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Your Guide to World Cup Qualifiers: Preview & TV Guide for October 11-15

world cup 2014 brazil poster Your Guide to World Cup Qualifiers: Preview & TV Guide for October 11 15

We’re getting right down to it. We’re under two months away from the FIFA World Cup draw in Brazil, and during these next two months, the field for the greatest sporting spectacle on the planet will be finalized. For some countries, these last World Cup qualifying group games will be blissfully academic. For some, the World Cup starts now.

Here’s a preview of what’s at stake for Friday and Tuesday’s upcoming games, as well as TV listings for those games shown in the United States.

All times Eastern.

EUROPE – UEFA

Group A:

At this late point in the game, the goings on in Group A are just formalities. Belgium are on the cusp of their first World Cup trip since 2002, five points clear at the top of the group. While Belgium just need to secure one win to punch their ticket, they’ll be going for victories in both of their games. Belgium are currently in line to be seeded for the World Cup draw, a major achievement for a country that hasn’t seen major tournament action in over a decade. Belgium have become such hot dark-horses for Brazil, they can barely be considered dark-horses at all anymore. Croatia will finish second and go into the playoffs, most likely, unless Belgium slip spectacularly. The other four teams in the group have been eliminated, including Serbia, Scotland and Wales.

Friday, October 11
Croatia vs Belgium, Noon, ESPN Deportes, WatchESPN.com, ESPN3.com

Tuesday, October 15
Serbia vs Macedonia, 2:30pm, ESPN3.com
Scotland vs Croatia, 3pm, ESPN3.com
Belgium vs Wales, 3pm, ESPN3.com 

Group B:

Italy have won the group, and the Azzurri are almost assured of a seed for the draw. Most of the commotion in the camp has been around the uncertain future of transformative manager Cesare Prandelli and that of bad-boy striker Mario Balotelli. The race is for second, and three teams are still in it. Bulgaria lead the pack on 12 points, and two wins would render the chase dead. However, Denmark lurk on 11 points, and by the skin of their teeth Morton Olsen’s team has revived a once dead qualifying campaign. Czech Republic are three points off the pace, but that deficit could be erased with a victory over Bulgaria in Sofia on Tuesday. Denmark has two home games, but it’s Italy in Copenhagen on Friday, while Bulgaria play Armenia before the Czechs. There’s everything to play for, and it’s impossible to pick a winner at this stage.

Friday, October 11
Armenia vs Bulgaria, 11am, ESPN3.com
Malta vs Czech Republic, 1:30pm, ESPN3.com
Denmark vs Italy, 2:45pm, RAI International 

Tuesday, October 15
Bulgaria vs Czech Republic, 2:15pm, ESPN3.com 

Group C:

Germany just need one win to book their place and a seed for the World Cup, while the race for second is between Sweden and Austria. The Swedes lead by three points, but they face a home game against Germany on the last day of qualification. Sweden will hope for Germany to win on Friday and clinch, making their game unimportant for the formidable visitors. But the decisive game could be on Friday, when Sweden and Austria meet at the Friends Arena. A win for Sweden would see them into the playoffs, while a win for Austria would make Austria favorites, as they play the less formidable Faroe Islands on Tuesday. A draw works in Sweden’s favor, but only if they can get a result against Germany.

Friday, October 11
Germany vs Ireland, 2:30pm, ESPN2 and WatchESPN.com
Sweden vs Austria, 2:45pm, GolTV

Tuesday, October 15
Sweden vs Germany, 2:45pm, GolTV 

Group D:

No battle for the top spot here either, as the Netherlands are through to Brazil. Holland is unlikely to be seeded though, and whichever group Louis Van Gaal’s team is in could be the group of death. Once again, there is a three-way battle for second. Hungary lead the chase, but the most intriguing team is an enigmatic Turkey side, managed by Fatih Terim, who was recently sacked by his club Galatasaray. Terim will be desperate to lead Turkey back from the ashes and into the playoffs with some of the players he used to manage at the club level. Turkey are one point back of Hungary, as are Romania – the team with the easiest path, as it doesn’t include a game against Holland. Both Turkey and Hungary have to play the Netherlands, and there are no head-to-head meetings left between the three.

Friday, October 11
Netherlands vs Hungary, 2:30pm, ESPN3.com
Estonia vs Turkey, 2:30pm, ESPN3.com
Andorra vs Romania, 2:30pm, ESPN3.com 

Tuesday, October 15
Turkey vs Netherlands, 2pm, ESPN3.com
Hungary vs Andorra, 2pm, ESPN3.com
Romania vs Estonia, 2pm, ESPN3.com 

Group E:

Switzerland just need one victory to clinch in Group E, while the battle for the playoff spot is between teams once considered minnows – Iceland, Slovenia, Norway, and Albania, on 13, 12, 11, and 10 points respectively. Iceland have to be considered favorites – and we can’t say that often – while Norway have just made a managerial change. The Norwegians and Slovenia both have a tough road, while an Albania emergence into second would defy all logic. But it seems anything could happen in this group.

