What to observe in UEFA, CONCACAF, CONMEBOL and extra

The 2-week worldwide break would possibly imply a pause for golf equipment, but it surely’s all techniques go across the globe with World Cup qualifying and each continent is approaching the top of the highway to Qatar 2022. Solely three groups — together with hosts Qatar, who qualify robotically — have already punched their tickets to the massive present (properly achieved, Germany and Denmark) and there are 95 nations nonetheless with a shot at securing one of many remaining spots within the 32-team area.

– World Cup 2022 qualifying: The way it works world wide

With that in thoughts, we requested ESPN’s areas and writers to supply up what you ought to be looking forward to world wide over the following 10 days.

Leap to: Europe | North/Central America | Africa | South America | Asia | Oceania

Europe (UEFA)

Spain in peril?
Luis Enrique’s facet are beginning to type an id round a promising younger core of gamers, however they have work to do in the event that they’re to make it to the World Cup. They’re two factors off Janne Andersson’s Sweden on the high of Group B and face the group leaders on Sunday, however their week begins with a visit to Euro 2004 champs Greece on Thursday (stream LIVE on ESPN+, 2:35 p.m. ET).

– Europe: What each nation must qualify for the World Cup

If Luis Enrique’s group get a victory in Athens, one other win towards Sweden on Sunday in Seville would information them house as group winners, avoiding the pitfalls of the playoffs. However Sweden may also be gunning for that high spot, and journey to Georgia on Thursday night (stream LIVE on ESPN+, 12 p.m. ET) hoping to keep up that slender lead on the high of the pool.

Spain will likely be with out some key personnel — Ansu Fati and Eric Garcia are absent — however Dani Carvajal is included, making him the primary Actual Madrid participant known as up by the previous Barcelona supervisor since March.

Ronaldo’s grudge match
Again in April, Cristiano Ronaldo was so outraged at his late winner towards Serbia getting controversially overturned (there was no VAR within the opening qualifiers) that he threw his captain’s armband to the bottom and stormed off on the closing whistle. Sunday sees the 2 nations meet once more within the return match in Lisbon, and World Cup qualification is on the road.

Serbia maintain a one-point benefit over Portugal on the high of Group A, however Portugal have a recreation in hand. That additional match for Fernando Santos’ males comes towards the Republic of Eire on Thursday (stream LIVE on ESPN+, 2:35 p.m. ET), who’re out of the operating for a spot at Qatar, however will provide resistance: Portugal wanted two late Ronaldo objectives to get previous them in September. A lead to Dublin for Portugal would imply they’d be within the driving seat for Sunday’s conflict towards Serbia, the place Ronaldo will little question have a bearing on issues.

May Italy actually be dumped into the playoffs?
Italy’s match towards Switzerland on Friday has all of the hallmarks of a winner-takes-all conflict. The 2 groups are locked on 14 factors on the high of Group C, with each ending off their pool levels with video games they’d count on to win – Italy journey to Northern Eire and Switzerland host Bulgaria. So it is all eyes on Rome this week as Roberto Mancini’s European champions look to e book their place within the World Cup and keep away from the playoffs.

Italy’s 37-match unbeaten run got here to an finish within the Nations League semifinals towards Spain in October, however they bounced again by beating Belgium 2-1 to take third. However they are going to be with no few key gamers in Nicola Zaniolo, Lorenzo Pellegrini and Ciro Motionless, whereas Nicola Barella is an damage doubt. With their midfield depleted, Mancini might hand debuts to Lazio’s Danilo Cataldi and Torino’s Tommaso Pobega. They will not have it straightforward towards Switzerland, nonetheless, with Murat Yakin’s facet retaining clear sheets of their final 4 matches – together with a 0-0 draw within the return match in Basel in September.

Haaland an enormous miss for Norway
As Borussia Dortmund have came upon over the previous week, life with out top-of-the-line gamers on the earth is hard. BVB striker Erling Haaland is out injured with a hip damage and will not be match till Christmas, which is able to come as an enormous blow for his nation Norway as they search to e book their place on the World Cup.

Norway are two factors behind Netherlands in Group G with two video games remaining. Louis Van Gaal’s Oranje face Montenegro on Saturday, whereas Norway host Latvia. If each groups win, then the ultimate match of the group subsequent Tuesday in Rotterdam (stream LIVE on ESPN+, 2:35 p.m. ET) the place the 2 groups meet will likely be fascinating. But when Norway drop any factors, then they’ve Turkey sitting simply two factors behind them, seeking to capitalize on any slip-ups for a playoff place.

