Top Stories

The Weekend Ahead: World Cup Qualifiers everywhere!

Jose Francisco Torres knows which direction the goal is…

It’s James from Unprofessional Foul again, filling in briefly for Ives while he flies back east from the Mormon state.

The footballing world is ablaze with WC qualification this weekend, and there are plenty of intriguing matches worth paying attention to. Although it’s always tough for me when the domestic leagues grind to a halt for a week, I’m satisfied with what’s on tap for the weekend.

So many storylines, it’s tough to know where to begin. Let me try and cherry-pick the Top 5 matches you should care about this weekend, and if that isn’t tough enough considering the size of the fixture list, I’ll even throw in some predictions. Hand me the atlas, where are we going first…


5. Germany v. Russia
Two front-runners in their group, and it’s perhaps our first clash of Euro ’08 high-fliers in World Cup qualification. It’s also a chance to see what Arshavin and co. can do against the Bundesliga’s best.

4. Venezuela v. Brazil
A Selecao might be overwhelming favorites, but much like the Arsenals of the world, all the talent in the universe doesn’t always equate to winning every time you step on the field. They’ve been less than stellar in WC Qualifying to this point (thanks to draws against Colombia and Bolivia and a 2-0 away defeat to runaway Group leaders Paraguay), but now’s as good a time as ever to turn it around.

Robinho, Pato and Jo will need to look to someone other than Ronaldinho to give them service up-front. Will they get it done?

3. Kenya v. Guinea
A Guinea win would ensure them passage into the next qualifying round, keeping alive their dream of a 1st-ever World Cup Finals appearance. Can they topple the Group Leaders to stay in the hunt?

2. England v. Kazakhstan
England are in transition, trying to keep momentum of 4-1 win in Croatia, need to keep winning these games handily. Without John Terry and Joe Cole, both out with injuries, they should still win at a canter, but I’ve witnessed complacent England teams lose and draw to far worse sides before.

1. USA v. Cuba
Was there any doubt? I went with the US, who still have their work cut out in CONCACAF moving into the Fourth Round of qualifying. Momentum is the key; their last meeting with Cuba was not exactly a pushover, although they’ll have help from Jose Francisco Torres and Michael Orozco, who have picked the US over Mexico despite being eligible to represent both.

Worth keeping an eye on
Scotland v. Norway
The Scots have it all to do after a 1-0 loss to Macedonia and then the tough 2-1 win away in Iceland. The Norwegians look like a strong second in the group to the Netherlands, so it’ll take a lot for Scotland to keep pace at the top, especially as they’re missing captain Barry Ferguson to injury and deputy Stephen McManus to a suspension. It’d be nice to have multiple UK representatives in the World Cup Finals, especially as Scotland hasn’t been to one since 1998.

Ukraine v. Croatia
Croats were humiliated last time out by the English (revenge was so sweet for Theo Walcott), and now they need to win away from home against the other dangerous team in the group. Only 2 will qualify, so an away result will take the pressure off heading into the break before the next round of qualifiers in 2009.

Ivory Coast v. Madagascar
Lowly Madagascar, ranked 141st in the World, are surprising many with their strong performances thus far. Cote D’Ivoire are heavy favorites and lead the group, but a result for The Barea could get closer to their first ever appearance in any major tournament, having never qualified for an African Cup of Nations or World Cup in their history.

Senegal v. Gambia
Two high-flying African teams that are trailing to Algeria in their qualifying group. The two are tied on points, although Gambia are marginally ahead on goal difference, meaning anything less than a win for Senegal puts them out of the tournament. After a first-round exit in this year’s African Nations Cup, the star-studded Lions can’t afford to be bounced from yet another major competition so quickly.


  1. Argentina just scored. Unfortunately, my cable box is a little delayed and I always from the screaming that somebody scored. Weather is a bit crappy today here in BsAs. It looks like its about to rain hard.

  2. Freddy: you’re so right. I definitely omitted some choice clashes in South America. To the people who think it’s an England bias, it’s more a result of my oversight rather than anything deeper. I just felt like there were some less compelling storylines in SA given that there’s so many matches left in their road to qualification, whereas this is the final weekend for the African nations before another round of cuts are made.

    Jonathan: again, good points. I feel England is a compelling storyline just because they’re not the superpower they used to be. Then again, I see your point about the Anglophilia; after all, the EPL has the best league in the world.

    (For what it’s worth, I’m not American. I am English, born and raised, if that sheds any light on my anglophilia)

  3. James

    Thanks for holding down the fort and defending your views, Anglocentric as it is.

