Saturday, March 23, 2013

European World Cup Qualifying 2014: Group-by-group Breakdown

After last night's matches the European World Cup qualifying groups have just about reached their halfway point. The Carnage Report attempts to breakdown the situation and story-lines so far for the nine groups that decide the 13 European berths for Brazil 2014.

Group A - Belgium and Croatia Stretch Lead

Friday's fixtures represented a significant shift in Group A. Macedonia and Serbia had a chance to pull themselves within three points of their respective opposition, but they both lost by 2-0 margins.

Belgium scored a pair of goals playing away from home against Macedonia, while Croatia won the potentially controversial tie against Serbia 2-0. Both teams lead Group A with 13 points, which is seven points clear of third place Wales. It seems to be between these two sides for World Cup qualification.

Group B - Bulgaria and Denmark Profit In Deep Group

This looked like an extremely tough group from the moment it was drawn. Italy, Bulgaria, Denmark and Czech Republic could all be dangerous teams in the 2014 World Cup.

Denmark secured a huge 3-0 away win over Czech Republic on Friday and having played only one home game out of the first four; the Danish have decent position in this group. Bulgaria continue their charge towards World Cup qualification taking care of Malta, but they have a tough trip to face Denmark on Tuesday.

Group C - Republic of Ireland Hold Sweden

While Germany has been gradually pulling away from the competition in this group, other results kept the battle for second place pretty open.

Republic of Ireland earned a hard fought away draw against second place Sweden to keep the gap between the two teams to a single point. Meanwhile, Austria took care of business with victory over Faroe Islands. Ireland hosts Austria in a crucial fixture on Tuesday.

Group D - No Decider In Hungary v Romania

The Netherlands appear to have asserted themselves in this group, but Friday's highlight 2-2 draw between Romania and Hungary could have created a gap between second and third place. Romania will probably be the happier of the two sides considering they were away from home.

Meanwhile, Turkey beat Andorra and absolutely need a home win against Hungary on Tuesday to stay in contention. Romania have another tough fixture as they travel to the Netherlands.

Group E - Footballing Logic Fails

Group E looked like an interesting and pretty wide open group from the offset with Norway, Slovenia and Switzerland all expected to be in contention. Friday exhibited exactly the sort of strange results that have occurred though.

Norway and Slovenia both lost home games to Albania and Iceland respectively. The result means that Albania and Iceland are now second and third; they are in legitimate contention for second place and even first if something strange befalls Switzerland against Cyprus on Saturday.

Group F - Portugal Tough Out Israel Draw

Russia have the clear advantage in this group, but an interesting and crucial clash occurred in Tel Aviv on Friday. Portugal and Israel played out a fantastic football match with the visitors emerging with a 3-3 draw.

On the one hand, Israel will be pleased with the result but will know a win in this game could have secured second place. Meanwhile, Portugal will know they missed a chance to assert their position in second place, but also that they should win the fixture when it goes to Lisbon in a few months time.

Group G - Bosnia-H Win Top of Table Clash

Bosnia knew that they would probably need to beat Greece in the home tie to keep their chances of winning this group alive and they did just that. They secured a 3-1 win and are now atop the group with a huge goal difference advantage.

Meanwhile, Slovakia missed a huge opportunity to draw level on points with Greece in second place, but were held to a 1-1 draw at home against Lithuania.

Group H - Nothing New On Friday

Ukraine's 3-1 away victory against Poland kept their slim chances alive, but both teams need an England loss on Tuesday to keep their chances alive and even then grabbing second place won't be easy. Meanwhile, both England and Montenegro secured regulation wins.

Tuesday is a huge game in this group as leaders Montenegro host England.

Group I - Spain Held By France

The clash at the top of the table resulted in a useful draw for France in Spain, but the use of that draw will probably come down to how the reverse fixtures goes down on Tuesday. Spain travel to face their big rivals needing a big away win to secure their place.

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