Norway nonetheless have the likes of Martin Odegaard to assist bolster their qualification hopes, however they will must discover a strategy to make up that shortfall of Haaland’s objective document — a powerful 12 in 15 appearances for the nationwide facet — as a way to advance. — Tom Hamilton

North, Central America and Caribbean (CONCACAF)



Brenden Aaronson explains the significance of Christian Pulisic forward of the USMNT’s World Cup qualifier vs. Mexico.

Longtime rivals meet in Ohio
If there’s a red-letter day for World Cup qualifying in CONCACAF, it is when United States and Mexico sq. off. The newest installment is about to happen this Friday at TQL Stadium in Cincinnati, Ohio (stream LIVE on ESPN+, 9 p.m. ET) with each groups seeking to cement their locations among the many three automated qualification spots. Mexico leads the best way with 14 factors from six matches, and appears to be cruising in direction of Qatar. The U.S. is in second place, three again of El Tri.

– CONCACAF World Cup qualifying desk

But such is the state of the standings that the U.S. is one outcome from being pulled again into the pack, and the reminiscences from the failed 2018 World Cup qualifying effort nonetheless linger within the minds of some observers. The U.S. must make do with out the likes of Giovanni Reyna and Sergino Dest, each injured, and a less-than-fully-fit Christian Pulisic. So with an away recreation towards Jamaica set for the again half of this window, a victory over their bitter rivals would go a great distance in direction of clinching qualification.

Canada’s highway to Qatar reaches a vital level
The opening six video games of qualifying have witnessed the continued rise of Canada. John Herdman’s facet has already recorded credible highway attracts towards the U.S. and Mexico, ok for third place. The Reds have some rising abilities as properly, with not solely Bayern Munich’s Alphonso Davies within the combine, but additionally Lille’s Jonathan David and the New England Revolution’s Tajon Buchanan.

Canada has traditionally gotten forward of itself at occasions, and this window will present it with yet one more check to see whether it is for actual, by way of house matches towards Costa Rica and Mexico. A pair of wins would imply that a lot of the hardest fixtures are already out of the best way, and clear the trail in direction of its first profitable qualification since 1986. — Jeff Carlisle

Africa (CAF)

The “Elephants” with out their Eagle
Wilfried Zaha’s absence from the Ivory Coast squad for his or her crunch qualifiers — together with a blockbuster showdown with Cameroon — is shrouded in thriller. The Elephants boast arguably essentially the most scintillating array of attacking expertise on the continent, however will likely be lacking star man Zaha after he was omitted by coach Patrice Beaumelle.

– Africa preview: Can youthful South Africa attain Qatar

Zaha refused to hitch the group in October due to “homesickness,” in line with the coach, who revealed the attacker was reflecting on his worldwide future. Nonetheless, these quotes have been denied by Crystal Palace boss Patrick Vieira, who expressed shock at Beaumelle’s suggestion and informed journalists that the ahead nonetheless wished to symbolize the Elephants.

– CAF World Cup qualifying tables

Whatever the dissatisfaction or misunderstanding on the root of Zaha’s absence, Ivory Coast have their work lower out to take an additional step on the highway to Qatar, with each Gervinho and Jeremie Boga additionally out. One level forward of Cameroon with two video games to play, the Elephants should face the Indomitable Lions in Douala of their closing group recreation (stream LIVE on ESPN+, Tues. 11/16, 2 p.m. ET) — the largest fixture of the marketing campaign. Fail to progress, and count on fingers of accusation to be pointed at Zaha for abandoning the Elephants after they wanted him most.

Will Nigeria let issues slip?
In contrast to Tremendous Eagles generations of the previous, Nigeria have at all times certified for main tournaments beneath present German coach Gernot Rohr. They’ve reached three consecutive competitions and appeared firmly on target to advance to the ultimate spherical (two-legged playoffs to succeed in the ultimate) after being drawn into a comparatively simple Group C. Nonetheless, a shock house defeat vs. Central African Republic in October has raised considerations that the West African powerhouse might stumble once more as two extra difficult video games await.

They lead Cape Verde by 9 factors to seven, however they have to nonetheless host the Sharks — giant-killers on numerous events over the previous six years — of their closing recreation, and first play Liberia in impartial Tangiers on Saturday. In contrast to a few of Africa’s different giants, Nigeria are but to choose an efficient enjoying model to see off the smaller sides, whereas their notorious 4-4 draw with Sierra Leone a yr in the past (regardless of being 4-0 up after half an hour) demonstrates simply how susceptible they are often.

Aubameyang vs. Salah for a World Cup spot?
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang seems primed to go down in historical past alongside the likes of George Weah, Mohamed Aboutrika and Abedi Pele as an all-time African nice who by no means acquired the possibility to showcase his abilities at a World Cup.

