The first team that still has work to do before the 2014 World Cup in Brazil is Mexico. Mexico has struggled in the fourth round of CONCACAF qualifying. Mexico currently sits in fourth position out of sixth with one game left. Mexico has the edge over Panama for the play-off in the standings. Mexico was in fifth before defeating Panama on Friday with a miraculous bicycle kick goal late in the game to secure three points. Mexico plays Costa Rica tomorrow. They need at least one point to secure the play-off spot which would mean Mexico would play New Zealand in a two game play-off for a spot in the World Cup.
Mexico could still avoid the play-off spot with a win and a loss by Honduras. There would need to be at least a three goal swing between the two games for Mexico’s goal difference to be better than Honduras’. If Mexico were to lose and Panama were to beat the US, Mexico would finish fifth in the group and be eliminated from World Cup qualifying. El Tri need to focus on winning tomorrows game before they look ahead to Brazil.
In Europe there are a few teams that usually qualify for the World Cup that will have to go through a two game play-off. Portugal is one of them. They didn’t play their best football in group stage of qualifying and will hope to avoid a good team in the play-off. The team that should scare Portugal the most in the play-off is France. France will most likely come in second in their group because they have the reigning World Cup champions Spain atop of the group with one game to play.
France is in a very scary situation. The play-off is determined by a random draw of the eight teams that come in second place in the group. The draw has two pots which is determined by FIFA’s world rankings. The top four teams would be in one group meaning they would not face each other. Right now France would be the fifth highest team out of the eight meaning they would be drawn against one of the top four teams in the play-off draw. France has the quality talent to go deep in the World Cup, but they have to make it first. If they were to draw Portugal in the play-off, that would set up for a two game play-off that would seem like a World Cup knockout stage game. Both teams are most going to go to the play-off, but it will come down to a random draw of matchups to see who plays who.