World Cup qualifying for Brazil 2014 is really hotting up and with the tournament less than a year away – where have the lost three years gone? – there are squeaky bums from Bulgaria to Benin and Uruguay to Ukraine.
Speaking of Ukraine (oh yes, seamless linking I know) and England did what they seem to do best against Mikhail Formenko’s men on Tuesday – limped to a draw. That leaves them top of Group H and with two home games remaining. Great qualifying campaign? Hardly: the only teams they have beaten are Moldova (population 3.5 million) and San Marino, AKA a few Italian plumbers, accountants and bar owners.
Qualification is far from assured, with the Three Lions (should that be Pussycats?) a point ahead of Ukraine and Montenegro, with Poland two points further back, with Roy Hodgson’s team set to play the latter two at Wembley. We have a bad feeling the play-offs might be on the cards.
Elsewhere France continue to push Spain in Group I, the two locked together on 14 points, although everybody’s favourite football wet-dream (that’s Spain by the way) have a game in hand.
In Group F Russia’s win over Israel moves them one point ahead of Portugal with both teams having very winnable fixtures – two each – left. Can Postman Pat, sorry, Fabio Capello, lead the Ruskis to Rio whilst Ronaldo rues?
Another incredibly tight group, though one which few people care about, is Group G, where Bosnia-Herzegovina and Greece are level on 19 points. Greece have two home games and if they can beat Slovakia they’ll be home and dry.
Switzerland, Holland, Germany, Italy and Belgium are all showing England how it should be done and Belgium are sure to be well fancied in Brazil given their current squad of stars. The final two matches of European qualifying are in October and soon all questions will be answered. Whether those questions will be decisively answered in a positive fashion by England (and others) remains to be seen.