Friday, October 11
Albania vs Switzerland, 2:30pm, ESPN3.com
Slovenia vs Norway, 2:45pm, ESPN3.com
Iceland vs Cyprus, 2:45pm, ESPN3.com 

Tuesday, October 15
Cyprus vs Albania, 1:30pm, ESPN3.com
Switzerland vs Slovenia, 2pm, ESPN3.com 

Group F:

There is a race for the top spot in Group F, and it’s between two heavyweights. Russia only need to take care of business against Azerbaijan and Luxembourg to make their one point lead over Portugal stand up, but it’s never that simple with the Russians. Portugal, a team quite accustomed to going through the playoffs (where they usually beat Bosnia and Herzegovina), also need two wins to give themselves the chance to take advantage of potential Russian misfortune. Upstart Israel are all but retired, as a draw and defeat in the last round of games has seen them fall off the pace.

Friday, October 11
Azerbaijan vs Northern Ireland, Noon, ESPN3.com
Luxembourg vs Russia, 2:30pm, ESPN3.com
Portugal vs Israel, 3:45pm, ESPN3.com 

Tuesday, October 15
Israel vs Northern Ireland, 1pm, ESPN3.com
Portugal vs Luxembourg, 1pm, ESPN Deportes, ESPN3.com and WatchESPN.com
Azerbaijan vs Russia, 1pm, ESPN3.com 

Group G:

Only two teams are in, and two teams can win it. Bosnia have led the whole way in this group, only to let Greece back in the game with a shocking home defeat to Slovakia in the September. Now, Bosnia and Greece are tied on 19 points, while all the other teams in the group are out. Bosnia are the top scoring side in European qualification, giving them a far superior goal difference to Greece. Bosnia are desperate to avoid the playoffs, where they’ve come up short for the last two major tournaments, and if they beat Liechtenstein and Lithuania they’ll qualify for their first major tournament. Greece can only win (and score a lot of goals, which is always doubtful) and hope.

Friday, October 11
Lithuania vs Latvia, 11:30am, ESPN3.com
Bosnia and Herzegovina vs Liechtenstein, 2pm, ESPN3.com 
Greece vs Slovakia, 2:45pm, ESPN3.com 

Tuesday, October 15
Lithuania vs Bosnia Herzegovina, 1pm, ESPN3.com
Greece vs Liechtenstein, 1pm, ESPN3.com
Latvia vs Slovakia, 2:10pm, ESPN3.com 

Group H:

Well it’s all come down to this: With Roy Hodgson’s conservative approach, England were always going to have to beat a top team or two at some point to make it to Brazil, and now those two crucial games stare the Three Lions in the face. Two home games, against Poland and Montenegro, two quality sides, but two sides England should be looking beyond. With only one point separating Hodgson’s men from Ukraine and Montenegro, with the Poles three points back, two wins are the only safe way to win the group. Anything less, and it could be calls for Hodgson’s head and a national disaster. Outside of the group’s glamor team, the Euro 2012 co-hosts play a crucial game Friday in Kharkiv. A win for Poland would vaunt the red and white back into the thick of things, while a win for Ukraine would make them favorites and put Poland on the back-burner. A draw is what England and Montenegro want. We’ve seen this go both ways with England – in 2001, behind David Beckham at Old Trafford, the Lions roared. In 2007 at Wembley, they were crushed. Whatever happens this time around, it will be drama at its highest point.

Friday, October 11:
Moldova vs San Marino, Noon, ESPN3.com
England vs Montenegro, 3pm, FOX Sports 1 and FOX Deportes

Tuesday, October 15
San Marino vs Ukraine, 3pm, ESPN3.com
Montenegro vs Moldova, 3pm, ESPN3.com
England vs Poland, 3pm, FOX Sports 1 

Group I:

Either Spain or France will go into the World Cup in the coming days. Both countries have 14 points, but Spain have two games left, while France only have one. Despite being hit hard with injuries, Spain are the presumptive winner, which would consign France to a World Cup playoff again. The last time that happened? Ireland remembers.

Friday, October 11
France vs Australia (friendly match), 3pm, ESPN3.com and Univision Deportes
Spain vs Belarus, 4pm, ESPN Deportes, ESPN3.com and WatchESPN.com 

Tuesday, October 15
Spain vs Georgia, 3pm, ESPN Deportes, ESPN3.com and WatchESPN.com
France vs Finland, 3pm, ESPN3.com 

ASIA – AFC

They’re all done in Asia, with Japan, South Korea, Iran and Australia having long since qualified. But the Asian playoff — Jordan v. Uzbekistan — turned out to be an extraordinary tie. Both legs finished 1-1, and Jordan won 9-8 in the decisive shootout. Now, Jordan await the fifth-placed South American team.

