Friday, May 17, 2013
All times are given in Central Time (GMT-5).
4 June 2013
Australia at Japan 5:30 Saitama
Iraq at Oman 8:00 Muscat
Iran at Qatar 11:15 Doha
South Korea at Lebanon 12:30 Beirut
Mexico at Jamaica 20:30 Kingston
5 June 2013
Namibia at Malawi 7:30 TBA
Nigeria at Kenya 8:00 Nairobi
7 June 2013
South Africa at Central African Republic TBD TBA
Democratic Republic of Congo at Libya 9:00 Tripoli
Luxembourg at Azerbaijan 11:00 Baku
Malta at Armenia 11:00 Yerevan
Belarus at Finland 11:00 Helsinki
Bosnia and Herzegovina at Latvia 11:30 Riga
Ghana at Sudan 12:00 Khartoum
Greece at Lithuania 12:45 Vilnius
Slovakia at Liechtenstein 13:00 Vaduz
Poland at Moldova 13:15 Chisinau
Scotland at Croatia 13:15 Zagreb
Ukraine at Montenegro 13:30 Podgorica
Norway at Albania 13:30 Tirana
Italy at Czech Republic 13:45 Prague
Sweden at Austria 13:45 Vienna
Serbia at Belgium 13:45 Brussels
Faroe Islands at Ireland 13:45 Dublin
Slovenia at Iceland 14:00 Reykjavik
Russia at Portugal 14:45 Belfast
Venezuela at Bolivia 15:00 La Paz
Colombia at Argentina 17:05 Buenos Aires
Chile at Paraguay 19:10 Asuncion
United States of America at Jamaica 20:30 Kingston
Honduras at Costa Rica 21:00 San Jose
Mexico at Panama 21:00 Panama City
Ecuador at Peru 21:10 Lima
8 June 2013
Liberia at Uganda 8:00 Kampala
Lesotho at Zambia 8:00 Ndola
Ethiopia at Botswana 8:00 Lobatse
Congo at Gabon 9:30 Franceville
Senegal at Angola 10:00 Luanda
Cyprus at Switzerland 10:30 Geneva
Tunisia at Sierra Leone 11:30 Freetown
Cote d'Ivoire at Gambia 11:30 Bakau
Equatorial Guinea at Cape Verde 12:30 Praia
Rwanda at Mali 13:00 Bamako
Tanzania at Morocco 15:00 Marrakech
9 June 2013
Egypt at Zimbabwe 8:00 Harare
Burkina Faso at Niger 10:00 Niamey
Algeria at Benin 10:00 Porto-Novo
Cameroon at Togo 10:30 Lome
Mozambique at Guinea 12:00 Conakry
11 June 2013
Jordan at Australia 4:30 Melbourne
Uzbekistan at South Korea 6:00 Seoul
Japan at Iraq 9:30 Doha, Qatar
Lebanon at Iran 10:30 Tehran
Finland at Belarus 12:00 Gomel
Faroe Islands at Sweden 12:15 Solna
Armenia at Denmark 13:15 Copenhagen
Peru at Colombia 15:30 Barranquilla
Argentina at Ecuador 16:00 Quito
Uruguay at Venezuela 19:00 Puerto Ordaz
Costa Rica at Mexico 19:00 Mexico City
Bolivia at Chile 19:30 Santiago
Jamaica at Honduras 20:00 Tegucigalpa
Panama at United States of America 21:08 Seattle
12 June 2013
Kenya at Malawi 7:30 TBA
Nigeria at Namibia 14:00 Windhoek
14 June 2013
Togo at Libya 9:00 Tripoli
15 June 2013
South Africa at Ethiopia 8:00 Addis Ababa
Angola at Uganda 8:00 Kampala
Sudan at Zambia 8:00 Ndola
Central African Republic at Botswana 8:00 Lobatse
Burkina Faso at Congo 9:30 Pointe-Noire
Niger at Gabon 10:00 Libreville
Tunisia at Equatorial Guinea 11:00 Malabo
Senegal at Liberia 11:00 Monrovia
Sierra Leone at Cape Verde 12:30 Praia
Benin at Mali 13:00 Bamako
Gambia at Morocco 15:00 Marrakech
16 June 2013
Cote d'Ivoire at Tanzania 7:00 Dar Es Salaam
Egypt at Mozambique 8:00 Maputo
Ghana at Lesotho 8:00 Maseru
Algeria at Rwanda 8:30 Kigali
Cameroon at Democratic Republic of Congo 9:30 Kinshasa
Zimbabwe at Guinea 12:00 Conakry
18 June 2013
Iraq at Australia 4:30 Sydney
Iran at South Korea 6:00 Seoul
Qatar at Uzbekistan 8:00 Tashkent
Oman at Jordan 11:00 Amman
Honduras at United States of America 20:08 Sandy
Panama at Costa Rica 21:00 San Jose
Friday, April 26, 2013
Once the percentages are assigned to each outcome, each match's result will be generated from a Random.org selection of one number between 1 and 100. The home team's numbers will come first, then the tie, then the road team's numbers. For example, a home team with 50% chance to win, 40% to tie, and 10% chance to lose will have the following numbers assigned to each outcome: 1-50 for win, 51-90 for tie, 91-100 for loss.
CONMEBOL Matchday 13
Bolivia host Venezuela at altitude. The supposed fortress at La Paz has been under siege so far during this qualifying campaign, with Bolivia defeating only last-place Paraguay and slumping Uruguay for a 2-2-2 home record. Venezuela won in their last two trips to La Paz.
Bolivia: 30 Tie: 30 Venezuela: 40
Argentina host Colombia in the middle of winter. Argentina have only one loss in eleven qualifying matches, and that was in October 2011. Argentina have won five of six home matches, and the one draw to Bolivia was due to referee error. Colombia are a strong road team with three wins out of five matches, but this is Argentina of which we speak.
Argentina: 85 Tie: 13 Colombia: 2
Paraguay host Chile at Defensores del Chaco stadium. Paraguay have shown little heart in this qualification campaing, but they have played only four home games against seven road games so far. Chile have a 2-0 win already against Paraguay in the 2014 FIFA World Cup, along with two wins from six road matches. Chile are averse to ties, so three points should be had here.
