2010 World Cup qualifying around the world
Qualifying for the FIFA World Cup 2010 in South Africa has already begun around the world and the next two years will determine which 30 countries will join hosts South Africa and current World Champions Italy in international football’s biggest tournament.
The final 32 will be made up of 13 European nations, six from Africa, four each from South America and Asia and three from CONCACAF. The final two places will be decided by play-offs between Oceania and Asia and CONCACAF and South America.
South America World Cup qualifiers
The countries from Conmebol – the South American football federation – play in a single league, with the top four countries qualifying automatically. The fifth-placed team goes into the play-off against a CONCACAF nation.
Paraguay are the surprise leaders of the group so far, having won their opening three home matches. Their 2-0 win over Brazil in Asunción in June left the Brazilians in fifth place in the qualifying table. Despite this, in the World Cup betting odds Brazil are still 5/1 joint favourites with Argentina to win the World Cup outright. Paraguay are quoted at odds of 80/1.
Asia World Cup qualifiers
Australia and Japan will be favourites to qualify for World Cup 2010 from Asia Group A. The Socceroos – moved from Oceania to the Asian qualifying tournament to give them a more competitive fixtures and a better chance of qualifying – shrugged off defeat to Iraq to make it to the final Asian qualifying round. Like Japan, they need to get past Bahrain, Uzbekistan and Qatar to make it to South Africa.
Australia’s seemingly straightforward progress to South Africa is reflected in the betting, where they are the shortest-priced Asian qualifier at 150/1. Japan are 300/1, as are South Korea and Iran.
Both South Korea and North Korea have made it to the Group B of the final qualifying round – a group that looks on paper more competitive on paper. The Koreans will face Iran, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates – nations that have all appeared in World Cup finals tournaments over the last two decades.
World Cup qualifying in Africa
The African qualifying tournament will be highly competitive, with 20 nations attempting to compete in the 2010 African Nations Cup as well as the World Cup upon the completion of the second qualifying round. The five groups will be used as the ANC qualifying matches as well as World Cup qualifiers.
South Africa therefore will be the first host nation to compete in a World Cup qualifying tournament, although if they win their group the World Cup spot will go to the group runners-up.
Didier Drogba’s Ivory Coast side are well-backed to do well at the World Cup, and are currently odds of 28/1 in the betting. Cameroon are 40/1, Nigeria and Ghana are 66/1, while the hosts can be backed at 100/1.
Oceania and CONCACAF World Cup qualifying
The countries from North America and the Caribbean region, represented by CONCACAF, are up to the second qualifying stage and have been split into three groups of four. The top two nations will go into one final qualifying group, and the top three from that league will qualify for the World Cup in 2010. The fourth-placed team will play off against the fifth-placed nation from South America.
Oceania will use the 2008 OFC Football Nations Cup as their final qualifying round, with four countries forming a league from which the top two countries will play off for the right to take on a country from Asia. Only by winning that play-off will a nation from Oceania take part at the 2010 World Cup finals.
Neither federation is expected to produce a World Cup-winning nation. Mexico are a 66/1 shot in the betting to win the World Cup, with the USA at a price of 100/1. Odds on the Oceania nations are bigger than 5,000/1.
Finally, September 2008 sees the start of World Cup qualifying in Europe.