NORTH AMERICA, CENTRAL AMERICA, CARIBBEAN – CONCACAF

It was a night to never forget in Columbus for the USA, as they beat Mexico 2-0 again, and waited to get the result they wanted from Honduras to go into the World Cup. Jurgen Klinsmann’s work is done, and the Americans have their highest FIFA world ranking since the run-up to the 2006 World Cup in Germany.

Bad blood lingers, however, with Costa Rica, who thumped the US 3-1, and qualified for the World Cup with a win against Jamaica. However, Costa Rica employed some bush-league tactics, and the CR Football Federation were recently fined for fans booing the Star Spangled Banner, while forward Joel Campbell was reprimanded by FIFA for a truly disgusting dive that got US center-back Matt Besler booked and suspended for the Mexico game. Still, the Ticos are back on the big stage after controversially missing out in 2010.

Honduras looks a good bet for CONCACAF’s last automatic qualifying spot. Three points clear of the red line, four points will from games against Costa Rica and Jamaica will qualify Honduras.

Below the top three, shockingly, is Mexico. El Tri is an absolute mess, and they are one self-destructing step away from missing the World Cup completely. Behind Panama on goals scored for fourth place and a playoff against New Zealand, Mexico have a new manager. Victor Manuel Vucetich is the man charged with saving the national team. He replaces the disposed of Chepo de la Torre, a man who was fired far too late.

Panama comes to the Azteca on Friday. It may just be Mexico’s last stand. The winner of the game will most likely go to the playoff; the loser will join Jamaica and watch the World Cup from home.

Friday, October 11
Honduras vs Costa Rica, 5pm, beIN SPORT
USA vs Jamaica, 6pm, ESPN and WatchESPN.com and UniMas
Mexico vs Panama, 9.15pm, ESPNEWS, WatchESPN.com, UniMas, Univision Deportes

Tuesday, October 15
Panama vs USA, 9:30pm, beIN SPORT and DishWorld 
Jamaica vs Honduras, 9:30pm, beIN SPORT Espanol  and DishWorld 

SOUTH AMERICA – CONMEBOL

South American’s two leading lights, Brazil and Argentina, are already in. The hosts are in automatically, while their bitter rivals breezed through qualification. Both Brazil and Argentina will be seeded, but surprisingly, Colombia is in line to be seeded, as is Uruguay.

Colombia is in second in the CONMEBOL table, and they are just a single win away from an almost assured spot in the World Cup. Uruguay, on the other hand, exemplifies the ludicrousness of the FIFA world rankings. Uruguay is slotted in fifth, in the playoff spot after a tremendously slow start to qualifying. They’ve picked it up as of late, and they’re tied with Ecuador on 22 points. The two nations play in Quito on Friday, and the winner will have one foot in the World Cup, the loser all but in the playoffs.

Chile look comfortable in third, but they’ll have to keep their foot on the gas to qualify automatically. Long-shot Venezuela are on the outside looking in, they’ll have to beat bottom-placed Paraguay on Friday and then hope. Peru and Bolivia are also already out, but the fifth-place team will be favorites to go through in the playoff against Jordan.

We will most likely see six South American teams at the World Cup in Brazil, and four of those teams should be seeded. It’s a good time to be in CONMEBOL.

Friday, October 11
Venezuela vs Paraguay, 4:30pm, beIN SPORT Play
Ecuador vs Uruguay, 5pm, beIN SPORT Espanol
Colombia vs Chile, 5pm, beIN SPORT Play
Argentina vs Peru, 7pm, beIN SPORT and beIN SPORT Espanol

Tuesday, October 15
Uruguay vs Argentina, 7:20pm, beIN SPORT and DishWorld 
Chile vs Ecuador, 7:20pm, beIN SPORT Espanol and DishWorld 
Paraguay vs Colombia, 7:20pm, beIN SPORT Play
Peru vs Bolivia, 10:15pm, beIN SPORT Play 

AFRICA – CAF

Africa’s new qualifying system is cruel, cruel, cruel. No matter what you do in the first two rounds of qualifying, you have to play a single, home-and-away tie against another group winner for a place in the World Cup.

