World Cup Qualifiers: How’s Everybody Doing?A look at World Cup qualifying over and under-achievers around the world
by Jeff Maurer | Friday, October 19, 2012
With the latest flurry of World Cup qualifying matches in the books, now’s a good time to ask: How’s everybody doing?
Well, not everybody; few of you are clamoring for a Vanuatu update (although I’ll give you one anyway: they’re out). But a few notables are struggling and a few long-shots might qualify. Here a few who are doing better or worse than expected.
Scotland: 0-2-2, last in Group One. If the spaceship that turns people into Scotsmen works on footballers, now’s the time to use it. The fact that the Scottish Men’s National Team’s performance hasn’t led to widespread riots is a testament to how much Scotland has cracked down on hooliganism, because two points from four games might actually justify a few trash cans being thrown through the windows of Gordon Ramsay restaurants. Granted, the Scots have been drawn into a tough group, but the fact remains: the last-place teams in Europe’s seven team groups are Malta, Faroe Islands, Andorra, Cyprus, Luxembourg, Liechtenstein, San Marino and Scotland.
Tunisia, Egypt and Libya: all first place in their groups. Apparently, overthrowing a dictator is worth a couple of points in the table (more evidence: Syria didn’t qualify). It seems that “do it for your country” is a better motivator than “we have your family in captivity so you’d better win.” Tunisia is a perennial World Cup qualifier, but Egypt and Libya are not. Egypt, of course, is thriving under the leadership of the suddenly-appreciated Bob Bradley. And Libya, who have never qualified for a World Cup, are one point up on hilariously-named Democratic Republic of the Congo, one point up on perennial qualifier Cameroon, and three points up on 2006 qualifier Togo.
Poland: 1-2-0, third in Group Eight. I always keep an eye on Poland because it seems to be roughly the talent equivalent of the US (our head-to-head matchups are usually competitive) and I’ve always wondered how we’d do in Europe. The good news: Poland is in a decent spot after three games, and it looks likely to grab second place in the group. The bad news: They had a game rained out in a domed stadium, which is pretty much a dumb Polish joke come to life.
Ghana: 1-0-1, third in Group D. From our twin to our greatest rival: Ghana. I’m glad to see Ghana – the team that knocked us out of the last two World Cups – struggling. Oh Ghana, how I loathe thee. I’d like to see the Ghanian menace fill the role that the Soviet Union once played in American popular culture; Rocky could fight Ghanian boxers, and there could be a villainous Ghanian professional wrestler or two. Do we have a nationalist slur for Ghanians, like Russkies or Limeys? No? OK, I’m inventing one: Ghennys. Damned Ghennys, with their stupid 92,098 miles of land mass and their estimated 258 persons/square mile population density. OK, my Ghana hate needs some work, but I’ll have it honed to a fine point if it gets drawn into our group in 2014.
Paraguay: 2-1-6, last in CONMEBOL. Paraguay’s probable elimination is karmic payback for the ugly, defensive soccer the team played at World Cup 2010. Don Rickles on his best night isn’t as negative as the Paraguayans were in South Africa. Paraguay played five games, in which a total of five goals were scored. I’ll admit: I usually enjoy seeing Paraguay at the World Cup (how often do you think about Paraguay?), but after its 2010 performance, I could use a break.