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Author Topic: Brazil, Spain, England close to World Cup spots  (Read 712 times)

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Brazil, Spain, England close to World Cup spots
« on: September 03, 2009, 10:30:44 AM »
LONDON (AP) - Little more than nine months before the World Cup makes its first appearance in Africa, all but six of the 32 team spots are still to be decided.

So far, Japan, Australia, North and South Korea and the Netherlands have captured places alongside host South Africa in the Dec. 4 draw at Cape Town, although several more teams are banging on the door.

CONMEBOL WC QualifyingSat., Sep. 5
Argentina vs. Brazil   
Paraguay vs. Bolivia   
Peru vs. Uruguay   
Chile vs. Venezuela   
Colombia vs. Ecuador   
Tue., Sep. 8
Uruguay vs. Colombia   
Paraguay vs. Argentina   
Brazil vs. Chile   
Bolivia vs. Ecuador   
Venezuela vs. Peru   
While five-time World Cup winner Brazil, European champion Spain and 1966 winner England look set to join them soon, other powerhouse teams have plenty of work to do.

Inspirational as one of the game's greatest ever players, Diego Maradona is struggling to lift Argentina as its coach. The talented but brittle team is in the fourth and last of South America's qualifying spots behind Brazil, Chile and Paraguay, and in danger of missing out, especially if it loses at home to the Brazilians on Saturday.

That would leave Maradona's stars stranded on 22 points and allow fifth place Ecuador to leapfrog them with a win at Colombia.

Although fifth place means they still have a chance of qualifying through a playoff, that's not what Argentina fans were expecting from their greatest star. A positive for their team is that Brazil hasn't beaten its rival in World Cup qualifiers away from home since 1995.

Brazil coach Dunga knows that Maradona has several big stars in his lineup apart from Barcelona forward Lionel Messi.

"Every player deserves attention," Dunga said. "You can't mark only one player and let 10 others remain free."

Although three-time champion Germany is top of its group, second place Russia appears almost certain to cut its standings lead to one point by beating Liechtenstein at home on Saturday. With only the group winners sure of World Cup places from European qualifying, there's still a strong chance that Guus Hiddink's Russians can catch the Germans, who host South Africa in a friendly on Saturday.

World Cup holder Italy also tops its group and is out to capture three points in Georgia on Saturday. But Marcello Lippi's team has only a one-point lead over Ireland - which is guided by another Italian coaching great, Giovanni Trapattoni - which visits Cyprus. The Ireland-Italy game in Dublin Oct. 10 could be crucial.

Lippi is unconcerned by criticism that players from his former club Juventus make up a third of his squad.

"Juventus has put an emphasis on Italian players," he said. "So it's only natural that they hold my attention."

Runner up to the Italians in Berlin three years ago, France has five points to make up on leader Serbia in Group 7 although Raymond Domenech's team, which hosts Romania on Saturday, has a game in hand on the leader and soon goes to Belgrade.

"It will be hard, but the message I'm getting across to the players is that it will be just as hard (for Romania and Serbia)," Domenech said. "We have a talented and a strong team, and we'll show it."

Slovakia is the surprise leader of Group 3 as it chases a first World Cup appearance, and has a great chance to push neighbor the Czech Republic further out of contention by beating them at home on Saturday.

The Slovaks go into the game with a two-point lead over second place Northern Ireland, with the Czechs next to last and seven points behind.

Portugal badly needs a victory over Group 1 leader Denmark in Copenhagen or Cristiano Ronaldo and his teammates will probably have to start thinking about the runners up playoffs.

With four rounds of games to go, group favorites Portugal and Sweden are lingering well behind the Danes and Hungary. Denmark has 16 points and Hungary 13 with Portugal and Sweden on nine.

With the Hungarians hosting Sweden on Saturday, two home wins will push the Portuguese and the Swedes further out of contention for places in the finals.

England, which hosts Slovenia in a friendly on Saturday, will capture a place at the finals if it beats Croatia at Wembley on Wednesday to make it eight wins out of eight in Group 6. That means the race is effectively for second place and a playoff spot, which Croatia is favored to capture, especially by beating fourth place Belarus on Saturday. Three points behind the Croats, third place Ukraine has a game in hand, however, and should also beat Andorra at home to stay in contention.

With six wins from six games, Spain should move closer to the finals by beating Belgium at home, while second place Bosnia-Herzegovina is hopeful of staying in contention by winning in Armenia.

WC Qualifying on FSC
 Sat., Sep. 5, 3 p.m. LIVE -
   Bahrain vs. Saudi Arabia
 Sat., Sep. 5, 5 p.m. -
   Georgia vs. Italy
 Wed., Sep. 9, 2:30 p.m. LIVE -
   N. Ireland vs. Slovakia
 Wed., Sep. 9, 5 p.m. -
   Wales vs. Russia
 Wed., Sep. 9, 8 p.m. -
   Saudi Arabia vs. Bahrain
Qualifying for the three automatic spots from Central and North America is effectively down to four teams as Mexico aims to stay in touch with Costa Rica (12 points), Honduras (10) and United States (10) with four rounds of games to go.

With Honduras expected to beat Trinidad & Tobago at home and the Americans hosting El Salvador, the crucial game on Saturday appears to be Mexico's visit to leader Costa Rica. The Mexicans have nine points and a victory would turn things upside down.

The four automatic spots from Asia are already decided and now Bahrain and Saudi Arabia go into a two-game playoff to decide which team goes on to face Oceania champion New Zealand for a spot at the World Cup.

Among Saturday's other friendlies, the Netherlands host Japan in a meeting of teams already qualified for the World Cup.
soon ah go b ah lean mean bulling machine.