By CHRIS WRIGHT email@example.com
Whilst England are on the verge of qualifying, Portugal will need a miracle to even reach a play-off position.
Currently in 3rd place with nine points behind Denmark (16 pts) & Hungary (13 pts) they must win against these two in September if they are to have any hope of participating in the finals.
Only the top team in each group is guaranteed a place in the finals. Teams will need their pitch side computers to determine who fills the remaining four slots as the following directive from FIFA highlights:
“The eight best runners-up will compete in two-legged play-offs, with the four remaining places at stake. Group 9 consists of five teams, one less than the other pools. When calculating the best runners-up; matches played against the sixth-placed finishers in Groups 1 to 8 will not be taken into consideration. The sequence of criteria will be: total points; goal difference; goals scored; goals scored away from home; disciplinary record*; drawing of lots. *Yellow card, -1 point; two yellow cards in the same match, -3 points; red card, -3 points; yellow card followed by a direct red card in the same match, -4 points.”
Hosts South Africa have already been joined by Australia, Japan, South Korea, the Netherlands and North Korea, who have qualified for the first time since 1966.
The Koreans provided the biggest shock of the ‘66 finals by reaching the last eight, beating Italy 1-0 on the way. It earned them a meeting with favourites Portugal. The Asians quickly swept into a three-goal lead, totally outplaying their opponents, before being crushed by the mighty Eusebio. His power steered Portugal to a great win as he bagged four goals before Portugal lost to England in the semi-finals.
In the South American qualifying competition it is Brazil, Chile, Paraquay and Argentina who currently lead the way. Spare a thought for poor Peru, bottom with seven points from 14 games, who left striker Hernan Rengifo behind at the team hotel for their recent match with Colombia.
Peruvian media said that the squad left their team hotel in Medellin earlier than planned and his absence was only noted after the team’s charter flight had returned to Lima.
European champions Spain, who look certain to qualify from Group 5, have just completed their third win in the Confederations Cup to set the longest consecutive winning run on record.
The victory over South Africa was their 15th successive win and also their 35th unbeaten game, equalling the world record set by Brazil between 1993 and 1996.