Preview: France with a mountain to climb after first leg disaster
Ukraine put up a memorable performance which has allowed them to earn a favourites tag as they aim for a place in the World Cup for the first time since 2006. The Yellow-Blues who entered the match as the underdogs put forth a spirited performance and after Roman Zozulya’s 61st minute strike put the hosts ahead, Andriy Yarmolenko’s penalty in the 83rd minute doubled the lead for the Ukrainians who will be buoyed by their performance in the first keg as they prepare for the match in Paris.
France on the other hand will have to produce the performance of a lifetime if they are to have any chances of making it to the last 32. Les Bleus have participated in all of the last four editions of the World Cup, having won the coveted title in 1998 and it will surely be a huge disappointment if they fail to make it to the World Cup Finals this time around.
Preview: World Cup qualifying battle for the last African spot
Algeria ended a 24-year wait by qualifying for the 2010 FIFA World Cup. The country is hoping to follow up on this achievement by making their fourth appearance at the tournament next summer.
History is against the Stallions of Burkina Faso who have never played at a World Cup. They will be up against Algeria’s remarkable record of 19 matches unbeaten in Blida, which stretches all the way back to 2002.
However, the advantage is the Stallions’ ahead of the second leg. After amazing the public at the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations by grabbing silver, Burkina Faso are poised to complete the year on a high.
Preview: Greece 90 minutes away from World Cup berth
The 2004 European champions scored a comfortable 3-1 victory over their counterparts and a disciplined defensive performance on Tuesday will ensure their place in the last 32 of the World Cup to be held in Brazil next year.
Konstantinos Mitroglou struck a brace, with goal apiece in each half and Dimitris Salpingidis’ effort in the 20th minute rounded off a fine attacking display from Fernando Santos’ side. However Bogdan Stancu’s goal in the 19th minute gave Romania a vital away goal which could prove to be decisive in the end.
But Greece’s Portuguese coach Fernando Santos has insisted that his team will take nothing for granted despite their 3-1 lead, with much football left to be played in the second leg.
Alarms are ringing and there must be quite a hangover for the followers of French national side. How can it be otherwise when Les Bleus lost 2-0 at the hands of Ukraine in Kiev, a result that makes circumstances for them to qualify for the World Cup, very unfavourable.
A ticket to the World Cup in Brazil appears highly hypothetical and it would take nothing short than a miracle for the team to make it happen on Tuesday night at Stade de France. However, as we all know it, France have been able to turn the tide in the past which means that miring in pessimism is not the right way to go about things. Last time out when Les Bleus were on the verge of getting out of a ticket to the World Cup was back in 2009. At that time, it took a dubious and scandalous Thierry Henry goal to send the Republic of Ireland packing as France secured a ticket to South Africa.
Preview: Blacks Stars and Pharaohs both going for the kill
The first leg of this CAF World Cup Qualifying playoff match staged in Kumasi produced a surprise with seven goals split 6-1 in favour of the hosts. What sort of show will the public witness in the second leg? The Egyptians are facing a daunting task to reverse this humiliating score line. If hopes of reaching Brazil 2014 are almost all gone, the desire to restore pride is very much alive for the Pharaohs.
The home crowd will be expecting an acceptable performance from Bob Bradley’s men whereas the visitors will do everything to delight away supporters as well as fans back home. Last Friday, Egypt warmed up for their upcoming clash with a 2-0 win over Zambia. A repeat of that score line would still deny them a spot at the World Cup but interestingly damage Ghana’s momentum.
Preview: South Africa's final match in 2013 will be a tough test
Spain will return to Johannesburg, where they lifted the World Cup trophy in 2010. This time the match will not be as important, but Vicente del Bosque's side will want to come away with another victory.
Both countries will be taking part in their final match in 2013, and neither will want to end things on a negative note.
For the current World Champions, they have continued their dominance in world football, as they claimed the top spot in their World Cup Qualification group. In a group that included France, La Roja were able to take first place, giving them yet another presence in a World Cup.