Paraguay: 38 Tie: 2 Chile: 60
Peru host red-hot Ecuador. However, Ecuador's record is a bit deceiving and has been built on the backs of six home wins. Ecuador have no wins in four road games, though they do have two ties. Peru are historically very strong at home and so far have a 3-1-1 record, including a home win over Chile in their previous outing.
Peru: 55 Tie: 35 Ecuador: 10
CONMEBOL Matchday 14
Colombia host Peru on the heels of what is likely to be a two-game losing streak. However, Colombia have been superb in their last three home games, winning by a combined margin of 11-0. Peru are not a good road team and have four losses and one draw as visitors so far.
Colombia: 93 Tie: 5 Peru: 2
Ecuador host Argentina with their perfect home record on the line against the best team in CONMEBOL. Argentina have a 2-2-1 road record with the sole loss coming at Venezuela in October 2011. Ecuador did defeat Argentina in this fixture 2-0 in 2009.
Ecuador: 41 Tie: 34 Argentina: 25
Venezuela host Uruguay in the middle of summer. Uruguay will be coming off a bye, but Luis Suarez is suspended for the match. These teams have played to three consecutive ties. Uruguay have been awful on the road with four losses and only one draw so far, and that was to last-place Paraguay. Venezuela's record at home is 3-1-1.
Venezuela: 63 Tie: 34 Uruguay: 3
Chile host Bolivia. Bolivia's road record is ugly. They have four losses and their only draw was aided by referee error. They are pretty much a lost cause away from La Paz. Chile do have two home losses from five matches, but their opponents on those days were Argentina and Colombia, not Bolivia.
Chile: 97 Tie: 2 Bolivia: 1
CONMEBOL Matchday 15
Paraguay host Bolivia in Asuncion. These are the two teams currently at the bottom of the standings. Bolivia are not good away from home, but Paraguay are decidedly mediocre everywhere. However, Paraguay are 2-1-1 at home having faced only one of the big three at home so far.
Paraguay: 79 Tie: 19 Bolivia: 2
Chile host Venezuela in the most pivotal of all remaining showdowns in CONMEBOL as the two teams fight for fourth-place and the final direct ticket to Brasil 2014. These teams drew this fixture 2-2 in 2009, and Venezuela defeated Chile 2-1 in Copa America 2011 in Mendoza, Argentina, which is on the border with Chile. However, Chile did win 2-0 against Venezuela already in the 2014 FIFA World Cup. Chile are the only South American team that have yet to tie in this tournament.
Chile: 55 Tie: 20 Venezuela: 25
Peru host Uruguay. It seems likely that Uruguay's slide into obscurity will be ongoing coming into this match, and the fact that they gave up two goals to Peru in Uruguay back in June 2012 does not bode well for their defense going into Lima. Peru's attack is always potent at home.
Peru: 67 Tie: 23 Uruguay: 10
Colombia host Ecuador. Colombia have only had two matches not end in victory at home, but those two were against contenders Venezuela and Argentina. Ecuador are most definitely a contender, but Colombia score a lot at home since the year 2012. Colombia won this fixture 2-0 in 2009.
Colombia: 61 Tie: 30 Ecuador: 9
CONMEBOL Matchday 16
Uruguay host Colombia. Colombia already smashed Uruguay 4-0 in this tournament to throw Uruguay into a tailspin from which they have yet to recover. Uruguay are undefeated so far at home in the 2014 FIFA World Cup with three wins and three 1-1 draws. When Uruguay win, they score four goals at home. Uruguay need this match a lot more than do Colombia in terms of making it to Brasil 2014.
Uruguay: 43 Tie: 43 Colombia: 14
Bolivia host Ecuador. Ecuador needed a very questionable penalty call to go their way in order to defeat Bolivia 1-0 earlier in the tournament. Bolivia are always solid at home, though less so during the 2014 FIFA World Cup. Ecuador got a 3-1 win here in 2009.
Bolivia: 30 Tie: 40 Ecuador: 40
Paraguay host Argentina who will be coming off a bye. Traditionally, this was always a riveting fixture, but with the slippage in Paraguay's quality and the sheer dominance of Argentina, perhaps some of the shine has worn off here.
Paraguay: 12 Tie: 21 Argentina: 67
Venezuela host Peru. Venezuela have always seemed to be victimized by Peru away from home, as evidenced by their 2-1 loss in Lima earlier in the tournament and their 4-1 defeat in Copa America 2011. However, Venezuela have four straight competitive home wins against Peru, including the 2007 Copa America and three qualifying matches.
Venezuela: 84 Tie: 14 Peru: 2
CONMEBOL Matchday 17
Argentina host Peru. By this time, Argentina should have clinched a berth at Brasil 2014 and Peru should only be clinging to the slightest of hopes. A loss in Argentina should be enough to extinguish that home on this penultimate matchday.
Argentina: 94 Tie: 5 Peru: 1
Ecuador host Uruguay at altitude. Uruguay were able to win here 2-1 in 2009 in one of the most shocking results of the 2010 FIFA World Cup, thereby keeping Uruguay's hopes alive on their way to an eventual fourth-place finish at South Africa 2010. This tournament has been a lot different, however, as Ecuador have recaptured their form from the 2002 and 2006 FIFA World Cups.
Ecuador: 88 Tie: 6 Uruguay: 6
Colombia host Chile. Chile are the hardest team to predict as they hover around a .500 win percentage both home and away. Colombia have not dropped points at home since 2011.
Colombia: 73 Tie: 5 Chile: 22
Venezuela host Paraguay. Venezuela defeated Paraguay on the road for the first time ever during this tournament, and they did so by a 2-0 scoreline. That was the only match in which Venezuela have scored multiple goals so far in the 2014 FIFA World Cup, and a lack of goals may undo all the stellar defensive work they have put in should they not qualify. Paraguay did win this fixture in 2009.
Venezuela: 82 Tie: 11 Paraguay: 7
CONMEBOL Matchday 18
Uruguay host Argentina in a border battle. Argentina will be motivated as they look to avenge their elimination at home in Copa America 2011 at the hands of Uruguay with a win on the road. Argentina were able to secure a win in this fixture in 2009.
