It would seem to be a formality that Germany will be in the knockout rounds of the World Cup yet again, and after the ease with which they qualified, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see them breeze through Group D.
However, on paper, their road to the knockout rounds looks a lot tougher than their road to the World Cup. Both Australia and Ghana made the round of 16 in the 2006 World Cup, and after their successes in Germany last time around, they’ll be looking for successes against Germany in South Africa.
Those teams will also have to contend with rising Serbia, whose feat of topping a qualifying group that included France makes them a team to watch for in June.
Road to Qualification: First Round: bye, Second Round: bye, Third Round: 1st in Group 1 (3W-1D-2L), Fourth Round: 1st in Group A (6W-2D-0L – automatic qualifier)
After making the switch to Oceania, it would have seemed that Australia would have had a tougher time reaching the World Cup, but that proved to not be the case.
Their standing as the top seed in AFC qualifying allowed them to bypass the first two rounds. And despite defeats to Iraq and China, Australia sealed top spot and a place in the final round of qualifying with a match to go, thanks to a 3-1 win in Qatar.
In the fourth round, Australia were grouped with Bahrain, Japan, Qatar, and Uzbekistan in Group A. Japan and Australia both automatically qualified with ease, leaving the rest of the group in their dust. The two were level on points with two matches remaining, but Australia won their last two matches, including a comeback 2-1 win over Japan in the final round, to seal top spot, five points clear of Japan.
Road to Qualification: 1st in UEFA Group 4 (8W-2D-0L – automatic qualifier)
Germany were handed a cakewalk of a qualification group, with Russia being the only side who could be considered a real threat. However, though Russia did play Germany close twice, they weren’t able to earn a positive result in either of their head-to-head matchups.
Instead, the only side who would take points off of Germany during qualifying was Finland, as Germany had to come from behind three times to draw 3-3 in Finland and needed a late equalizer to score a 1-1 draw in their final match.
By that time though, Germany had already wrapped up the group, which they did with a 1-0 win in Russia in their next to last match.
Road to Qualification: Second Round: 1st in Group 5 (4W-0D-2L), Third Round: 1st in Group D (4W-1D-1L – automatic qualifier)
After not making it to the World Cup until 2006, Ghana didn’t have to wait long to make a second appearance, as they qualified for a second straight finals with ease. .
In the second round of qualifying, Ghana, Gabon, and Libya all finished with identical records, but a superior goal difference saw Ghana (+6) and Gabon (+4) advance over Libya (+3).
In the third round, the final standings were a lot closer than the group actually was. Ghana won their first four matches, and a 2-0 win over Sudan booked their place in the World Cup. They lost away to Benin and lost away to Mali in their final two matches, but having an unassailable eight-point lead with two matches to go gave them a cushion to coast.
Road to Qualification: 1st in UEFA Group 7 (7W-1D-2L – automatic qualifier)
Serbia only earned one point against France, but thanks to their ability to do what France couldn’t – beat Romania (they beat Romania twice, while France drew twice), Serbia edged out the French by a point to top Group 7.
After a 2-1 defeat to France in the second round of matches, Serbia put together five wins on a trot and would earn 19 points from a possible 21 in their next seven matches, including a creditable 1-1 home draw with France. A 5-0 win over Romania in the penultimate round sealed Serbia’s place in the World Cup and rendered a 2-1 loss in Lithuania in their final match meaningless.
Back to 2010 World Cup Qualification History.