Nov 25, 2007

European World Cup Qualifying Groups: England Draws Croatia Again

England was drawn into a Group 6 with Croatia, Ukraine, Belarus, Kazakhstan and Andorra. Looks like it could have been worse for the Three Lions. Several groups look a lot tougher. Take a look:

Group 1: Portugal, Sweden, Denmark, Hungary, Albania, Malta.

Group 2: Greece, Israel, Switzerland, Moldova, Latvia, Luxembourg.

Group 3: Czech Republic, Poland, Northern Ireland, Slovakia, Slovenia, San Marino.

Group 4: Germany, Russia, Finland, Wales, Azerbaijan, Liechtenstein.

Group 5: Spain, Turkey, Belgium, Bosnia, Armenia, Estonia.

Group 6: Croatia, England, Ukraine, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Andorra.

Group 7: France, Romania, Serbia, Lithuania, Austria, Faroe Islands.

Group 8: Italy, Bulgaria, Ireland, Cyprus, Georgia, Montenegro.

Group 9: Netherlands, Scotland, Norway, Macedonia, Iceland.

Not sure if there is a "Group of Death," except that England's group isn't it. Of the nine top-seeded teams, Croatia is arguably the worst. Group 2 is probably the weakest group. I don't understand how Israel could be seeded higher than Switzerland. France has a very tough draw, with Romania and Serbia two teams that can match up with anyone and Lithuania and Austria potential wild cards.

I like Scotland's chances. The Netherlands are not the force they have been and the other teams are all beatable. Scotland should at least clinch second. Maybe more. Ireland has a chance of reaching the playoff as well. By the way, since when does the defending champ have to qualify again? That's kind of bogus. Speaking of bogus, I really think the minnow countries (Andorra, Liechtenstein, Faroe Islands, San Marino, Luxembourg) should have to play a preliminary tournament the way they do in some other regions. They're just cannonfodder at this point, although I suppose it gives elite teams a chance to rest their stars.

Northern Ireland have their work cut out of them in their "East bloc" group. Poles, Czechs, Slovaks and Slovenes are sure to give Nigel Worthington's men fits (if Worthington is indeed at the helm when qualifying kicks off).

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