The final international break of the year has plenty of interesting story lines to look out for. World Cup qualifying will be on the agenda in all confederations and there will be some intriguing friendlies as well.
Some confederations, like CONCACAF, are just getting started but they do so with a bang.
Mexico vs USA is the big game to start CONCACAF qualification and while it won’t be a death sentence for the loser it will leave an extremely bad taste in the mouth. If that side follows that up with another bad result then panic will set in but we shall see. Mexico, the US and Costa Rica are the favorites to progress but we’ll see what happens when things get started.
Qualification from Asia seems like a given for certain teams but, as of right now, Japan and South Korea area headed for the playoff where one, and possibly both, may not make it to Russia 2018. Of course, they’re only four games into a 10-game group so there’s plenty of time.
Things got really interesting in South American qualifying before the second half of qualifying even began. ESPN FC reported that Bolivia were forced to forfeit two results for fielding an ineligible player. That bumped Chile into the last qualification spot, the playoff one to be fair, with Argentina dropped to six. Brazil and Uruguay are well-placed at the top of the group with Colombia and Ecuador sandwiched between the quartet.
Things will shift even further with some big games in the next round. Colombia v Chile and Brazil v Argentina are the must watch games with both away sides needing a win. Uruguay host Ecuador as well, meaning all the top six play each other so that will be fun. Things don’t get any easier for Argentina as they play Colombia and Chile play Uruguay. (The major thing for Chile especially is Alexis Sanchez possibly missing out due to injury)
No offense to the Oceanic Federation but it is pretty much New Zealand’s to go through.
African qualification is pretty much just getting started as well and there are plenty of intriguing possibilities. DR Congo and Tunisia are off to a good start in Group A. In Group B, two of either Nigeria, Cameroon or Algeria will miss out. Ivory Coast are favorites in Group C as are Senegal in Group D while Egypt and Ghana will fight it out in Group D. The rounds will be halfway done by the time the international break is over so we’ll see whats what.
There’s still plenty of time for things to change in Europe but there are some interesting games in these next rounds. England v Scotland and France v Sweden, Croatia vs. Iceland and Austria vs. Iceland are among those. Apart from that there are few teams already running against the wind such as the Netherlands, Ukraine, Denmark, Scotland, Wales and Austria. Group D is especially interesting with Serbia, the Republic of Ireland, Wales and Austria all fighting it out.