Monday, June 23, 2008

The Dirty Dozen

The 12 teams that will make up the three groups in CONCACAF's semi-final round of World Cup Qualifying are now set. There were upsets in the knockout stages, but not the one we wanted to see.

Group C, which already was more Robin than Batman, can now certainly be termed the "Group of Life", in contrast to the "Group of Death" that is Group B. Guyana (ranked 108) was knocked off by Suriname (145). And Panama (60), who I had pegged to win the group, was beaten by El Salvador (120). Imagine the good fortune of Costa Rica, who need only finish better than two of the following countries: El Salvador, Suriname and Haiti (113).

I'll save a more detailed look at just exactly how unjust these groups are until the next ranking period, but here's a quick rundown.

Group A: USA, Guatemala, T&T, Cuba
Average FIFA rank: 75.25
If we were a country, we'd be: Costa Rica (75)

Group B: Mexico, Honduras, Canada, Jamaica
Average FIFA rank: 52.25
If we were a country, we'd be: Hungary (52)

Group C: Costa Rica, Suriname, El Salvador, Haiti
Average FIFA rank: 113.25
If we were a country, we'd be: Haiti (113)

The argument that Canada needs to beat these teams anyway, whether it happens in the semi-final round or in the hex, had me persuaded for a while. But no longer. Imagine if Canada was in Costa Rica's place, with essentially a free pass to the hex. Then in that round, in order to earn a playoff spot (4th), we'd need only to finish ahead of, say, Haiti, and Guatemala.

In other words, we could be a pair of matches (admittedly, a difficult set of matches against a tough South American opponent) away from the World Cup by beating only one team ranked in the top 100 during the entire qualifying cycle!

That said, I'm full of confidence that this Canada team is the one to do it, Group of Death and all.

More WCQ bloggage, but not by me:

And a sobering thought: after a flurry of activity in late May and June (4 matches, including the awesome Brazil friendly), it's almost certain that the Canadian team won't play another match until the August 20th home qualifier against Jamaica.


Martin said...

Interesting blog here. Thanks a lot to J :-)

For me, it's really clear that the big test will be in that following round. If we can go through this one, it will be almost a sure thing. Let's keep our fingers crossed. I've seen Canada in World Cup '86 and I really hope to see it at least one more time .

And I'll keep hanging 'round here to have information and some analysis about our national team as this is very difficult to get anywhere else.


J said...

It's always good to know that I have readers.

I share your view that if we get past the semi-final round, the Hex should be a relative slam-dunk. Even if the best teams qualify from the other groups (according to the rankings), and assuming Mexico and USA finish 1 and 2, we'd need only to beat Costa Rica, Cuba and Suriname to qualify automatically for South Africa. Or just the latter two to gain a spot in the playoff against a South American team.