As the preliminary competition for the 2014 FIFA World Cup™draws to an end, FIFA’s latest rankings are starting to form groups for next year’s big tournament.
21 teams have qualified with 11 spots still up for grabs. Four will go to European teams, five will be awarded to African teams and the last two will be decided in the international play-offs between New Zealand and Mexico, and Jordan vs. Uruguay. The latest FIFA rankings, released on Oct. 17, have set the top seeds for the 2014 World Cup. Seven teams comprise Pot 1: Brazil (as the host nation), Argentina, Spain, Colombia, Germany, Belgium, Uruguay and Switzerland. Number 6 Uruguay secures it’s place in Pot 1 and as a top seed with a victory over Jordan. With a loss, Uruguay would lose it’s Pot 1 position to the Netherlands, who have a slight edge over Italy, with both teams in 8th place.
These new FIFA rankings were also used to seed the European playoffs. Pot 1 of the European playoffs includes Portugal, Greece, Croatia and Ukraine. France, Sweden, Romania and Iceland round out Pot 2.
These countries have qualified for the trip to Brazil, with FIFA ranking in parenthesis:
Costa Rica (31)
the Netherlands (8)
South Korea (56)
So how will those remaining 11 teams get to book their ticket to Brazil? Here are our favorite story lines from each group:
Portugal vs Sweden (Nov. 15, 19)
This match-up might have one of the best stories of qualifying. The 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil™ can only have Zlatan Ibrahimovic, or Cristiano Ronaldo. One of these men will be watching the tournament on the couch, and it’s not an easy match to predict. While Sweden is an average squad that gets an undeniable lift from Ibrahimovic, Portugal has the benefit of Ronaldo and a talented, fluid team.
Ukraine vs France (Nov. 15, 19)
Greece vs Romania (Nov. 19)
Iceland vs Croatia (Nov. 19)
New Zealand vs. Mexico (Nov. 13, 19)
In one of their most disappointing qualifying runs in recent history, Mexico has a lot on the line against New Zealand. CONCACAF rivals USA pushed them through to the intercontinental playoff by defeating Panama 3-2. But even in Mexico’s less-than illustrious state, they are fully capable of besting New Zealand.
Jordan vs. Uruguay (Nov. 13, 20)
Egypt vs. Ghana (Nov. 19)
One of the most-anticipated and equally-matched games from the continent this year, Egypt vs. Ghana is not an easy match to predict. Egypt has had a disappointing history in World Cup qualifying, despite their Africa Cup of Nations record. Bob Bradley’s Egypt will need a strong showing to best Ghana.
Nigeria vs. Ethiopia (Nov. 16)
Senegal vs. Ivory Coast (Nov. 16)
Cameroon vs. Tunisia (Nov. 17)
Algeria vs. Burkina Faso (Nov. 19)
Did we miss something? Let us know in the comments box.