Among the key games on TV Wednesday:
*11:30 a.m. Fox Soccer Channel Northern Ireland-Slovakia
*2 p.m. FSC Wales-Russia
*3:30 p.m. ESPN Classic Trinidad & Tobago-U.S.
*5:30 p.m. Telemundo Mexico-Honduras
In 2007 I watched at the Croatian Hall in San Pedro as England were knocked out of Euro 2008.
LONDON (AP) — Talk about role reversal.
Two years ago, Croatia eliminated England from European Championship qualifying with a victory at Wembley.
Wayne Rooney and David Beckham see the funy side of World Cup qualifying Tuesday. (AP Photos).
On Wednesday night, the English can clinch their fourth straight World Cup berth by beating the Croats at the home of English soccer.
“We have put ourselves in a great position, and it’s up to us to finish the job,” England
captain John Terry said Tuesday. “The disappointment of not qualifying still hurts.”
European champion Spain could clinch a berth Wednesday along with Denmark, Serbia and Slovakia.
In South America, Chile and Paraguay could guarantee places in the 32-nation field
at South Africa next year.
They would join Australia, Brazil, Ghana, Japan, the Netherlands, North Korea, South
The United States would put itself in commanding position for a sixth straight World Cup
appearance with a victory at Trinidad and Tobago.
Others are struggling, such as Argentina, France and Portugal.
“At the end of the day, this match in Belgrade is not decisive,” France coach Raymond Domenech said before his team’s game in Serbia. “We can win, lose or draw, it will not change radically the remainder of the competition. We will still have two more games to play, so we have a chance.”
The nine European group winners qualify, and eight of the nine second-place teams go to playoffs. Serbia (6-1) is four points ahead of France (4-1-2) in Group Seven.
Heading into its match at Paraguay, Argentina (6-5-4) is fourth in South America, trailing
Brazil (8-1-6), and Chile and Paraguay (each 8-4-3). Right behind at 5-5-5 at Colombia and Ecuador, putting tremendous pressure on Argentina coach Diego Maradona.
The top four teams qualify, and the No. 5 nation meets the No. 4 team from North and Central America and the Caribbean in a playoff.
“We’ve got to lift our heads quickly,” Argentina midfielder Javier Zanetti said. “Football
doesn’t give you much time.”
England (7-0) can relax going into its match against Croatia (5-1-2). Credit for the
turnaround has been given to England coach Fabio Capello.
Croatia coach Slaven Bilic and squad train at Wembley Tuesday.
“What Fabio Capello has brought into squad and the nation is belief,” Galaxy
midfielder David Beckham said.
Spain (7-0) hosts Estonia and would clinch with a victory combined with Bosnia-Herzegovina (5-2) failing to win at home against Turkey (3-2-2).
Spain coach Vicente del Bosque said following Saturday’s 5-0 rout of Belgium that a 2-0 loss to the United States in the Confederations Cup last June helped his team. The Americans stopped Spain’s winning streak at a record 15 matches and its unbeaten run at 35 games, which had tied Brazil’s mark.
“We’re doing important things and breaking records, but every national team has its moment — I don’t like to say we’re the best,” Spanish forward Fernando Torres said. “Let’s just hope that our best is yet to come.”
Slovakia (5-1-1) is at Northern Ireland (4-2-2) and would clinch with a victory, coupled with a tie between Slovenia and Poland (both 3-2-2). Denmark (5-0-2) would clinch with a victory at Albania (1-4-3), provided Portugal (2-1-4) wins at Hungary and Sweden (3-1-3) fails to beat Malta (0-7-1).
Portugal might not even finish second.
“We’re sad. We know we can do better,” Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo, the reigning FIFA World Player of the Year, said following last weekend’s 1-1 tie at Denmark.
Defending champion Italy (5-0-2) could open a four-point lead with a victory at home against Bulgaria. The Azzurri needed two own-goals from Kakha Kaladze for a 2-0 victory at Georgia last weekend.
“I would like to be the one to break the drought,” Italian forward Alberto Gilardino said.
Germany (6-0-1) holds a one-point lead over Russia (6-1) going into a home match against Azerbaijan. The Russians host the Germans on Oct. 10.
“Everyone is already speaking about the game in Russia, but Wednesday’s game is very important,” German midfielder Thomas Hitzlsperger said. “We have to get three points, otherwise we need not even talk about the Russia game.”
In Africa, Cameroon (1-1-1) can take over its group lead with a victory at home against Gabon (2-1), a team it defeated on the road last weekend.
In Asia, Saudi Arabia is at home following a 0-0 tie against Bahrain in the opener of a two-leg, total-goals playoff for the right to meet New Zealand in another playoff.
The U.S. (4-2-1), coming off a 2-1 home win against El Salvador, is at T&T, where it
won 2-1 in its qualifier four years ago. Honduras (4-2-1) leads on goal difference, while
Mexico and Costa Rica (both 4-3) are one point back.
Mexico hosts Honduras, while Costa Rica is at El Salvador.