World Cup qualifiers: Crunch time for 87 teams dreaming of Rio glory

As World Cup qualifying comes to a climax, some surprising names are still in the hat

The dream of making it to Brazil for next year’s World Cup has already come to an end for the majority of the 207 teams who entered the qualification process but, with a series of crucial matches taking place in all four corners of the globe over the next few days, it is crunch time for those who remain.

Going into today’s qualifiers, four teams representing the Asian Confederation – Japan, Australia, Iran and South Korea – have already booked their places along with the hosts, with 87 other nations still battling it out for the remaining 27 spots.

Jordan and Uzbekistan drew 1-1 in Amman and will meet again in Tashkent for the second leg on Tuesday to determine who will play off against the fifth-placed side from South America. That looks increasingly like being a straight battle between 2010 semi-finalists Uruguay and Venezuela, who traditionally are seen as the continent’s makeweights as the only country in Conmebol never to have reached a World Cup finals.

Their meeting with Chile at the National Stadium in Santiago last night was surrounded in controversy owing to a protest organised by Amnesty International to mark the 40th anniversary of the country’s military coup. Using the hashtag #goldesilencio on Twitter, supporters had been encouraged not celebrate their first goal in memory of thousands who were tortured 40 years ago at the match’s venue.

Chile are in a good position to make it to their second successive World Cup finals, having lost to Brazil in the last 16 in South Africa, while Colombia, Equador and Argentina are the other likely automatic qualifiers.

After Ghana beat Zambia 2-1 to join Ivory Coast, Egypt and Algeria in the two-legged final play-off round for the five available places, Africa’s road to Rio comes to a crescendo on Saturday. There’s a three-way fight for one spot in Group A as Ethiopia face eliminated Central African Republic in Congo knowing that a victory on neutral soil will guarantee they go through.

Ethiopia had thought they were already in the hat but were stripped of their earlier victory over Botswana for fielding an ineligible player, meaning the winners of the match between Botswana and South Africa could still sneak in through the back door. In Ouagadougou, the African Nations Cup finalists Burkina Faso must beat Gabon and hope Congo slip up against Niger, while reigning continental champions Nigeria just need a home draw against Malawi to progress. 

Tunisia also have a apparently straightforward task against Cape Verde in Rades tonight, with 2002 World Cup quarter-finalists Senegal in a similar position as they take on Uganda in Marrakesh.

The Moroccan city has been chosen to host the match after Senegal were banned from playing on home soil following riots after a qualifier against Ivory Coast in Dakar last year, with Uganda’s President, Yoweri Museveni, even offering to help pay for some of his country’s fans to travel to see if the Cranes can spring a major surprise.

Elsewhere, New Zealand will be watching events in Mexico City and Panama City with interest. Already confirmed as the winners of the Oceania group, they must play off against the fourth-placed side from the Concacaf confederation, with Panama, Honduras and Mexico their most likely opponents.

The latter two were due to meet in the early hours of Saturday morning, with Panama facing Jamaica knowing a victory would vastly increase their prospects of a debut World Cup appearance. The United States and Costa Rica also met in San Jose last night but both are heavy favourites to qualify.

The real drama comes on Tuesday night when Mexico travel to Columbus to face the US with the prospect of missing out altogether. Not since they were banned from Italia ’90 for using overage players in a junior tournament have El Tri failed to qualify for a World Cup, yet four goalless draws in their six completed matches so far are an indication of their problems.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Billie Piper as Brona in Penny Dreadful
tvReview: It’s business as usual in Victorian London. Let’s hope that changes as we get further into the new series spoiler alert
Life and Style
A nurse tends to a recovering patient on a general ward at The Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham
health
News
science
Arts and Entertainment
No Offence
tvReview: No Offence has characters who are larger than life and yet somehow completely true to life at the same time spoiler alert
News
Chuck Norris pictured in 1996
people
Arts and Entertainment
Sarah Lucas, I SCREAM DADDIO, Installation View, British Pavilion 2015
artWhy Sarah Lucas is the perfect choice to represent British art at the Venice Biennale
News
A voter placing a ballot paper in the box at a polling station
i100
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
The Queen (Kristin Scott Thomas) in The Audience
theatreReview: Stephen Daldry's direction is crisp in perfectly-timed revival
Sport
football
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

On the margins

From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

Why patients must rely less on doctors

Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'
Sarah Lucas is the perfect artist to represent Britain at the Venice Biennale

Flesh in Venice

Sarah Lucas has filled the British pavilion at the Venice Biennale with slinky cats and casts of her female friends' private parts. It makes you proud to be a woman, says Karen Wright
11 best anti-ageing day creams

11 best anti-ageing day creams

Slow down the ageing process with one of these high-performance, hardworking anti-agers
Juventus 2 Real Madrid 1: Five things we learnt, including Iker Casillas is past it and Carlos Tevez remains effective

Juventus vs Real Madrid

Five things we learnt from the Italian's Champions League first leg win over the Spanish giants
Ashes 2015: Test series looks a lost cause for England... whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket

Ashes series looks a lost cause for England...

Whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket, says Stephen Brenkley
Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power