Uruguay: 26 Tie: 30 Argentina: 44
Paraguay host Colombia in what is likely to be a dead rubber. Paraguay will be eliminated and Colombia will be in Brasil 2014. Colombia were able to win 2-0 in a dead rubber here in 2009.
Paraguay: 40 Tie: 20 Colombia: 40
Chile face Ecuador. The implications of this match could be enormous, with a possibility that both teams would need to collect points in order to clinch direct berths to Brasil 2014. Ecuador have already beaten Chile 3-1 during this tournament, but Chile eliminated Ecuador from South Africa 2010 contention in this fixture with a 1-0 victory in 2009. Chile have not fared so well against the power teams at home in this tournament, losing to Argentina and Colombia.
Chile: 55 Tie: 3 Ecuador: 42
Peru host Bolivia, who will be coming off a bye for this likely dead rubber. One of the best home teams will be playing perhaps the weakest road team on the continent.
Peru: 90 Tie: 8 Bolivia: 2
Every result was run through the random generator for fifty iterations of the qualification cycle. What follows are the average outcomes and range extremes over the fifty iterations. The top four teams go directly to Brasil 2014 with the fifth-place team going to the intercontinental playoffs.
Average Final Standings: (Median point total in parentheses)
Argentina 34.26 (34)
Colombia 28.68 (29)
Ecuador 28.12 (29)
Venezuela 24.56 (24.5)
Chile 23.96 (24)
Peru 18.5 (18)
Uruguay 17.14 (17)
Paraguay 14.02 (14)
Bolivia 12.04 (12)
Chance of Direct Qualification: (Chance of going to intercontinental playoffs in parentheses)
Ecuador 46 (4)
Venezuela 26 (22)
Chile 28 (20)
Peru 0 (2)
Uruguay 0 (2)
It is strange to note that although Venezuela achieved a higher average point total, Chile were more likely to secure direct qualification.
Highest and Lowest Point Totals:
Argentina 39 / 31
Colombia 34 / 24
Ecuador 33 / 23
Venezuela 31 / 19
Chile 30 / 18
Peru 23 / 13
Uruguay 23 / 13
Paraguay 20 / 9
Bolivia 16 / 9
The takeaway is that Argentina, Colombia, and Ecuador will be at Brasil 2014, where they will be joined by the winner of the coin flip between Venezuela and Chile. The loser of that coin flip will be going to the intercontinental playoffs to face the fifth-place team from Asia. I would bet on all five teams being present at Brasil 2014.
Tuesday, March 26, 2013
In the second period, Mexico really took to utlizing Javier Aquino (pictured, black #11) up the right flank to attack American left back Damarcus Beasley (pictured, white #7). Center back Matt Besler (pictured, white #14) made a saving block with his body on a Jesus Zavala attempt to keep the Americans level. With under twenty minutes left, a heroic thirty-yard dash by Graham Zusi allowed him to head away a point-black chance for Angel Reyna and save the shutout for the United States. With a quarter hour left to play, American midfielder Mauric Edu came in from behind Aquino and knocked him down at the penalty spot, but the referee somehow waved play on. Hernandez continued his miserable night with three minutes to go as he failed to connect on a half-volley off a free ball inside the box. Reserve United States goalkeeper Brad Guzan played like a man who wanted to win the job outright, and his diving save denied Reyna in the dying moments of stoppage time to give himself a second shutout in five days' time. Mexico had fifteen corners in the match, but no goals as the teams draw 0-0.
Panama 5 pts +2
Costa Rica 4 pts +1
USA 4 pts 0
Honduras 4 pts -1
Mexico 3 pts 0
Jamaica 2 pts -2
Just after the restart, Costly again had a chance to equalize and a turnover from Panama, but Panama second-string goalkeeper Luis Mejia made the save diving toward his far post. Panama in all honesty had the lesser of the chances, but they made their few opportunities count on the scoreboard. Sanchez beat his defender to the endline and cut a pass back to Perez, but Perez blasted just wide of goal. However, with a quarter hour left in the match, La Marea Roja had a second goal. Nelson Barahona sent in a driven through ball from the midfield stripe that put Perez in behind the three-man Catracho defensive line. Perez shot unimpeded from the top of the half circle, and his strike was true and in the net to give Panama a two-goal advantage. Anibal Godoy nearly made it three, but his strike to the near post was knocked aside by flying Honduras goalkeeper Noel Valladares. Panama win 2-0.
Luis Tejada 2
Blas Perez 75
Full Match Video:
With less than a quarter hour to play, Ticos playmaker Joel Campbell sucked the entire Jamaican defense out of position, but his excellent play and pass were ruined by a botched Saborio shot from close range. With under ten minutes left to make a change in the scoreboard, Diego Calvo took it upon himself to make something happen. He cut inside Jamaica defender Jermaine Taylor and then cut behind a second defender to release a shot to the far post side netting that was never in danger of being saved. Costa Rica remained sound defensively for the final push, and they win 2-0.
Michael Umaña 22
Diego Calvo 82
Mauricio Isla was providing excellent service for his Chilean teammates throughout the second period, and eventually his teammates caught onto his thought process in the build up to the second goal. With twelve minutes to go, an Isla ball went to Matias Fernandez, whose shot was blocked by Uruguay goalkeeper Fernando Muslera. The rebound fell to Eduardo Vargas for an easy tap-in goal to put Chile up by two goals. Chile win 2-0, and the loss really deals a crushing blow to Uruguay's qualification chances as they now face the toughest remaining schedule in CONMEBOL, beginning with a crucial road qualifier against Venezuela in June without the now-suspended Luis Suarez, who is out due to yellow card accumulation.
