Oh no, England vs Croatia again!?
An unpleaseant realization for England and Croatia: these teams will meet each other again in the European zone of the 2010 World Cup qualifiers! The whimsical Lady Luck decided that competing alongside England and Croatia in the Group 6 will be Ukraine, Belarus, Kazahstan and Andorra. The draw has not amused the English fans, with the wound inflicted by Croatia very fresh, but the trips to Kiev, Minsk and Almaty cannot be pleasant either.
Ukraine, the quarterfinalists of the last World Cup, have had a meagre Euro qualifying campaign, but cannot be easily dismissed, specially in the early stages of the new qualification cycle. The odd Belarus side proved capable of losing at home to Luxembourg, winless for ages, but also of defeating Holland on the last day of the competition. Kazahstan offer more of the same uncertainty: the Asians kicked out Serbia from Euro by beating them 2-1 last March. They will also naturally want to avenge Englishman’s Sacha Baron Cohen’s massive insult dealt upon the whole nation through the infamous movie featuring Borat, one of Cohen’s alteregos.
Inspite of the euphoria reigning because of the historic 3-2 win at Wembley, Croats are not exactly happy to see England. Coach Slaven Bilic said the draw in Durban has been particularly cruel to his team, although he believes Croatia can hold their own against any of the world’s leading teams. “At least it will be nice to play at Wembley again”, said the former West Ham and Everton defender.
English players have been trying to regain Togel Online confidence after the scorching last week’s defeat that cost them a place in Austria and Switzerland. Michael Owen offered an expert opinion that “no Croatian player could currently make the England team” just days after Portsmouth’s coach expressed pretty much the same view. With such awareness of other teams’ qualities England may have been lucky to finish third, level on points with Israel. Steve McClaren’s successor will be lucky if he can count on a healthy Owen to reinforce the depleted England attack rather than Owen the soccer analyzer.
European zone qualifying groups
Nine top teams qualify directly. Eight second-best teams play-off to produce the remaining four WC participants.
Group 1: Portugal, Sweden, Denmark, Hungary, Albania, Malta
The most evenly balanced group with three strong competitors and not a single true minnow.
Group 2: Greece, Israel, Switzerland, Moldova, Latvia, Luxembourg
The group with the lowest specific weight. Not much difference in quality between the top seed, Greece, and the third, Switzerland.
Group 3: Czech Republic, Poland, Northern Ireland, Slovakia, Slovenia, San Marino
Northern Ireland were the most improved team in the past qualifiers. It is conceivable they may make the life bitter for the Czech Republic and Poland.
Group 4: Germany, Russia, Finland, Wales, Azerbaijan, Liechtenstein
Germany will win the group yet again. Russia are better than Finland. Wales may upset someone on a good day.
Group 5: Spain, Turkey, Belgium, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Armenia, Estonia
Spain and Turkey will take the top two spots. Probably in that order, too.
Group 6: Croatia, England, Ukraine, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Andorra
England have the potential to win the direct qualification. Croatia are likely to battle it out with Ukraine for that consolation second spot that leads to the playoffs.
Group 7: France, Romania, Serbia, Lithuania, Austria, Faroe Islands
France and Romania are highly fancied, but Serbia plays well against the best.
Group 8: Italy, Bulgaria, Republic of Ireland, Cyprus, Georgia, Montenegro
Lucky, lucky Italy. Unlucky Montenegro. A potentially good national team have to start from the bottom. And Ireland have a real chance!
Group 9: Holland, Scotland, Norway, Macedonia, Iceland
Holland face a serious challenge from Scotland and Norway. Macedonia and Iceland will molest a favourite or two.