International soccer this summer was filled with twists and turns from day one. For American soccer fans, this was one hell of a summer. For Argentineans, not so much.
For those of you who don’t know, next year is the World Cup in South Africa. That means this year is all about qualifying and preparing for the biggest sports tournament in the world. Each continent has a certain number of teams, which qualify based on how competitive the continent is internationally. For example, Europe has 13 qualifying spots, while Oceana’s best team still has to face the fifth ranked team in Asia to qualify.
Overall, 32 teams qualify for the tournament. Eleven teams have already secured a spot: Japan, Australia and North and South Korea from Asia (Australia plays in the Asian AFC); Brazil and Paraguay from South America; England, Spain and the Netherlands from Europe; Ghana from Africa; and South Africa that, as the host nation, automatically qualifies.
In Europe, the three qualified teams have all won eight straight games to get to where they are. Germany will most likely be the next to qualify, with seven wins and a tie. Not all the groups have been so predictable, however. France and Portugal are currently not sitting in qualifying positions.
France is sitting second to Serbia and will probably have to move on to a knock out round against the other second placed teams. Cristiano Ronaldo’s Portugal doesn’t look so hopeful. In third place, they need to win the last two games just to have a chance to make it to the playoffs, and that’s if Sweden starts losing.
The US has preformed marvelously this summer in the Confederation Cup (largely a preview tournament before the World Cup). After stumbling through the group stage, they had a 3-0 win against the African champs, Egypt, who had previously shocked everyone by beating the number one ranked team in the world, Spain. And not just by one goal, but by two. After that, the US went on to their first inter-continental cup final and started it out by scoring two goals against Brazil. Although Brazil shot back in the second half and won, the US’s status was solidified. We’re now a team to watch. Now the US needs just one more win to solidify its place in the World Cup.
A little further south, trouble is brewing in sunny Argentina. Star Leo Messi and star coach Diego Maradona have lost three qualifying games in a row and are now sitting outside of the qualifying spots.
They could be kept out of the World Cup completely if they lose one more game or have one more tie. But things aren’t necessarily as bad as the papers make it seem — if things stay as is, they will only need to beat Costa Rica in a knockout round in order to make it to the World Cup.
Even a year before it starts, the emotion from the World Cup is visible half way around the world. And thus I am left with only one burning question — Anybody got cheap tickets?