans”. Europe doesn’t need any more spots.

        Like

      • RB

        Europe could certainly use more spots, probably at the expense of Asia, Africa of CONCACAF, or some combination of them. As I think many here are noting. That’s the “problem”, if you want to use that word.

        Like

      • Jon

        Portugal have a better chance of beating Mexico by 4-5 goals than Mexico has of beating them in a tournament.

        Like

  • ATX_Colin

    Probably a little bitter sweet for A. Johannsson to watch Iceland have the chance to be playing in the WC assuming he based his desiscion on that scenario not happening.

    Like

    • Increase

      I actually think that he was passed over by the Icelandic team. Jurgen likely asked first and treated him better. Iceland has called up about 6 different forwards in the last 2 years. Getting ignored has a way of effecting ones decisions.
      Look at stephen kiesling in Germany. He mad crazy angry that he can’t get call up even though there is basically no on else.

      Like

      • Joe+G

        AJ got called in for WCQs in October (I think) of 2012 and pulled out injured. He wasn’t healthy during any other window until June or so when he announced he was going to take some time to think about his international future. I do think they didn’t put much effort into recruiting him (the coach admitted they hadn’t met). I do think that Aron saw the process as a snub by Iceland.

        Like

      • Starla

        He wouldn’t be getting any minutes for Iceland anyway. Finnbogasson is only a sub and Aron would be behind him in the pecking order.

        Like

      • Increase

        Ya, thats what I was looking at. I assumed it was because they ignored him.

        Like

    • Gary Page

      Uh, he knows the US will be playing in this WC and probably in many more to come. Iceland has never played in a WC before. Sounds like a no-brainer to me.

      Like

      • Roman Lewandowski

        This shouldn’t be anyone’s reason for playing to begin with, but alas…

        Like

      • Felix

        Roman was speaking from a ideal base – playing for the nation you were from.

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      • Sabella

        Rossi IS a traitor. It’s that simple. I understand his rationale for choosing Italy, but it doesn’t change the fact that he turned his back on the country that raised him and the great state he learned the game in.

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      • Yevgeniy

        But he IS!!! His decision will cost him a lot of money too. Had he played for USA, his endorsements would be a lot larger than being some guy on team Italy. And so far 1:0 in favor of US as far as who goes further in the WC. And he only has 3 realistically in his career.

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      • RB

        Nope. He chose 1 of the countries he was eligible to play for, as per the rules of the international game. Clearly not a traitor.

        Like

      • Grant

        Sabella, can you tell me if these guys are traitors as well?
        Jermaine Jones, Fabian Johnson, Terrence Boyd, A Johansson, T Chandler, Mix Diskeruud, that’s just the top of my head…

        But they turned their back on the country that raised them and the great state they learned the game in. I will never understand the group of fans who call Rossi a traitor, it’s insulting!

        Like

      • Increase

        He is a traitorish. But his family is Italian… so meh. But getting to the world cup had nothing to do with it. Winning maybe…. but being there would be a certainty either way.

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      • Ted in MN

        It’s frustrating but the US has benefited from more than their fair share of similar situations.

        Like

      • Felix

        Exactly.
        Losing out on players like Rossi and Neven Subotic sucks – no doubt.
        That being said, ignoring the German-Americans, who weren’t on Germany’s radar anyway, we have benefitted from players like Mix Diskerud, Aron Johannsson, and Teal Bunbury (remember him).

        Like

      • Paul Miller

        And we earned it! By having our occupation soldiers in the best soccer countries. All part of the master plan.

        Like

  • AcidBurn

    Damn, Portugal is a good team but you could have Zlatan be Zlatan and Portugal could miss the WC.

    But hey, at least we’ll have Mexico there! I guess all is not lost.

    Like

  • JCC

    I wouldn’t be so sure Croatia beats Iceland. Croatia has brought in a new manager so who knows if the players will adapt to a new system in time. I also didn’t knows Lars Lagerback was in charge of Iceland, he was a great manager with Sweden for years. I think Iceland has a pretty good shot over a struggling Croatia.

    Like

  • DC Josh

    Man we have it easy qualifying for the World Cup compared to the other confederations. I’m pulling for Iceland. What a great story that would be for that tiny nation, not to mention if we are drawn in their group.

    Like

      • GW

        Be careful what you wish for.

        Go over Iceland’s roster carefully; these guys are not pushovers.

        Like

  • David M

    Considering how France qualified last time (Henri handball against Ireland) and what they did in South Africa, it would only be just to have Ukraine go through.

    Like

  • Yevgeniy

    So, France complains about not being seeded and they get Ukraine. And Ukraine plays 1st game at home. Fishy, to say the least.

    Like

    • RB

      France has zero room to complain about the situation, given the much fishier way they benefited from the surprise seeding the last time around.

      Like

      • Jay Bonds

        How is CAF draw a blind draw? Do you even know what you’re talking about?

        Like

    • Joamiq

      You’ve been playing around with the World Cup draw simulator too eh? Usually I want a strong field to ensure better games, but that thing traumatized me. The more upsets in the playoffs the better.

      Like

      • ThatKidNandez

        Honestly the Uruguay upset ha! Man that’s like pitting Tahiti against Brazil

        Like

  • Marty

    Too many people playing that tard simulator that doesn’t mean squat. What ever comes up during the real draw on December 6 will be the draw and that is it. Whatever the the draw is, the U.S. will get out of the group and show the world that they don’t suck. Tards think just because we are the U.S. and soccer isn’t our main sport that we suck at it. We will turn heads in the 2014 WC this summer with Kilinsi ball not bunker-Bradley-ball. If U.S. fans can’t be confidant getting out of our group with the best side we have ever had, just hide under the bed. On another note, Mexico probably wins their playoff but they still suck. Viva U.S.A… Ole!!!!!!

    Like

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