Wednesday's World Cup qualifiers: A Look Ahead

Wednesday's World Cup qualifiers: A Look Ahead

World Cup Qualifying

Wednesday's World Cup qualifiers: A Look Ahead

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England

By TRAVIS CLARK

There's plenty at stake tomorrow in terms of World Cup qualifying. Aside from the ever-important match for the U.S. down in Port of Spain, a quick look around the world reveals how desperate nations are as qualification nears conclusion.

Perhaps standing out above the rest is England's chance to seal qualification against Croatia. It's been smooth sailing for Fabio Capello in his role as England manager, and they'll look to maintain their perfect record against the nation that dumped them out of Euro 2008 qualification. Adding intrigue to the match-up is the Eduardo diving saga resulting in the two game suspension handed down.

Even if England fails to clinch Wednesday, it's almost a certainty that they'd make it via automatic qualification — Croatia would need to win both their remaining games (including tomorrow), then hope for a massive England collapse to overtake first place.

Here's a look at some other important match-ups in World Cup Qualifying outside CONCACAF:

Portugal vs. Hungary

Is it possible for Portugal to miss out on the World Cup? The European club failed to win in Denmark, and after each day qualification is looking more and more precarious. They've simply failed to find the back of the net, something that was evident against the Danes. Cristiano Ronaldo continues to disappear for long stretches, something that could result in his nation's failure to qualify for South Africa. A win against Hungary would temper fears, likely vaulting them back into second place in their group.

Argentina vs. Paraguay

For all the doom and gloom surrounding Argentina's qualification chances, the failure of Ecuador to win against Colombia kept Diego Maradona's squad in fourth place — making tomorrow's match against Paraguay one of utmost important. Winning keeps the pressure off, but failure to grab at least a point would result in the possibility of Argentina falling out of the top five in CONMEBOL.

Bahrain vs. Saudi Arabia

It's all on the line for both countries from Asia as the second leg of the playoff concludes tomorrow. Last Saturday's first leg ended in a 0-0 tie, as Bahrain failed to capitalize on its scoring chances. The winner earns a two-legged playoff with New Zealand for one last chance at a World Cup spot. Bahrain has never qualified for the World Cup and will need a remarkable performance in Riaydh just to have the chance to do so.

France vs. Serbia

Another big country whose World Cup chances look slim — Les Blues struggled to a 1-1 tie against Romania and sit four points behind their opponents in the table. For France to have any hope of winning Group 7 and assure automatic qualification they must win. A win for Serbia clinches a spot in the World Cup, so they'll be fired up to wrap things up in front of a home crowd Belgrade.

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What do you think of these match-ups? Who will make the World Cup? Can France, Portugal or Argentina make a late run to secure qualification? Share your thoughts below.

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