With Mohamed Salah’s Egypt beginning the qualifying marketing campaign slowly, Arsenal skipper Auba — now discovering type within the Premier League — might have helped Gabon take the initiative in Group F. As a substitute, there have been acquainted lapses — notably, back-to-back away defeats and permitting Egypt to grab a Ninetieth-minute equaliser in Franceville — although with two video games to go, they are not fully out of the operating. In matchday 5, they have to defeat Libya at house and hope Egypt fall in Angola (the Pharaohs have by no means defeated the East Africans away) to face any likelihood.

If that happens, the Panthers would then arrange a winner-takes-all showdown in Alexandria on Nov. 15, that means we might properly see Aubameyang vs. Salah for a spot within the playoffs. — Ed Dove

South America (CONMEBOL)

Anticipate World Cup spots to start out filling up
World Cup qualifying is into the house stretch, with six matchdays remaining and 4 automated spots up for grabs. Brazil and Argentina lead comfortably and can little question safe their spots in Qatar sooner quite than later. And Brazil can recover from the road with a win towards Colombia on Thursday.

– South America preview: Colombia seeking to James for spark

Probably the most contested battles are happening under them. Ecuador are third on 17 factors, whereas Colombia and Uruguay sit one level behind — the latter are within the fifth spot due to objective distinction and would head into an intercontinental playoff if qualifying ended right this moment. Additional down, Chile, Bolivia, Paraguay and Peru stay in competition regardless of their inconsistent type; Ricardo Gareca’s Peru are 5 factors off fourth place place, with 18 factors nonetheless to play for.

– CONMEBOL World Cup qualifying desk

Video games to observe
The spotlight for the upcoming window is Friday’s Clasico del Río de la Plata. Uruguay, with supervisor Oscar Tabarez beneath intense scrutiny, should win in Montevideo towards an undefeated and supremely assured Argentina, the Copa America holders. If Uruguay lose, Tuesday’s recreation towards Bolivia in La Paz will immediately tackle extra challenges than simply the dizzying heights of the capital.

Colombia’s go to Thursday to Brazil is one other one to observe, with the house group making an attempt to safe a spot in Qatar 2022. In the meantime, Colombia has extra attracts than it could like in a event of this stage and should impress in Sao Paulo with subsequent Tuesday’s key recreation towards Paraguay in Barranquilla looming. A win in Brazil ought to put Reinaldo Rueda’s Colombia in one of the best temper potential for Paraguay, and the return of midfielder James Rodriguez is a motive to hope. — Damian Didonato

Asia (AFC)

The place is Taremi for unbeaten Iran?
Given his star-player standing within the nation, quite a lot of eyebrows have been raised when Porto striker Mehdi Taremi was omitted from Dragan Skocic’s squad for the upcoming Group A video games towards Lebanon and Syria. It is since been reported that Taremi has not seen eye to eye with Skocic in current occasions and didn’t reply calls from group officers hoping to resolve their battle.

– Asian preview: What’s to play for this week

There may be nonetheless loads of firepower within the Group Melli ranks, nonetheless, within the type of Zenit’s Sardar Azmoun and Feyenoord winger Alireza Jahanbakhsh, and two wins over the following week ought to nonetheless be properly inside their attain. Nonetheless, this subject with Taremi has longer-term implications for one among Asia’s high nationwide groups, who gave account of themselves on the final World Cup and are anticipated to function in Qatar subsequent yr.

– AFC World Cup qualifying tables

All to play for in Group B
Can Saudi Arabia keep excellent begin and hold Australia and Japan at bay? Though the latter two nations have been anticipated to be the front-runners in qualifying Group B, it’s Saudi Arabia who prepared the ground to this point because the final remaining group with an ideal document of 4 wins within the Asian qualifiers.

Whereas they do not boast as many illustrious names as their rivals — the complete squad performs within the home league — Saudi Arabia’s mixture of expertise and youth has caught the attention, and so they already handed one huge check with their 1-0 victory over Japan final month. Their subsequent main hurdle is Thursday’s go to to Australia, the place something aside from defeat ought to improve their qualification prospects, particularly given the highest two are assured berths at Qatar 2022.

Alternatively, perennial heavyweights Japan — the one Asian group to succeed in the knockout spherical on the final World Cup — are in determined want of recovering from a sluggish begin having already suffered two defeats of their opening 4 matches. Something lower than wins over Vietnam and Oman might spell hassle for the Samurai Blue. — Gabriel Tan

Oceania (OFC)

The qualifiers in Oceania have been initially scheduled to kick off within the second half of 2020, however have confronted a number of delays resulting from logistical challenges stemming from the continuing coronavirus pandemic. The newest replace from the Oceania Soccer Confederation in September steered that the remaining matches will now happen subsequent March, doubtlessly within the centralised, impartial venue of Qatar. — Tan

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