World Cup - International

Today's World Cup Qualifiers

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Today is the last day of World Cup 2010 Qualifying.  Four countries can earn the right to a minimum of three days of rioting next July by holding onto slender leads earned in the first leg of their matchups last Saturday.  Ukraine and Greece played to a goalless draw in Athens.  Additionally, Egypt’s 2-0 win over Algeria, which was marred by atrocious fan behavior, forced a one game playoff that will take place in Khartoum, Sudan.  As Dan mentioned Monday, a hearty sarcastic clap for Sepp Blatter and the rest of FIFA for moving the game to a neutral site like Sudan.*  I’m glad we will be spared any potential soccer-related violence at the small price of contributing to the economy of a genocide-friendly regime.

Let’s take a quick look at each game:

Egypt – Algeria
This game will be streamed live online on FIFA’s website at 12:30pm EST.  Egypt needed a 2-0 win to secure today’s one-game playoff.  They scored a dubious second goal in the fifth minute of dubiously long extra time.  Everything about the Egypt-Algeria game hurts the sport of soccer.  The refereeing was poor.

The Algerians were pummeled with rocks on their way to the stadium.  FIFA turned a blind eye to the whole incident.  The Egypt-Algeria rivalry is not new.  In 1989, Egypt needed to defeat the Desert Foxes in order to reach the 1990 World Cup.  The match devolved into fighting, and an Egyptian team doctor lost his eye in the brawls that erupted in the tunnel as the teams left the field.  Ayman Younis played for Egypt in that game and recalls it this way:

“It was an incredible atmosphere. The stadium was full five hours before the game,” recalls Younis. “The Algeria team was full of stars and on the pitch it was very crazy; 11 fights between every player. Everybody forgot what the coaches had to say and just fought instead. It was a battle, not a football match. It was like our war against Israel in 1973.”

Greece – Ukraine

If Shevchenko scores, expect the next stadium erected in Ukraine to bear his name.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=efvqdtK-3J4&feature=player_embedded]

France – Ireland

The Irish are down 0-1.  A verbal tiff between French manager Domenech and the Irish team preceded the first leg, then Nic Anelka (El Sulk) scored in front of the Irish faithful.  If France scores in the first half, good money is on the Irish making the ref’s book very crowded.

Bosnia & Herzegovina – Portugal

Portugal took a 1-0 lead at home through Bruno Alves, but B&H have a deadly combo of strikers who rang the woodwork twice against the Portugese.  Portugal should go through but if Dzeko can slot one home early, this could become a very fun game to watch.

Slovenia – Russia

Russia has a 2-1 lead, but Slovenia’s away goal means that a 1-0 win at home will see them advance to the Cup.  Andrey Arshavin was oddly quiet in the first leg of this matchup.  After he earned himself a move to Arsenal by dominating Euro 2008 (utterly. dominating.), it is hard to believe the Slovenians can slow him down for 90 more minutes.  Arshavin is fantastic and any game he plays in is worth watching.

Uruguay – Costa Rica

Where did the Costa Rica of early WC qualifying go?  That team was good, this team… not so much.  Uruguay has a 1-0 lead thanks to an away goal in San Jose, but the teams were very evenly matched.  A fluke goal separates them and a fluke goal could put them level again before you know it (yeah that’s crappy analysis, but I just did six of these.  Watch the games, it’s soccer!)

*I realize that Sudan won a coin flip, but allowing Egypt to choose Sudan as a possible neutral option is just awful.  Fair coin flips aside, putting a huge game in a country where the leader is due in International Court for genocide charges is wrong.  Some things are bigger than soccer.

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