Argentina 24 pts +16
Ecuador 20 pts +6
Colombia 19 pts +12
Chile 15 pts -3
Venezuela 15 pts -3
Uruguay 13 pts -4
Peru 11 pts -4
Bolivia 9 pts -7
Paraguay 8 pts -13
Esteban Paredes 10
Eduardo Vargas 78
Full Match Video:
Venezuela were left scratching their heads as to way they did not have a second goal after a nice build up from Cesar Gonzalez led to a shot from the half circle by Tomas Rincon. Ospina parried the ball away, but an onside rebound went to Fernando Aristiguieta. However, the resulting shot was saved off the line by a sliding Perea, and Colombia were still alive in the match. A long-distance Arango free kick was met by the foot of Oswaldo Vizcarrondo, but Vizcarrondo plays center back for a reason and his poor placement meant Ospina was there for the save again. Miku Fedor come onto the pitch for Venezuela, and his one-two-one-two with Rondon gave Fedor a shot that Ospina held onto with his fingertips while prone on the floor. Radamel Falcao received the ball off a wide cross from Carlos Bacca and had the goal at his mercy on the half-volley from nine yards, but Falcao's shot rocked the crossbar and went straight up and down into the hands of the goalkeeper, allowing the crowd in Venezuela to breathe a collective sigh of relief. Venezuela win the match 1-0 and look to be in good position to qualify given that they have the easiest remaining schedule in CONMEBOL.
Salomon Rondon 13
Full Match Video:
Five minutes into the second period was when Montero made the match his own. A quick restart free kick that traversed the field from Christian Noboa put the speedy Montero in ahead of Ivan Piris, whom he dusted on route toward goal. Montero finished off the inside of the far post to give Ecuador a 2-1 advantage. An unfocused Paraguay allowed the same play to beat them five minutes later as Noboa again found Montero on a cross-the-field ball from a quick restart. Montero dribbled around Piris twice before crossing a ball to Cristian Benitez, who headed away easily for the third goal for Ecuador. Montero scored another goal twenty minutes later when his effort was turned into his own goal by Pablo Aguilar, though Montero received credit for the fourth Ecuador score. Frickson Erazo took the opportunity late in the match to deliver a crushing blow physically to Paraguay as he shouldered Edgar Benitez in the face on the edge of the Ecuador penalty area. Ecuador win 4-1.
Felipe Caicedo 38
Jefferson Montero 50, 75
Cristian Benitez 54
Luis Caballero 15
Full Match Video:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UbJOKalxEwg (1st half)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tm5ZlpY4X_E (2nd half)
Banega almost put Argentina ahead, but Galarza made an acrobatic save to deny the goal. With thirteen minutes left in the match, Lionel Messi (pictured, blue) struck a marvelous free kick to the far post that Galarza somehow reached with an outstretched hand on another all-out dive. Messi had a solo opportunity against Galarza following his block of an outlet pass, but Messi could not shoot under an oncoming Galarza, who clearly earned man-of-the-match honors on this day. The match ends in a 1-1 draw.
Marcelo Martins 25
Ever Banega 44
Valdes came off his line bravely ten minutes into the half to snatch the ball ahead of two open French players at the back post. Andres Iniesta had a nifty flicked shot attempt tipped just over the French crossbar by France goalkeeper Hugo Lloris (pictured, yellow). The breakthrough came soon thereafter as a Monreal cross found Pedro Rodriguez (pictured, red), who somehow pushed the ball over the line despite the challenge from Patrice Evra (pictured, blue) and Lloris, who lay prone across his goal line and managed to paw the ball but not redirect it out of his net. Blaise Matuidi shot a hard, low grounder under a Gerard Pique slide, but again Valdes made a quick save on the ground. With a quarter hour remaining, a French corner fell to Raphael Varane in a dangerous setting, but before he could find the ball Monreal had cleared it out-of-bounds off Varane. Soon thereafter, Paul Pogba picked up two yellows in two minutes, leaving France down a man from minute 78 on through the finish. Three minutes from time, Valdes miraculously denied an Evra header from three yards in front of him. Valdes was a superhero and the French could not best him on this day. Spain win 1-0.
Spain 11 pts +6
France 10 pts +4
Georgia 4 pts -4
Belarus 3 pts -5
Finland 2 pts -1
Pedro Rodriguez 58
Ukraine finally got the lead they deserved as the match passed the hour mark when a Roman Bezus cross was headed across the box by Roman Zozulya for the instep shot and goal by the unstoppable Yarmolenko. Ten minutes later, an unmarked Yevhen Khacheridi headed in a corner kick from the near post to give Ukraine a 2-0 lead. With ten minutes left to play, Moldova pulled one back through a nice curled ball from twenty yards out by Alexandr Suvorov, who took advantage of his plentiful time and space to make the score 2-1. Gusev nearly made it 3-1 to the good for Ukraine late, but another diving Namasco fingertip push kept the match close. Ukraine's Taras Stepanenko was thrown off the pitch in stoppage time for a red card for kicking Vitalie Bordian in the back of the neck. Ukraine hold on and win 2-1.
Warsaw was the scene for Poland's home tilt against San Marino. A handball in the box by Alex Della Valle gave Poland a penalty kick twenty minutes into the match, and they would convert it for a 1-0 lead. A simple cross into the box should have been cut out by San Marino left back Mirko Palazzi, but instead he allowed Lukasz Piszczek to get inside position and allow a richochet off his leg to take the ball into the goal for 2-0. Poland would take the 2-0 score into the half.
Deja vu struck four minutes after the break as Della Valle committed another handball in his own box, leading to a penalty kick goal for Poland. Della Valle's poor day continued ten minutes later when another simple cross was not cut out by the San Marino defender, so Lukasz Teodorczyk had a simple finish from seven yards to make it 4-0. Simone Bacchiochi made a late dash up through two Polish defenders, though in the end his shot was saved by an onrushing Poland goalkeeper Artur Boruc. Jakub Kosecki finished the scoring in stoppage time when he snuck a ball in off the far post for his first ever goal for Poland. Poland win 5-0.
Podgorica was the site of the showdown between second-place England and the group leaders, hosts Montenegro. The poor condition of the pitch meant that an already crowded midfielder was nearly unplayable due to the difficulty of stringing passes. England decided to go with the long ball and trust their speed, and the dividends were paid immediately. Wayne Rooney spotted the Montenegrin goalkeeper off his line and decided to send a twenty-one yard chip goalward, but he was denied by the far post. A corner kick six minutes in gave Rooney a chance to elevate from seven yards after his marker had fallen down, and Rooney made no mistake with the finish, giving England the early one-goal advantage. England would take the 1-0 lead over a lackluster Montenegro into the break.
