This Friday, November 15, and Tuesday, November 19, are the 2014 World Cup European Playoff matches. The aggregate winners of each set of matches will advance to the 2014 World Cup Finals in Brazil.
My predictions are for Friday’s matches involving: Iceland v Croatia, Greece v Romania, Portugal v Sweden, and Ukraine v France. There are going to be some big countries and good teams missing out on the World Cup this year.
Iceland v Croatia Preview: If Iceland can get past Croatia they will become the smallest country to play in the World Cup. In qualifying Iceland went 5-2-3 while scoring 17 goals and allowing 15. Over their past five matches they went 3-2-0 including scoring two or more goals in three consecutive matches prior to their last match ending in a 1-1 draw. Croatia squeaked into the playoff with a 5-2-3 record with 12 goals scored and nine against. They went 0-1-3 in their final four matches, including home losses to Belgium and Scotland. My prediction is for an Iceland home win by a narrow margin.
Greece v Romania Preview: Greece actually finished level on points with Bosnia-Herzegovina, but lost out due to goal difference. Their 8-1-1 record came with 12 goals scored and only four allowed. Their lone win and draw came against, none other than, Bosnia-Herzegovina. That is where some of the problems lie. They only once scored more than one goal and will struggle to score against Romania, but they do have a strong defense. Romania ended their qualification with a 6-1-3. Over their last five they went 3-0-2. They failed to score against Turkey and the Netherlands, but kept clean sheets in the three wins. I’m predicting a low scoring draw for this first leg.
Portugal v Sweden Preview: This match is being billed as one between Ronaldo and Zlatan Ibrahimovic as well as one that could determine the result of the Ballon d’Or. Either way, it will be very disappointing to have a tournament without one of these world class players.
Portugal’s qualifying went well, but they missed out by one point after going 6-3-1, with the difference being that one loss coming to group winners Russia. In their last five matches they went 4-1-0 with a disappointing draw at home to Israel. Sweden went 6-2-2 in qualification within a group that was topped by Germany. Their last five saw them go 4-0-1 and ending qualification with a 3-5 home loss to Germany. My prediction is for a first leg win by Portugal. It will be a close match and really could go either way, especially with the talents of Ronaldo and Ibra on show.
Ukraine v France Preview: Ukraine went 6-3-1 in their qualification with the lone loss coming in the first match against Montenegro. They had a fairly tough group to get through, but lost out to England by one point. In their last five matches they went 4-1-0 while keeping clean sheets in all five. France made it through with a 5-2-1 record in a group that was topped by Spain. Their last five saw them go 3-1-1 and finishing with a 3-0 win over Finland. My prediction is for a 2-1 Ukraine win at home.
1 – 0
|Croatia||0 – 0|
0 – 0
|Romania||3 – 1|
2 – 1
|Sweden||1 – 0|
2 – 1
|France||2 – 0|