    I still cling to the point that the extreme Anglophilia of US soccer culture is a reason why the England game is under the “should care” category and the various posters who defend that view prove that. Perhaps I’m being silly not to see the English game, league, and players as “gifts” of a divine being to blind humans (USA fans in this case). Eh….

    My stomach churns when Americans lovingly wirte and talke about the beloved Scholes, Lampard, Gerrard, and Terry while not having the time to spare on even “lesser” European players not playing in the Premiereship.

  4. James-

    Thanks for responding to our posts, even from some of us clowns.:D

    I fully agree with your that there are some remarkable storylines in the African campaign and that there’s some close calls for qualifying.

    But SA is also on the brink of settling 3 or 4 main spots for qualifying if the right teams continue their streak. Also, take a look at the table. Out of all the 10 teams in competition, I believe the last two bottomfeeding teams are only out of the race by six points. Nothing is secured yet which is why I feel SA qualifying is one of the most, if not the most, intense in the world. Granted, it’s only 10 teams—-but it’s 10 teams that can compete on any day of the week against the top from UEFA and Africa.

  5. yes they have been wanted but that’s where the list ends .. Ok forgot gerrard… Undisputed best teams in Europe ?? Are you serious my friend? Other than Man U Chelsea&Lpool there is no other team that stands out they are pretty mediocre, unlike the Spanish league or Italian even French etc … They have a number if CPU a that a re far better than all “regular” premiership sides

    ex teams like;





    Lyon etc etc etc

    England is uneven, you got three teams that are way ahead of the rest.

    in Spain, R Madrid and Barca can be beaten by anyone.. Cause they’re all good.

    what makes English league so good are the foreigners not the English .. In Italy or Spain that is not necessarily true, cause their domestic players are great too..

    even English born fans will admit to that. I’ve heard it before

    the problem with the majority of fans in the US I repeat “the majority”

    is that they are anglocentric and they do have a fixation with English football .. That’s all they know. And they’d rather watch these games than their own. No one is talking about the Cuba game on this post for ex.

    No one talks about premiership sides like Aston Villa getting beat by MLS all stars … My question is if English teams are undisputedly the best in Europe like someone said earlier in this post , why does this happen and why Americans find excuses to keep their favoritism of all that is British over their own natl product (in football)?

  6. And to defend the England game via the pressure on the squad, you know it’s bad when the main headline in the papers is the manager begging the fans not to boo.

  7. Anyone see the Scotland game? Features one of the most shocking and horrid misses I’ve ever seen and might have ended their campaign before it ever really got started.

  8. Lampard was wanted at Barca, and there were Gerard to Real Madrid rumors also.

    And why would English players want to leave England when (i) English teams are undisputedly the best club teams in the Europe, (ii) they get to play at home, and (iii) English teams pay the highest wages, because the league is so rich.

    England v. Boratland might not be as interesting as Uraguay v. Argentina, but all the England hating is Anti-Anglo Bias. I bet yall read and love Foucoult.

  9. Alright folks, thanks for the wonderful array of words telling me how crap I am (here’s looking at you, Slambamslam).

    Genuine apologies on omitting Argentina/Uruguay. I was really trying hard to find games that have some relevance over qualification and in that vein, I thought the Argies were safe. Yes, I picked England, and you all hated that, but honestly, that national side is in such disarray that it wouldn’t surprise me if they failed miserably and only won 1-0. The pressure on Capello and co. is immense, and it was worth noting.

    As far as the African qualifiers, let’s be a little nicer. Tons of good storylines there, especially as some of the continent’s superpowers are in danger of not making it to the next round. Also, this weekend is their last slate of games in this round of qualifying, so if guys lose, they go home. In South America, the regional rivalries are there, but there’s still 8 or 9 qualifying games to go, so there’s much less literally at stake there. If Argentina loses, it doesn’t mean as much; they’re safe in the qualifying spots right now, AND there’s still plenty of time for them to make up ground!

    That said, thanks for all the comments, and I’m glad there was so much discrepancy to inspire debate.

    And be nice about Unprofessional Foul. We’re better than you think.

  10. great players.. Only in England , but how much in demand are they with European leagues? No one really bids for English players… And when they do, the results are not that great… Remember Owen at Real Madrid ? Beckham? Who else? Oh mourinho wanted Lampard end of the list…..

  11. Certainly England is a “quality” team. A team that includes (i) Rooney, (ii) Ferdinand, (ii) Terry, (iv) Gerrard, (v) Lampard, and (vi) the young Walcott is a pretty darn good team.

  12. Ives; love ur site, visit everyday couple of times..

    but … Do you have something against S American soccer?