Montenegro were reborn with the second half whistle. Over the course of the match, the home side had gone from one striker to two and now to three with the addition of substitute Dejan Damjanovic. England could not cope as well with the new-look attack, and Montenegro pressed hard for the equalizer. Rooney had one look from a curling free kick to the lower ninety, but Montenegro goalkeeper Mladen Bozovic kept the ball out. Thereafter, Montenegro were relentless in attack. Stevan Jovetic and Mirko Vucinic were lethal up front, and Jovetic had a volleyed shot save on the dive by England goalkeeper Joe Hart. Soon thereafter, Jovetic hit the near post on a redirect, but he could not find the ball in time to get off a second attempt before Steven Gerrard could throw a block. With less than a quarter hour to play, persistence paid off for the home team. Hart made one save and Danny Wellbeck made two blocks in a melee setting, but Damjanovic scored on his third attempt in under six seconds to level the match at one goal apiece. Montenegro seemed to have exhausted their attack in the push to equalize, so they had little left to offer after their goal. Gerrard had a free kick saved by Bozovic in the final minute. The two teams draw 1-1 and Group H is still in the balance.
Montenegro 14 pts +11
England 12 pts +18
Poland 8 pts +5
Ukraine 8 pts +2
Moldova 4 pts -7
San Marino 0 pts -29
Andriy Yarmolenko 61
Yevhen Khacheridi 71
Alexandr Suvorov 80
Robert Lewandowski 21 PK, 50 PK
Lukasz Piszczek 28
Lukasz Teodorczyk 61
Jakub Kosecki 90+2
Wayne Rooney 6
Dejan Damjanovic 75
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OlSOiPgaRjs (Ukraine v. Moldova)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hl4wdSq3UVk (Poland v. San Marino)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HsL7gISsveo (England v. Montenegro)
One minute after the restart, Germany goalkeeper Manuel Neuer tried to get cheeky and throw feints to shake off an encroaching Kazakh forward, but Neuer was dispossessed at his own half circle by Baurzhan Jolchiyev. Genrikh Shmidtgal one-timed a shot at the empty net to close the gap to 3-1. Germany did not suffer any further lapses in concentration. In fact, in the final minute Gundogan hit a through ball to Reus that saw Reus finish with aplomb to end the scoring with a four goal to the home side. Germany win 4-1 and look well on their way to Brasil 2014.
Ireland took to their home pitch in Dublin looking to vanquish Austria. Ten minutes into the match, it were the Irish who were vanquished by high pressure from Austria. Ciaran Clark (pictured, green) was under enormous pressure in defense, so much that he decided to skip two Austria midfielders who were covering him. However, Zlatko Junozovic (pictured, white #10) stripped him and the break was on. Junozovic ran up the pitch before hit a square ball to an oncoming Martin Harnik (pictured, white #11) for the opening goal. Emanuel Pogatetz overslid a tackle in the Austrian penalty area as Shane Long was cutting the ball back upfield. Long was felled by the challenge, and Ireland had a chance to convert from the penalty spot, which they did. Long found himself open with his back to goal with seven minutes left in the first half. Long did the only reasonable thing to do in that situation, which was to backheel strongly toward the goal. Unluckily for Long, the post was not kind and his shot bounced away. In stoppage time, Jon Walters scored off a diving header from ten yards out on a corner kick to give Ireland a 2-1 lead at halftime.
James McLean nearly precipitated a third goal for Ireland midway through the second half as his inswinging cross was headed on goal from less than six yards out, but Austria goalkeeper Heinz Lindner rose quickly to punch the ball over his crossbar. In stoppage time, Harnik found space to lay a ball off to David Alaba, who then hit a high dipping shot from the half circle that fell down just in time to cross under the Irish crossbar and break thousands of hearts in Dublin. The match ends in a memorable 2-2 draw.
Germany 16 pts +15
Austria 8 pts +9
Sweden 8 pts +3
Ireland 8 pts -1
Kazakhstan 1 pts -13
Faroe Islands 0 pts -13
Marco Reus 23, 90
Mario Goetze 27
Ilkay Gundogan 32
Genrikh Shmidtgal 46
Martin Harnik 11
David Alaba 90+2
Jon Walters 25 PK, 45+1
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1YkALKBRMns (Germany v. Kazakhstan)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BmTUCXZ0i5s (Austria v. Ireland)
Scotland put the ball in the net not too long after the resumption of the festivities, but the strike was correctly brought back for offside. Having seen the game flash before their eyes, Serbia went back into the ascendancy. Duricic scored a goal during a scramble in the Scottish penalty area after a Steven Whittaker block came his way on the rebound. Five minutes later, Scotland defender Gary Caldwell made a lazy clearance that was picked off by Nenad Tomovic at the edge of the area. Tomovic's shot was hit into the goalkeeper's onrushing body, but the rebound was pushed into the open net by Duricic. Serbia win 2-0, extending Scotland's winless streak in competitive fixtures to seven, an all-time Scottish record.
Wales absolutely needed a victory at home in Swansea against Croatia if they were to have any real aspirations of reaching Brasil 2014. Joe Ledley was cynically taken down in the box by Dejan Lovren (pictured, blue #6), so Wales had a penalty kick twenty minutes into the match. Gareth Bale converted the kick and notched a well-deserved goal on his tally after commanding the lion's share of the scoring chances in the early going by himself. Bale nearly made it two for himself in the first half, but Croatia goalkeeper Stipe Pletikosa denied him well. Wales led 1-0 after the first forty-five.
The match slowed down in the second half, and Wales looked primed to snatch the three points. However, thirteen minutes from the end, Lovren struck a knuckler from twenty-eight yards that seemed remote-controlled on its way into the Welsh goal, evening the score. The Welsh defense was too sluggish to close down Ivica Olic as he dribbling slowly up the left flank, so Olic punished them with an easy cross to the center of the box. Eduardo collected the ball and nutmegged the goalkeeper with his shot to give Croatia their first lead with three minutes left in regulation. Croatia win 2-1 to remain at the worst co-leaders in the group.
