World Cup Qualifying
Release Date : 01-Jan-2015 | Name : | Category : Football/Soccer
Author : Adam Barlow
Over the past 18 months teams from all over the world have been battling hard to reach the finals in Canada next year. This time the World Cup has been expanded to 24 sides and after 18 months of qualifying games, we now know the 23 sides that will join the host nation Canada looking to win football’s biggest prize.
Europe was given eight berths in this newly expanded tournament so as expected all the traditional powerhouses qualified with ease. France, England, Sweden, and two time winners Germany all topped their qualifying groups with 100% records. 1995 champions Norway won 9 and drew just the once; a record that was matched by Switzerland who were the first side to seal qualification from Europe and one of the sides that will be making their World Cup debut this year. Spain are another side that will be appearing in their first finals, and topped the group by 3 points from Italy. There was to be more heart break for the Italians in the playoffs as after beating Ukraine, they lost out 4-1 to Holland on aggregate who claimed the final European qualifying place. The Dutch had lost out to Norway by just 2 points in the group stage and overcame Scotland in the playoff semi finals. Scotland can hold their heads high after an encouraging campaign that saw them get the closest they ever have to qualifying for a World Cup.
South America has two automatic qualifiers into Canada 2015 with the potential for a 3rd team to make it as the 3rd placed team gained the right face the 4th placed side from the CONCACAF section for the place. As with a number of associations the qualifying also doubled up as a confederation championship. Brazil had been for many years, the strongest side in South America and so it proved; Brazil topped the final table ahead of runner up Columbia to seal the two automatic spots. Ecuador finished 3rd to grab the playoff place.
Africa also has 3 places and here it was Nigeria that took the title, in the semi final they dispatched South Africa, and waiting for them in the final were old rivals Cameroon who had beaten Ivory Coast in the other semi final in extra time. Although both sides had already qualified the final was very competitive with Nigeria winning 2-0. The 3rd/4th place playoff between South Africa and Ivory Coast was incredibly tense but Ivory Coast struck late in the game winning 1-0 and grabbing the last African spot.
Apart from the hosts Canada, perhaps no side had an easier road to the finals than New Zealand via the Oceania section. In three games v Papua New Guinea, Tonga, and the Cook Islands the Football Ferns won all 3 games scored 30 goals and conceding none. It goes without saying far tougher tests await them in Canada.
Asia has a proud record in the Women’s World Cup and will have 5 representatives in Canada. As you would expect current world champions Japan made it with ease as did Australia, South Korea and 1999 runners up China. There was also a great underdog story as Thailand made history by beating Vietnam to reach its first World Cup finals.
CONCACAF has been given 3 automatic spots plus a playoff spot with a South American side. With Canada automatically qualifying for the World Cup it meant that the United States; who are ranked 2nd in the world, were barely tested in qualifying although they failed to hit the heights that the team did in 2012. The biggest talking points away from the low crowds were Costa Rica and Trinidad and Tobago. Costa Rica’s 1-0 win over Mexico in the group stage upset the form guide and meant they would avoid the USA in the semi finals. Instead it was Mexico who faced and lost to the Americans as Costa Rica beat T&T to reach the final against the Americans. The USA proved far too strong and cantered to a 6-0 win. Mexico took the final automatic spot by beating T&T 3-1 after extra time. The Caribbean side still had a chance to qualify though as they were to playoff against Ecuador over 2 legs for the final place in the World Cup.
The first leg in Ecuador finished goalless in a game as tight as everybody expected. The return leg was every bit as tense but Ecuador ensured there was to be no fairy tale ending for T&T as they scored a late minute winner to qualify in dramatic circumstances.
The draw for the finals was made in Ottawa and produced some mouth watering games. The big highlight was Group D that saw the USA placed in a tough group with Sweden, Australia, and Nigeria. England have been drawn to face their old adversaries France in a group that also contains Mexico and Colombia. The hosts Canada will have to overcome Holland, China, and New Zealand.
Group A: Canada, China, New Zealand, Holland
Group B: Germany, Ivory Coast, Norway, Thailand
Group C: Japan: Switzerland, Cameroon, Ecuador
Group D: USA, Sweden, Australia, Nigeria
Group E: Brazil, Spain, South Korea, Costa Rica
Group F: France, England, Mexico, Columbia