    I’m hoping its because some games are tomorrow , I assume its that

    But Argentina-Uruguay, Chile-Ecuador

    Paraguay- Colombia are not listed?

    and you list African games (with all respect)

    that are not even the superpowers in that continent.

    England-Kazakhstan (did I spell it right)?

    oh well….

  13. Thanks for the respect for Norway (even if they could only manage a draw with Iceland last time out). They’re better than some folks realize. If they could have held one of the two leads they had over Turkey in their qualifiers for Euro 2008, they would have made the finals instead of Turkey. Here’s hoping the luck — and skill — of the Landslaget are better this time around.

  14. Ives! Please get back! James from Unprofessional Foul is garbage. I had to stop reading his predictions and descriptions half way through on account of my eyes bleeding from said article’s sheer mediocrity.

  15. i must agree on the uruguay vs. argentina game as the biggest in south america this weekend.

    i was hoping fsc would be showing more than 2 wcq games this weekend. last time, i think they had 5 or 6 on.

    i think another intriguing game is the honduras vs. canada game. it’s do or die for canada.

  16. juanito – you can watch the games only, and i stress ONLY, if you don a US JERSEY!!!

    and we’ll gladly accept you tv ratings 😀

  17. CACuzcatlan – ah but why was it called a black n’ white tv, but only once we got other colors, it was in fact a color tv??? why is it when you talk about animals, they are referred to as color blind??

    im not taking a side, simply stimulating an argument 😀

  18. oh I’m sorry. next time ill choose a real american name. like ryan. haha. actually before this whole torres hype I only knew of francisco torres from Santos. And I really do regret d US taking torres, since el tri isn’t full of mids that play wing like guardado, gio, vela, pardo, arce………………. good luck to d kid tho. I’m actually glad there’s more latinos playing for d U.S…. makes me wanna watch the games more : )

  19. Ryan, you are getting upset over such a small thing as the accuracy of the “El Tri” nickname? BTW, a quick Internet search found various reputable sources that say white is indeed a color.

  20. Kyle, notice the name bashing Francisco Torres? I have a funny feeling if he chose “El Tri” (which is a stupid @** nickname considering white isn’t a color but a shade…regardless)he would be telling everyone about what a great talent we are missing out on…

  21. Why should US fans give a damn about England? They’re no elite global team. They can’t even claim to be a quality European team. Anglocentricism at its ugliest!

  22. pachuca is a pretty good team. wouldn’t say d best being that they aren’t the league champs. I don’t think torres is as great a player as he’s being hyped up to be and I highly doubt he was crucial to el tri.

  23. England should be okay without Terry and cole. They’ll just put Walcott on the left and Carragher to replace Terry. I predict another Hatty for the little man.

  24. oh come on. you might not care about the england match, but if an english person doesn’t care, then they don’t care about their team. from the outside, it’s as lame as usa-cuba, but it’s a qualifier.

  25. Yeah starting for the best Mexican team in the last 10 years means he sucks. Pachuca definitely doesn’t have an eye for talent.

  26. haha. most of these matches are lame. I agree there’s plenty of other games to watch this weekend…………… and jose francisco torres sucks.

  27. this is a great section. difficult for me to keep track of all the qualifiers. great stuff. hope this becomes a regular addition to the site. I think the England match should be in the ‘worth keeping an eye on’ section, but I know people love watching the English…for what ever reason.

  28. “I went with the US, who still have their work cut out in CONCACAF moving into the Fourth Round of qualifying.”

    They have their work cut out for them??? To paraphrase the great Inigo Montoya, I do no think that phrase means what you think it means. They’re 3-0-0 and facing a terrible, godawful Cuban team at home. Qualifying for the next round is a given.

  29. I second the Argentina-Uraguay match over pretty much anything else.

    Especially England-Kazakhstan. Americans give way too much Attention to England and ignore other just as interesting teams.

    Germany and Russia looks tasty as well.

  30. With Dunga in charge I don’t even like to watch Brazil anymore. All defense, no creativity, no jogo bonito.

    Is Dunga portuguese for Bob Bradley?

  31. There are far more intriguing matches in South America this weekend that one could’ve picked over a couple of games in Africa and even Europe.

    The real top match down there is Argentina vs Uruguay, the River Plate classic!

    Next would be a red-hot Chile team traveling to and playing against a fast-rising Ecuador team, who started out slow but is quickly cementing their place for yet another WC spot.

    Then we have the two-bottom feeders, Peru and Bolivia, going head-to-head in La Paz. Both need the 3 points to even think about the 5th playoff spot vs Concacaf. And both are amped up after their last respective round of games last month.

    As far as picking England-Kazakhstan, even some colleagues at my job from England don’t care about this one.


Leave a Comment