Friday, November 11, 2005

WCQ - The Final Five - Part 1

Ten teams still have dreams of reaching Germany but by Wednesday night, only five will still be holding on to them. All five series are going to be fun to watch as everyone tries to everything to advance. Here is the line up:

Norway - Czech Republic @ 1:30pm EST
Spain - Slovakia @ 3pm
Switzerland - Turkey @ 1:45pm
Uruguay - Australia @ 11am
Trinidad and Tobago - Bahrain @ 4:30pm

Norway - Czech Republic
The big news out of Norway this past week has been rain and lots of it. The field is soaked and devoid of grass. These are not the sort of pitch conditions the Czechs were hoping for and it should lead to some lost balls on their part. However, they do have Pavel Nedved back in their midfield. This should help them at least stay even with their hosts. Prediction: Norway 1 - 2 Czech

Spain - Slovakia
Spain come in as the team that should not be in this situation. They have the talent, but they cannot perform. Just being in this situation has got to be making them feel a little insecure and that is what Slovakia need to exploit. If they can hold them off on defense and then counter strong, the men from Spain will slip. However, Spain has made every Cup since 1974, so they are very much the favorites, but they are a side that often fails when the heat is on. I wouldn't mind seeing Slovakia earn their first trip to the finals and I would not be shocked if it happened. Still, it's best to go with talent over a curse. Spain 3 - 1 Slovakia

Switzerland - Turkey
Of the three teams that got seeded in "Pot A" for the playoffs (Czech R, Spain and Turkey), Turkey have drawn the toughest team on paper. Switzerland had to fight hard to make it out of Group Four (France, Ireland and Israel were there as well), so they have something good in their team. Also, they know that they do not want to have to get a result in Turkey, so they will be looking to sink the dagger deep while at home. For Turkey, they are a great team, but they are also going to be missing many players due to injury or suspension. If there is going to be an 'upset' in Europe, this will probably be the series. Still, I like Turkey and think they are going to pull it out. Switzerland 1 - 1 Turkey

Uruguay - Australia
I hope I have the time right for the Uruguay-Australia. Who knows, by the time I finish writing this sentence Uruguay may have asked to change it again. Anyway, now that it looks like all the time shifting has come to an end; we can concentrate on the game. Australia will be looking for revenge as Uruguay knocked them out of the 2002 World Cup picture with a result in this very playoff. However, they will be without midfielder Marco Bresciano and their captain Craig Moore did not get a call up. Still the Aussies are close to full strength. For Uruguay, they will need Alvaro Recoba from Inter Milan to make some stuff happen on offense. I would love to see Australia win this series since it would be nice to have every confederation represented in Germany, but the truth is Uruguay is a far better team. Unless Australia can force a meltdown, they will be sitting out yet another finals. Uruguay 2-0 Australia

Trinidad and Tobago - Bahrain
Trinidad and Tobago is the Jamaican bobsled team of Concacaf this year. It's hard to believe, but not that long ago, they were at the bottom of the table, then they went on a good three game run (including a victory against Mexico) and here they are in the playoffs. For Bahrain, they got past their first playoff due in part to an odd decision by Fifa. T&T are the better team and should be able to pull it out, however the King of Bahrain has promised a big payout if the side makes it to the finals. Money can make people do some amazing things. All and all, since these two teams are both so inexperienced when it comes to big situations like this, the series should be a very exciting one to watch. It doesn't have the charm of Europe or the controversy / history of Uruguay-Australia, but it will be good nonetheless. T&T 3 - 0 Bahrain


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