Brussels was the site of the tussle between visiting Macedonia and hosts Belgium, who kicked off simultaneously with the match in Swansea. Belgium had won 2-0 in Macedonia four days prior to this tilt. Eden Hazard proved to be the danger man early for Belgium, and it was his long distance shot that began the match in earnest, though it was easily held. Belgium did manage to put a goal into the Macedonian net in the first period, but Thomas Vermaelen was offside after the flick-on header from a free kick. The teams went into the dressing rooms tied at zero.
Nikolce Noveski blocked a Vincent Kompany side volley with his back and the high rebound was played by Hazard off the bounce, but Hazard's missile struck and probably dented the crossbar on its way out of bounds. Daniel Georgievski will have nightmares about Hazard after what the Belgian did to him just beyond the hour mark. Hazard collected Georgievski's header clearance with a high boot and then dribbled at Georgievski before turning him with a feint and beating him off the dribbled. Of course Hazard finished the play to the far post and gave Belgium a 1-0 lead. Belgium seemed to relent over the next ten minutes following their goal, and Macedonia had the better of play, but they could not make it pay off in terms of an equalizer. Belgium withstood the short-lived spell of pressure and emerged unscathed. With the 1-0 victory, Belgium not only remain tied with Croatia at the top of Group A, but they also jointly cause the first elimination in UEFA qualifying for Brasil 2014. The dishonor of being the first European casualty goes to Scotland.
Belgium 16 pts +10
Croatia 16 pts +7
Serbia 7 pts +1
Wales 6 pts -8
Macedonia 4 pts -4
Filip Duricic 60, 65
Dejan Lovren 77
Gareth Bale 21 PK
Eden Hazard 62
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ikiH5e7TDA0 (Serbia v. Scotland)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1fw8VFSqidE (Croatia v. Wales)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SwSL6DjicHg (Belgium v. Macedonia)
Two minutes into the second period, the Czechs were on the board. A Jaroslav Plasil cross was met by a leaping Matel Vydra, whose header goal was his first for his country. With under ten minutes to go, Vydra doubled his personal haul after winning a jump ball and then dribbling into open space before firing around the goalkeeper and into the net. The Czechs added a third in stoppage time as Armenia were caught too far forward. Tomas Rosicky hit a half-field through ball to Daniel Kolar who did the rest. Czech Republic leave with a a 3-0 win tonight to celebrate Cech's hundredth appearance for the national side.
Bulgaria came to Copenhagen to take on Denmark in the glamour match of the night in Group B. Denmark were sure they had the lead when Nicolai Stokholm met a cross at the back post, but a miraculous save by Bulgaria goalkeeper Nikolay Mihaylov left the Danes in disbelief. Georgi Milanov tried to gift Denmark a goal when he attempted a clearance from his butt after having slipped, but luckily for him the resulting Danish shot was sent wide of goal. The first half ended at 0-0.
Ivelin Popov began a breakaway for Bulgaria and then relesed Aleksandar Tonev up the left flank. Tonev sent in a teasing ball across the box, and Stanislav Manolev was the first person to get to it just ahead of his sliding marker, and Manolev's first-time finish put the visitors ahead 1-0. Denmark drew a penalty kick when Andreas Cornelius (pictured, red) was felled in the box, and the penalty was converted to even the scoreline at one goal apiece. The match ends in a 1-1 draw that suits Bulgaria much more than it does Denmark.
Ta'Qali was the site for the match between home side Malta and visiting footballing giants Italy. Italy could calm their nerves early after Stephan El Shaarawy was clipped in the box and dramatically emphasized the extent of the contact from Luke Dimech. The penalty kick was put away by Mario Balotelli, and Italy led 1-0. Malta were right back in the match when a Roderick Briffa through ball put Andre Schembri ahead of the defense. Italy goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon tripped Schembri knee-to-knee, and Malta had themselves a penalty kick. Captain Michael Mifsud stepped up to take the spot kick, but Buffon saved his shot low and to the right. Minutes later, Mifsud cranked an effort on a solo run from twenty-seven yards that looped over Buffon and collided flush with the crossbar. Balotelli scored in the final minute of the half when he provided a drop pass outlet for Mattia de Sciglio as de Sciglio was running out of real estate at the opposite goal line. Balotelli one-timed the pass into the far side netting, giving Italy a 2-0 lead at the break.
The second half was much calmer with the stronger side having already done the brunt work in the first half and Malta having already thrown its best punches. Italy win 2-0.
Italy 13 pts +8
Bulgaria 10 pts +7
Czech Rep 8 pts +2
Denmark 6 pts +1
Armenia 3 pts -5
Malta 0 pts -13
Matel Vydra 47, 81
Daniel Kolar 90+4
Stanislav Manolev 51
Daniel Agger 63 PK
Mario Balotelli 8 PK, 45
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OZFwjZEALNE (Czech Republic v. Armenia)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I6CSntelzU8 (Bulgaria v. Denmark)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BJz7uIVHQ0E (Italy v. Malta)
Rauf Aliyev picked up a second yellow card in minute 55, leaving the hosts down a man and provided Portugal with the opening they needed. Not long thereafter, Joao Moutinho hit a cross that was headed into the top corner by Alves, and Portugal finally had their breakthrough. Hugo Almeida sealed the game with ten minutes left in the match with a simple headed finish after he was left unmarked off a chipped pass from Fabio Coentrao. Joao Pereira missed the easiest chance he'll ever see in his life in stoppage time as he dragged wide from inside the six-yard box against a goalkeeper rooted to his line. Portugal nevertheless win 2-0 to keep the pressure on Israel for second place.
Belfast was not too snowy for football as it had been on Friday, so Northern Ireland were able to play a home game this month. Israel were not as kind to the home side as the weather, however, as they were keen on keeping pace with Portugal. In just the fourth minute, Israel were knocking on the door. An Eden Ben Basat cross along the goal line found Itay Shechter, whose shot rattled the near post and bounced out of play. Martin Paterson began a sequence of promising attacks for Northern Ireland when he saved a ball on the end line and passed to Steven Davis, who fired straight into goalkeeper Dudu Aoueta. The rebound was hit back on frame but cleared off the line by Yuval Shpungin. Israel had two more blocked shots during the sequence, provided by Tal Ben Haim and Eytan Tibi. The teams went into recess tied at zero.
