Friday, June 19, 2009

Privileged six enjoy summer break

With the World Cup finals just a year away 5 teams will be taking a worry-free break having already joined hosts South Africa as the first nations to qualify for the competition. Japan became the first team to book their place in the finals after earning a 1-0 victory against Uzbekistan in Tashkent. Four days later the jubilant Japanese only managed a 1-1 draw at home to Qatar. Australia did not mind their goalless draw in Qatar as it was enough to secure them qualification. South Korea secured a seventh successive World Cup finals place thanks to a 2-0 victory over the UAE in Dubai, and were joined by their neighbours North Korea (pictured celebrating) who held Saudi Arabia to 0-0 draw in Riyadh 11 days later.

The Netherlands became the first European team to qualify after a 2-1 win in Iceland. Partly avenging their embarrassing home humiliation, Romania turned the tables on Lithuania with a 1-0 win in Marijampole. Sweden lost ground with a 1-0 home defeat to Denmark, as did Finland after going down 3-0 to Russia in Helsinki.

In the CONCACAF section Costa Rica are leading at the half-way stage having defeated the USA 3-1, while Mexico who lost 2-1 in El Salvador are languishing in 4th place. Chile, the surprise package in South America, moved up in Mark’s Rankings after winning 2-0 away to group leaders Paraguay who consequently relinquished the top spot to Brazil who swept aside Uruguay 4-0 in Montevideo.

In Africa Gabon enjoyed a 3-0 home win against Togo while Egypt lost 3-1 in Algeria before jetting off to play in the Confederations Cup. Ghana were 2-0 winners in Mali and a single goal gave Burkina Faso all 3 points in Malawi.