Preview: Iceland draw closer to maiden World Cup berth
A resilient display saw the Nordic minnows hold Croatia to a 0-0 draw in the first leg despite being a man down. Olafur Skulason was given his marching orders in the second half after he pulled down Ivan Perisic who was clean through on goal, but a spirited display from Lars Lagerbäck’s men who were backed by a capacity full crowd ensured that Iceland are still very much in contention to secure a World Cup spot for the very first time in their history.
Iceland’s 65 year old manager Lars Lagerbäck hailed his players for putting up a resilient performance but had some harsh words for the match official who he believed was not at his very best.
Preview: Argentina hoping to get the job done in the absence of Leo Messi
The Barcelona man has been ruled out for up to six weeks with a hamstring injury and will not be able to take part in Argentina’s tricky fixture against Bosnia-Herzegovina. Javier Mascherano who will be the stand in captain in the absence of the mercurial number 10 has lamented the loss of the most important player of the team, but has insisted that the injury is not very severe and that Messi is focused on getting back as early as possible.
“Not having Messi in the team is never a positive thing,” he said.
“Leo is fine now. He has passed the stage of logical bitterness that you get when you are injured and is now focused on getting better. It is just a muscle injury, so nothing too severe.”
Preview: The Azzurri and the Super Eagles – two confident sides
These are the sort of games that Nigeria must win. Regardless of the fact that this clash is not a competitive one, playing four-time World Cup champions Italy is always big. It is an opportunity for the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations titleholders to test their metal following their short adventure at the FIFA Confederations Cup earlier this summer.
As the first African team to book tickets to Brazil 2014, the Super Eagles feel proud and have set their eyes on lifting the golden trophy next year. Lille-based Nigerian veteran goalkeeper Vincent Enyeama was quoted by BBC Sport as saying:
Preview: Samuel Eto’o’s divided Cameroon in danger of self-destruction
Divisions in Cameroon’s camp are apparent with Samuel Eto’o claiming that he is the victim of a conspiracy. The Chelsea striker was quoted as saying in the build up to the match:
“We need to unite, chat during the game and do our best to obtain the result that the entire nation is expecting from us and, since our coach is right here, I want him to help stop the act of not passing the ball to a player on the field.”
However, coach Volker Finke has chosen not to throw his support behind Eto’o as he replied:
The people of the City of Kingston upon Hull, in East Yorkshire are a forward looking lot, they are currently in the process of bidding for the UK's City of Culture, the City has hosted Rugby World Cup matches and bid to be a host city in England's recent failed effort to host the 2018 World Cup Finals, but none look to the future more than the fans of Hull City AFC. The fans of this famous old Northern Association Football Club are in a battle over re-branding with the club's 74 year old owner Assem Allam after he announced that he is going to rename the club Hull Tigers!
On the face of it, it seems like a way to increase revenue streams from overseas markets with a shorter punchier name. However, it appears to be more of a personal vendetta against Hull City Council. Mr Alam's reasons for the re-brand is all a way of removing the word City which he associates with the City Council rather than an exercise in revenue generation.
Preview: Seleção poised to stretch winning streak to five games
Luiz Felipe Scolari’s men take on Honduras in Miami this Saturday as they continue making preparations for the first ever FIFA World Cup to be held in their country in 64 years.
The Samba giants are on a good run having won all of their last four matches. The 2002 World Cup winners have revelled under the second coming of coach Luiz Felipe Scolari and upon his arrival in November last year, Brazil have just lost twice in the 17 matches they have played.
Preview: Drogba, Yaya Toure, Gervinho a game away from Brazil 2014
Côte d’Ivoire should have killed this tie in the first leg. Out of the number of chances that fell to them, the Elephants managed to convert three while they failed to keep a clean sheet. They largely dominated the game. However, they were also quite wasteful with AS Roma’s Gervinho squandering a one-on-one opportunity and unmarked Yaya Toure skying a shot from inside the penalty area.