On a slowly built counterattack, Israel pounced on a bit of fortune. Shechter stuck his foot out to corral a pass, but instead of trapping the ball, it rolled over his foot into the path of an open an onrushing Lior Refaelov, who connected cleanly for a finish to the far side netting. Israel were not content with just the one goal. On a ball to the right side, Shechter beat Jonny Evans up and around the sideline and goal line before laying the ball to the top of the box for a Ben Basat power shot and finish. Israel win 2-0.
Russia 12 pts +8
Israel 11 pts +7
Portugal 11 pts +5
N. Ireland 3 pts -4
Azerbaijan 3 pts -6
Luxembourg 2 pts -10
Bruno Alves 63
Hugo Almeida 79
Lior Refaelov 78
Eden Ben Basat 84
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NOyH1KWv_3Q (Portugal v. Azerbaijan)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h4Nk1gevDQQ (Israel v. Northern Ireland)
Right on the hour mark, the Fennec Foxes had a breakaway chance started by Saphir Taider. The ball was impeded well by a saving sliding tackle in the Benin defense, but the ball popped out to an onrushing Taider who finished and gave Algeria a 2-0 lead. Benin goalkeeper Fabien Farnulle was sent off for a record card in minute 85 when he was deemed to have come out of his penalty area to make a sliding save with his hands that prevented a goalbound shot by El Arabi Soudani (pictured, white) from scoring. Farnulle in reality only used his groin to block the ball, but the call was made against him nevertheless. Backup goalkeeper Guillaume Bemenou was punished for his poor positioning in stoppage time when Islam Slimani expertly stuck out a boot to flick a high chip over Bemenou, who had needlessly evacuated his goal line. Algeria take the win 3-1 and now site even with Mali atop the group.
Algeria 6 pts +5
Mali 6 pts +1
Benin 4 pts -1
Rwanda 1 pts -5
Sofiane Feghouli 10
Saphir Taider 60
Islam Slimani 90+2
Rudy Gestede 26
Full Match Video:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q2hf1merrc0 (1st half)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GAgYuCzI0U4 (2nd half)
At the hour mark, Estonia were able to get a second header inside the box in succession with Tarmo Kink found Joel Lindpere, and as the truism states, two headers in the box equates to a goal. Lindpere would score to double the home side's lead. Three minutes later, it took a charge off his line for Andorra goalkeeper Josep Gomes to slide tackle away from an open Vassiljev. With under ten minutes to go, a Lindpere cross from the end line gave Andres Oper a header chance which Oper turned onto the crossbar. A late Andorra chance went begging, so Estonia win 2-0.
Istanbul was the site of the day's crucial encounter in Group D with Hungary coming into to town to face Turkey. Midway through the period, some heroics were needed from Turkey goalkeeper Onur Kivrak to twice deny Vilmos Vanczak, whose initial open header from a free kick was parried to the side from where his second attempt struck Kivrak and climbed onto the crossbar and back into play. Turkey really should have gone ahead with five minutes left in the half when Nuri Sahin chested a ball down in the box for Burak Yilmaz to take a shot, but Yilmaz aimed his effort wide right. Yilmaz was a man possessed for the remainder of the half, but Turkey had to settle for a 0-0 score at the break.
As the game entered its final half hour, Turkey entered the lead. A stinging cross by Arda Turan found Yilmaz from five yards out, and Yilmaz made no mistake as his header nutmegged the goalkeeper and thrust his side into the lead. Nine minutes on, Hungary had a long throw-in. Tamas Kadar unleashed a deep throw, and the bounce prevented a clearance by Turkey center back Semih Kaya, so Daniel Bode cranked the loose ball off the bottom of the crossbar and in to equalize for Hungary. The Magyars nearly had a second in quick succession off a corner kick, but the header from Richard Guzmics was sent wide left of goal. The game ends in a 1-1 draw.
Romania were looking to take second-place all for themselves, but a tough trip to Amsterdam to face Netherlands loomed as a difficult proposition. Netherlands signaled their intentions early when Jeremain Lens sent in a perfect cross that Robin van Persie skied over the bar on the slide ten minutes into the match. van Persie received a slotted pass two minutes later that he laid off for Rafael van der Vaart. From the half circle, van der Vaart rolled the ball with perfect placement for the opening goal. Netherlands took the 1-0 with them into their locker room.
In perhaps the best goal we have seen the entire month in the 2014 FIFA World Cup, van Persie headed from the most obtuse of angles, hitting the far netting off the far post with a header from the opposite corner of the six-yard box following a chip from Arjen Robben. Florin Gardos put the Oranje on the penalty spot after his tackle from behind swept the legs from under Lens, and the conversion gave the Netherlands a 3-0 lead. In the penultimate minute, Lens followed a hard shot from Adam Maher and tapped in the rebound to finish the scoring with a fourth goal. Netherlands win 4-0 and a nearly into the field at Brasil 2014.
Netherlands 18 pts +18
Hungary 11 pts +5
Romania 10 pts 0
Turkey 7 pts 0
Estonia 6 pts -6
Andorra 0 pts -17
Henri Anier 45+1
Joel Lindpere 61
Burak Yilmaz 62
Daniel Bode 71
Rafael van der Vaart 11
Robin van Persie 55, 64 PK
Jeremain Lens 89
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AyfHUkLzOG8 (Estonia v. Andorra)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5jMED2ITEgk (Hungary v. Turkey)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o3wEN53eOqk (Netherlands v. Romania)
Twenty minutes into the period, the Pharoahs had themselves a free kick from the half circle Hosny Abd Rabo curled the ball high over the wall, and Arubi could only push the ball up into the roof of the net as Egypt took a 1-0 lead. The lead lived only ten minutes, however, as what can only be described as a fluke ball fell to Knowledge Musona, who on a dead sprint toward goal struck a wonderful half volley over the Egypt goalkeeper for the equalizer. With only a couple minutes left, an attack up the middle right led to Ahmed Gaafar being tackled from behind in the box by Augustine Mbara, giving Egypt a very late penalty kick. The kick was made, and Egypt win 2-1.
