Five teams you can expect to see in World Cup playoffs
Tuesday marks the end of the regular World Cup qualifying campaign. But don’t think everything will be settled then. There’s still the lethal lottery of the playoffs to look forward to.
And we’re doing just that. Here our five countries you will see still battling for a place in Brazil next month.
Struggling Mexico need a draw away in Costa Rica, who have already qualified, to confirm intercontinental playoff dates in November with New Zealand.
New Aztecs coach Victor Manuel Vucetich recalled former Barcelona defender Rafael Marquez to bring some solidity into the backline.
Substitute striker Raul Jimenez stole the headlines, however, by scoring this sensational winner against Panama:
Don’t you just love Hispanic commentators?
There is still an outside chance Mexico could automatically qualify, but that would require them to win and third place Honduras to lose to winless Jamaica.
Making the World Cup via the playoffs has become a tried and tested route for Uruguay.
Oscar Tabarez’s team can only avoid meetings with Jordan if they beat top South American qualifiers Argentina and there is a winner in the Chile v Ecuador game.
Even then La Celeste will need a four- or six-goal swing. Their ageing defence must prepare to face familiar foes in Sergio Aguero and Angel Di Maria first, but will then take their chances against relative unknowns from the Middle East.
Iceland or Slovenia
If Iceland can match 2010 World Cup finalists Slovenia’s result against Switzerland in Norway then Lars Lagerback will take this surprise package into the playoffs.
Scandinavian rivals Norway will be out to avenge the defeat on matchday one in Reykjavik, however. Slovenia meanwhile have a striker in a rich vein of form.
Milivoje Novakovic, once of Cologne, still terrorizes defences at the age of 34. Just ask the Norwegians, who hit this hat-trick against on Friday:
Romania or Turkey
European Group D has three teams pushing for the playoff place, but Romania face lowly Estonia, who have a poor away record.
Turkey hold an advantage of four on goal difference over the Tricolours, but have the daunting prospect of the Netherlands coming to Istanbul.
We say daunting because the Clockwork Orange, who had already qualified before last Friday, put eight past third place Hungary in their last outing:
This mauling left Hungary two points off the pace with inferior goal difference. A home game with Andorra might redress that, but they will still both Turkey and Romania to lose.
Didier Deschamps must have dreaded the draw he got in qualifying. France were always likely to finish runners-up behind reigning world champions Spain.
Only a shock defeat for La Roja at home to Georgia and a big win for Les Bleus over Finland can see the French avoid the playoffs.