Lifestyle & Belief

Brazil World Cup qualifying draws crowd after US, Italy book their tickets


Landon Donovan of the United States soccer team celebrates his second-half goal against Mexico with teammates Brad Davis, far left, and Graham Zusi on Sept. 10, 2013, in Columbus, Ohio. The United States defeated Mexico 2-0.


Jamie Sabau

Will this be lucky No. 7 for the United States under new coach Jurgen Klinsmann?

After another stunning victory for the Americans over Mexico on Tuesday night in Ohio, the US punched its ticket to Brazil and the 2014 World Cup of soccer. The United States has played in seven straight World Cup tournaments, and is looking to write some modern history. America's best result is third — in 1930.

“The players know when they play in Columbus they have 100 percent support behind them,” Klinsmann said, Sports Illustrated reported. “It carries them, gives them energy, gives them confidence. And the other thing is then your opponent hasn’t won here and knows the difficult situation as well. It is a psychological game at the end of the day.”

Yes, if you’re looking for good omens, you have plenty in America’s 2-0 victory against Mexico at Crew Stadium in Columbus. Mexico has lost four straight games to the US in Columbus dating back to 2001, all by the same 2-0 result. Now, the US can relax as the rest of the world clamors for one of the places in Brazil. So far, we have 10 of 32 positions spoken for.

Here are the teams that have qualified, and how the others are sitting.

Perennial favorites with the best player in the world on their side, Argentina defeated Paraguay 5-2 on Tuesday night to become the first South American team to advance. Lionel Messi, the aforementioned best player on the planet, scored two penalty kicks and now has 10 goals in qualification.

Argentina has qualified for 11 straight World Cups, and has missed the competition only once (1970 in Mexico). The only team better is …

A “gimme” as host team, Brazil doesn’t need to qualify. Not that Brazil qualifies as much as it just books flights and hotel rooms. Brazil has never missed a World Cup and has won the tournament a record five times.

Costa Rica
If defense wins championships, watch out for these Central American stalwarts. Los Ticos needed just eight games to qualify for Brazil, and conceded only five goals during that time. What’s more interesting is this: Costa Rica’s final two games during this round are against Honduras and Mexico next month. Both teams are desperate for wins and automatic bids to Brazil. If there was ever a time Costa Ricans needed a favor from their Central American neighbors, this would be a good time to ask.

Despite Czech Republic scoring first in Turin on Tuesday, the Italians added to their lore with a mid-game rally. They scored twice in three minutes after halftime to prevail 2-1. The Azzuri were clearly best in Group B of the European qualification round with 20 points from eight games.

If there is a team sliding unnoticed into Brazil, it might be the Oranje. Robin Van Persie scored twice in a 2-0 win over … Andorra. Not to be confused with Star Trek aliens, the tiny principality of Andorra sits nestled between Spain and France. It never stood a chance against the Dutch, who dominated their foes and seemed the only clear lock before the group stage began. With the rest of Europe scrapping it out, the Dutch are cool in the shade.

Everyone Else

Africa is still embroiled in a drawn-out process that will conclude in November; of course, when you have 40 passionate nations competing for five invitations, it’s bound to get messy. Ethiopia, Ghana, Ivory Coast, Nigeria, Egypt, Cameroon, Senegal, Algeria, Burkina Faso and Cape Verde won their groups to scrap it out in the next phase. Egypt, despite troubles at home, appears the clear favorite here with six wins in six games, and just seven goals against.

Japan, Australia, South Korea and Iran have all advanced. Jordan defeated Uzbekistan 9-8 in a penalty shootout this week and advances to an inter-continental playoff against the fifth-place team from South America in November.

There is still much to be decided from the first round. Winners from nine groups of five teams advance automatically. The best eight runners-up are relegated to a playoff round, with the best four advancing. Powerhouse performers England, Germany, Spain and France are all embroiled in the pressure-packed qualification process. A half-dozen other notable nations – Russia, Portugal, Sweden, Belgium, Greece and Croatia – are on the doorstep yet not through. The next matches go Oct. 11 across the continent.

Yes, this tiny group has its own qualification, although there are no guarantees. New Zealand outlasted New Caledonia, Tahiti and the Solomon Islands for the right to play another inter-continental playoff, this time against a fourth-place team from CONCACAF (North and Central America and the Caribbean). Just to make life interesting, it was Oceania that found itself with some controversy. New Zealand was cleared on Wednesday of using an ineligible player, and wins the group.