Denmark v. Ireland: A classic Martin O’Neill smash-and-grab in Wales sent Ireland improbably through on the final day of group play, while the Danes locked up the second spot in their group more comfortably thanks in large part to the goalscoring heroics of Christian Eriksson.
Ireland’s calling card throughout qualifying has its resilience – especially on the road – and they won’t be bothered by having to travel to Copenhagen for the first leg.
Both teams, but especially Denmark are facing significant injury problems, while Ireland has ten players sitting on yellow cards. It’s likely going to be a tense, physical, unyielding affair.
Group A: While the Democratic Republic of the Congo is still mathematically alive, this group is Tunisia’s to lose. All the Carthage Eagles have to do to return to the World Cup for the first time since 2006 is get a point against lowly Libya.
Congo DR has to run up the score on Guinea, and hope for a miracle.
Group B: Nigeria is qualified.
Group C: It all comes down in Group C to Morocco’s trip to Cote d’Ivoire on Saturday.
The Ivory Coast needs a win, while Morocco – under the direction of the accomplished Herve Renard – needs just a draw to make their first World Cup appearance since France ’98.
Group D: The big drama in this group came in September, when FIFA ordered that a qualifier between South Africa and Senegal in November 2016 be replayed after the match referee was found guilty of match manipulation and banned for life.
The replay, which overturned a 2-1 Bafana Bafana win, means that the two countries will meet twice in this window while Burkina Faso and the Cape Verde Islands – who both currently trail Senegal by two points – will play in Ouagadougou.
Whatever happens in that latter game, one point should be enough for Senegal to qualify.
Group E: The Pharaohs of Egypt clinched their World Cup return – at the expense of Ghana, among others – in dramatic fashion a month ago.
CONMEBOL/OFC (SOUTH AMERICA/OCEANIA)
New Zealand v. Peru: A wild final day of South American qualifying saw Chile bite the dust and Peru reach the playoff stage, their dream of reaching the finals for the first time since 1982 nearly realized.
Peru is the prohibitive favorite to finish the job in this tie. The gap in talent between the two teams is huge, and while the Kiwis did survive a playoff to make the World Cup in South Africa, they were trounced at this hurdle by Mexico 9-3 four years ago.