The journey has taken almost three years, and it is finally at an end. When the final whistle blows tomorrow night at the Centenario (which hosted the first world cup final), the 32 team field will be complete. 2 short weeks later, we will all know our respective team’s path to the golden blob (it is certainly not a cup).
But we have a few games left before then. 6 to be exact.
In Europe, Greece did not take advantage of their home leg last Saturday against the Ukraine and the game ended in a scoreless draw. Now they have to go to Sunny Donetsk to try and scratch out a result ( 1 PM EST, ESPN2). Good Luck. If there is ever a team that can sit back and squeeze out a goal out of thin air, it’s Greece. But this one has a shootout written all over it, but I do think the Ukraine will prevail in the allotted 90.
Portugal was lucky to win last Saturday in Lisbon against Bosnia Herzegovina. An early goal ended up standing for the whole game, but only because the woodwork was very cruel to the Bosnians. The Portuguese will still be without Ronaldo, but it’s not as if he makes Portugal that much better anyway. The Bosnians will not be unlucky this time, and they get the shock result of the day ( 2:45 PM EST, Setanta).
France did just enough to steal an away win at Croke Park vs. the Irish. The irish have the talent to return the favor in St. Denis. Tough sledding to be sure, but not impossible (3 PM Setanta premium). These are not the dominant Zidane Bleus, and are a disappointment to watch; especially for those of use who grew up watching Platini et al. An early Irish goal would be a great way to start the game. Otherwise, France will play keep away. Effectively. France will go through (yawn).
Russia were the other home side to win last Saturday, 2-1, over Slovenia. Will the Slovenians make the away goal count? Russia is very inconsistent, but it would be very surprising if Guus allows his troops to let this chance slip away. I am sure he knows that Slovenia have slayed giants before.
With all of the other African heavyweights headed to South Africa, it would only seem fitting that the Pharaohs should join them. Egypt resurrected their hopes when Emad Meteab scored a stoppage time goal vs. Algeria. Now these two will meet in a one-game playoff in the Sudan. That’s a good thing. Unfortunately, the victory was tainted by some extreme nastiness when Algeria’s team bus was attacked last week in Cairo. It would be a shame of the two-time defending Africa Cup of Nations champs don’t make it through, but Algeria would be just as deserving
The last game of the day will be in Montevideo ( 6:00 PM, PPV). Uruguay got the goal they needed at the Saprissa, and will surely line up with a defensive posture against Costa Rica. The Ticos disappointed Saturday night, and after Wednesday, the collapse will be complete for the team was in first place after the first half of the hex. Uruguay will complete the list of former world cup winners in the tournament.
That'll be all 32. And the draw awaits. Please FIFA, seed 16 teams, not 32. But more about that later.