Will the Senegalese make the Ivoirians pay for that? In the previous encounter, the Lions of Teranga capitalized on their opponents' complacent display during the final 20 minutes. Their pressing finally paid off with Papiss Cisse scoring in the 94th minute. It is on this away goal that Senegal are putting their hopes, ahead of the second leg on Saturday.
After dithering their way past the qualification round all that is left for Roy Hodgson and his Three Lions is to show the world that they have the tenacity to mix it with the best sides in the world. The game against Chile, a skilful and shrewd bunch of players was exactly the kind of litmus test that was requited; the result of the game against Alexis Sanchez and co showed how much improvement is required.
The 2-0 defeat against the South Americans was the first time England have lost in ten games under the former Fulham manager. Although Hodgson did not have his strongest team available to him, but one has to say that the team that played at Wembley should have played with more heart and imagination.
Preview: La Roja under fire for scheduling this friendly match
Spain's presence in Equatorial Guinea has been considered the most important day in their sporting history by the government's official press bureau. But for others, Spain's visit to the once Spanish colony in West Africa has generated a lot of buzz.
The disparity in wealth between rich and poor is shocking. While some live a lavish lifestyle, others suffer to live their lives, earning less than $1 a day.
Preview: Visitors seeking rare victory over favourites Nigeria
Nigeria are on the brink of closing the year 2013 on a high. The senior national team commenced their journey with a historic triumph in the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations held in South Africa. They eventually qualified for the FIFA Confederations Cup in Brazil. Although they failed to get out of their group, they earned a valuable experience in Brazil.
Earlier in November, the country’s U-17 team went on to claim gold at the 2013 FIFA U-17 World Cup in Dubai. The Super Eaglets created a new record in the process by becoming the most successful nation in the competition with four trophies, above Brazil’s three.
Preview: World Cup qualification achieved; now it's time to experiment
Ecuador will take on Alejandro Sabella's squad in a friendly match that will likely get a lot of attention in on the east coast in the USA. With both countries having already guaranteed their place in next year's World Cup, both managers will have a chance to test out some new options.
Argentina will first take on Ecuador, and they will then take on Bosnia-Herzegovina. That will give the Albiceleste a chance to see some of their options, but they will be without Lionel Messi for both.
The United States’ agenda in the last six months has been dominated by CONCACAF opponents due to the Gold Cup and the 2014 World Cup qualifiers. The idea of playing European sides is to prepare for a higher level of football ahead of next year’s tournament.
Jurgen Klinsmann is yet to finalize his 2014 World Cup squad so friendly matches appear as a good opportunity for players to justify their inclusion. Friday’s friendly encounter against the Scots will go on without Clarence Goodson, Edgar Castillo and Landon Donovan.
These three players, along with goalkeeper Brad Guzan, are sidelined with injuries. The USMNT has however been boosted by the return of Michael Bradley. The AS Roma midfielder had to miss last month’s World Cup qualifier against Mexico.
Preview: Iceland to take advantage of woeful Croatia
Lars Lagerbäck’s men will be hoping to take full advantage of Croatia’s dismal run in recent games which saw them finish second in Group A, nine points behind leaders Belgium. The Blazers got off to a flying start winning five of their opening six matches, but uncharacteristically failed to win any of their remaining four. As a result of which former head coach Igor Stimac was relieved of his duties, replaced by former Croatian captain Niko Kovac who will take charge of his team for the first time on Friday.
Preview: German nightmares to be revived in Milan?
Germany will be without Mario Gomez going into this one. Bastian Schweinsteiger underwent ankle surgery recently and is set to be out as well. Miroslav Klose is a doubt after sustaining a shoulder injury for Lazio against Parma. Mesut Özil and Per Mertesacker are both trying to recover from illnesses to get themselves ready for this match. All permutations concerned, young Max Kruse might lead the line in this friendly for the Germans. Other alternatives would include starting Mario Götze or Thomas Müller as a falsche neun.