Egypt 9 pts +4
Guinea 4 pts 0
Mozambique 2 pts -2
Zimbabwe 1 pts -2
Hosny Abd Rabo 65
Mohamed Aboutrika 88
Knowledge Musona 75
Things got worse for Australia before they got better, with Mile Jedinak sticking his leg out at the wrong time on an otherwise harmless corner and conceding a terrible own goal. However, the Socceroos are nothing if not scrappy, and who better to exemplify that than Tim Cahill? Cahill won a header from seven yards out on a corner kick and calmly finished into the side netting to draw his team within one goal of a tie. A wicked deflection from a Luke Wilshire shot saw a ball bounce off the Omani crossbar and fall to Cahill, whose attempt at a spectacular side volley flew off frame. Al-Habsi had a wonderful time denying Cahill's further efforts, and Australia looked doomed to defeat. However, Al-Habsi had a horror mistake when a simple dipping ball from distance from Brett Holman bounced at his feet and found its way to goal with five minutes left to play. Al-Habsi made a spectacular save on a Cahill header deep in stoppage time, but one wonders if he will rue the Holman goal for days to come. Australia escape with a 2-2 draw at home.
Jordan invited Japan into their home in Amman for what was guaranteed to be a historic occasion. Either Japan would become the first team to qualify for Brasil 2014, or Jordan would collect a scalp bigger than their home win against Australia early in the cycle. A draw would be enough for Japan to qualify directly to the 2014 FIFA World Cup finals. An unmarked cross by Makoto Hasebe found an open Ryoichi Maeda from five yards out, but Maeda's header hit the crossbar and Jordan could breathe a sigh of relief. In stoppage time, Jordan had the opener when a well-struck Amer Deeb corner was met with fury by the head of Khalil Bani Attiah, whose ball flew too fast for the Japanese netminder to keep out. Jordan led 1-0 after the first period.
On the hour mark, a long ball down the right flank allowed Ahmad Hayel to run onto the ball and around the slower Japan center back Maya Yoshida, who had been dragged to the flank way out of his normal central defensive role by the ball. Hayel ran all the way to the center of the box before slotting the ball away for a 2-0 Jordan lead on the group leaders. Nine minutes later, an unbelievable backheel flick-on ball from Hiroshi Kiyotake put Shinji Kagawa (pictured, blue) in on goal, and Kagawa finished from six yards out on a dead sprint to pull Japan within one goal at 2-1. One minute later, a tackle from behind by Abdallah Deeb on Atsuto Uchida brought Uchida down in the box and gave Japan a penalty kick chance. Yasuhito Endo's kick was saved by Jordan goalkeeper Amer Sabbah mere centimeters from the post. Japan will have to wait and seek qualification in June 2013 with the rest of Asia after Jordan win 2-1.
Japan 13 pts +10
Jordan 7 pts -6
Australia 6 pts 0
Oman 6 pts -3
Iraq 5 pts -1
Abdul Aziz Mubarak 6
Mile Jedinak 49 OG
Tim Cahill 52
Brett Holman 85
Khalil Bani Attiah 45+1
Ahmad Hayel 60
Shinji Kagawa 69
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6-diqV_4_hU (Oman v. Australia)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fxcMjURppRk (Jordan v. Japan)
On the hour mark, the Taegeuk Warriors finally made their superiority translate onto the scoreboard. A Park Won-Jae free kick was curled into the box, from where the head of Lee Keun-Ho rolled it over the top of Burhan's outstretched hand and into the Qatari goal to give South Korea the opener. South Korea appeared to dip in concentration after the goal, and six minutes later their visitors were on level terms. Ibrahim Abdulmajed drove through the defense and passed off for Khalfan Ibrahim, who was not closed down at all from twenty yards out. He scored and the matched was poised on the edge for a dramatic conclusion. With five minutes to go, the tension became too much as the match was delayed by a shoving match between the teams after South Korea's Son Heung-Min kicked at Hamid Ismail after suffering a heavy challenge. In the sixth minute of stoppage time, a Koo Ja-Cheol effort hit the underside of the crossbar and fell right on the line for Son to tap home for the winning goal. South Korea win 2-1.
Tashkent and a hopeful audience were hoping for Uzbekistan to reassert their position atop the Group One table against visiting Lebanon. Hassan Chaito nearly blasted an early shot from outside the penalty area into the net, but his effort flew just wide of goal for Lebanon. Uzbekistan nearly responded with a goal straight off a corner by Server Djeparove, but Walid Ismail was at the far post to steer the ball clear of danger. The visiting Cedars got the message, and they began playing much more conversatively from thereon out. The first half ended with no goals having been scored.
The White Wolves introduced striker Farhod Tadjiyev before the second half, and his presence altered the complexion of the match. He first hit the bar before firing over the goal on another great opportunity. The pressure could only be contained for so long by Lebanon, and the dam eventually broke when a weak Djeparov effort took a deflection off a Lebanese defender and into the goal for a 1-0 lead to the hosts. Lebanon could surmount no answer, and Uzbekistan win 1-0.
Uzbekistan 11 pts +2
South Korea 10 pts +6
Iran 7 pts 0
Qatar 7 pts -3
Lebanon 4 pts -5
Lee Keun-Ho 60
Son Heung-Min 90+6
Khalfan Ibrahim 66
Server Djeparov 63
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RsP5CGCAe2s (South Korea v. Qatar)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3NrniIgU1n4 (Uzbekistan v. Lebanon)
Midway through the period, Payne nearly doubled his tally, but Solomon Islands goalkeeper Samson Koti made a nice save to deny him. Koti denied Barbarouses with two minutes left in the match, but Payne was there to clean up the mess and score his second of the afternoon. New Zealand win 2-0 and await an opponent in seven months' time.
New Caledonia welcomed Tahiti to Noumea in both teams' final qualifier of the cycle. Les Cagous looked the stronger side all half long, but the home side were unable to turn the constant pressure into a goal. The first half ended scoreless.
The second half was less exciting, but New Caledonia can be proud to say they surrendered nary an opportunity to a Tahiti side headed to the FIFA Confederations Cup in June. With five minutes left, Cesar Loholea struck a fine volley to score the winner for New Caledonia. New Caledonia win 1-0 to sweep the two games in the OFC Third Round against Tahiti after having lost both encounters at the 2012 OFC Nations Cup.
Tim Payne 3, 88
Cesar Loholea 86