Ghana v. Egypt: Undoubtedly Africa’s glamour fixture, and possibly contested by Africa’s two best teams. Ghana, the best African World Cup performer ever, versus Egypt, the continent’s best performer in the Cup of Nations. Ghana are favorites, with a side of European-based players, but Egypt will be in with a shout. With the domestic league in Egypt shut down, and revolution raging, Egypt qualifying for their first World Cup since 1990 and lifting a war-torn country to the heavens would be too good for Hollywood. Throw in American coach Bob Bradley from New Jersey leading Egypt, and you’d have to tear up the script. There is a ton on the line here. Ghana hosts leg one, but they’ll be without star man Kevin Prince Boateng, who is injured.

Tuesday, September 11
Ghana vs Egypt, Noon, beIN SPORT and beIN SPORT Espanol

Ivory Coast v. Senegal: The Ivory Coast is looking to qualify for their third consecutive World Cup. Africa’s most lauded team for almost a decade, the window is closing as players like Didier Drogba, Yaya and Kolo Toure and Emanuele Eboue age. So far, Ivory Coast’s golden generation hasn’t won a trophy or advanced from the group stage of the World Cup. They’ll be expected to beat Senegal, a scrappy side with some real quality, but not near the talent of their opponent. The first leg Saturday in Abidjan, Senegal will have to play their home leg in Morocco after being banned from playing any competitive home matches for a year by FIFA.

Saturday, October 12
Ivory Coast vs Senegal, 1pm, beIN SPORT 

Ethiopia vs Nigeria: Perhaps the most lopsided tie on paper, Nigeria, the defending African Cup of Nations champs, are heavy favorites to get by the Antelopes, who advanced to the final round of qualifying with a brush of help from FIFA law. Ethiopia host the first leg, and must have a result.

Sunday, October 13
Ethiopia vs Nigeria, 9am, beIN SPORT and beIN SPORT Espanol

Tunisia vs Cameroon: One of the most even fixtures of the five, there are storylines running through the Cameroon – Tunisia tie. The Indomitable Lions have the more talented team, but certain players, most notably Samuel Eto’o of Chelsea, have fallen out with the federation and left the national team. Tunisia are attempting to make the World Cup again after missing out in 2010, but their coach just resigned when Tunisia thought they were out, before Cape Verde had points docked for fielding an ineligible player. Tunisia have brought in a new boss, but the sudden change can’t be good for team chemistry or cohesion. The first leg will be hosted by Tunisia, and it will be refereed by a man USA fans will remember, albeit not fondly. Koman Coulibaly, the referee who was in charge of the Americans’ 2-2 draw with Slovenia in the 2010 World Cup, and inexplicably ruled out Maurice Edu’s last-gasp winner.

Sunday, October 13
Tunisia vs Cameroon, 1pm, beIN SPORT and beIN SPORT Espanol and DishWorld 

Burkina Faso vs Algeria: Algeria is the favorite over a team in Burkina Faso who have never been to the World Cup. The Stallions will put up a fight, though. Burkina Faso came up just short against Nigeria in the 2013 African Cup of Nations, and since a coaching change in 2012, the team has been playing very good football. Algeria are trying to make a second consecutive World Cup. Burkina Faso host the first leg on Saturday.

Saturday, October 12
Burkina Faso vs Algeria, Noon, beIN SPORT Play

OCEANIA – OFC

New Zealand, really the only team in the Oceania region now that Australia are in the Asia confederation, await the fourth placed team in CONCACAF. They’ll shudder at the thought of facing Mexico, no matter how down El Tri is.

All schedules are subject to change.

Note: ESPN will be moving its very successful FIFA World Cup Whiparound show from ESPN3.com to ESPN2 on Tuesday, where the program will air from 2:30pm to 5pm ET. It’s better than switching back and forth between all of the channels and Internet options.

About Abe Asher

Abe Asher lives in beautiful Portland, Oregon. He fell in love with the intensity, stakes and spirit of football during the 2006 World Cup, especially during the Netherlands – Portugal Round of 16 game, which featured 34 yellow cards, 12 red cards, 129 screams, and 645 dives. Abe loves the Portland Timbers, and mostly tolerates his favorite European club, Chelsea FC. Abe is on Twitter @AbesWorldSports. View all posts by Abe Asher →
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5 Responses to Your Guide to World Cup Qualifiers: Preview & TV Guide for October 11-15

  1. Rick says:

    Thanks for the great summary!

  2. Tayo says:

    Should be a nice weekend!

  3. Tony Butterworth says:

    Great summary though the outcomes seem a little uninteresting. Lots of focus on the seeding but in truth that has zero baring on these games.

    I was surprised to see Colombia in a seeded position though.

  4. Porque? says:

    You forgot about the following:

    Tuesday October 15

    Costa Rica vs Mexico, 9:30pm, Telemundo

  5. San Fransiscan says:

    “We will most likely see six South American teams at the World Cup in Brazil”

    Football is all about surprises.

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