We now know the final list of 32 nations who have qualified for the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil next summer. Four nations qualified through the European Playoffs for those who finished as runners-up in the group stage, while the final two came through the cross-region playoffs featuring representatives from North/Central and South America, Asia, and Oceania.
Croatia 2-0 France (4-2 agg)
A goal in each half from Bayern Munich striker Mario Mandzukic fired Croatia to their fourth World Cup Finals at the expense of a French side who finished the match with ten men. Mandzukic put Croatia 1-0 up on the night, 3-2 on aggregate after 21 minutes with a towering header from Strinic’s cross.
France lost Blaise Matuidi to a second yellow card inside the final ten minutes, and the numerical disadvantage showed when they were caught out by a counter attack with just five minutes to play. Ivica Olic broke before squaring to Manduzkic to wrap the tie up.
Poland 2-2 Slovakia (3-4 agg)
Poland twice drew level during the tie in Poznan but in gifting Slovakia two away goals on the night ran out of steam chasing the game that they’d have to win by two clear goals. Martin Jakubko slotted Slovakia in front from the penalty spot on 23′ for the only goal of the first-half, but Poland came out the blocks quickest and bundled home an equaliser through Michal Kucharczyk within two minutes.
Stanislav Sestak then dashed the home hopes by flicking home a corner just five minutes later to put Slovakia firmly in the driving seat. Kucharczyk got an equaliser on the night shortly afterwards but the damage was done, and Slovakia qualified for their second World Cup Finals as an independent nation.
Russia 0-1 Switzerland (1-3 agg)
Switzerland produced the only upset of the night if you go by the official FIFA World Rankings, with a win in Russia courtesy of Admir Mehmedi’s 17th minute strike in a game of resolute defending from the visiting side. 24th-ranked Switzerland were happy to put ten men behind the ball for the rest of the game and frustrate a Russian side who sat 7 places above them.
Mehmedi’s 10th goal in 24 appearances for his country is arguably the most important, and he’ll surely seal a move away from Dynamo Kyiv where he’s been playing reserve football all season. Brazil 2014 will be Switzerland’s tenth World Cup Finals. Russia are the highest-ranked European nation not to qualify.
Sweden 2-0 Bulgaria (5-2 agg)
Jimmy Durmaz scored his second-ever international goal to give the hosts the lead inside quarter of an hour in Stockholm, and double the aggregate lead over a Bulgarian side on the verge of failing to qualify for the fourth-straight World Cup Finals.
After their best passage of play all night, Bulgaria lost Tsvetan Genkov to injury after he landed awkwardly. In the midst of the substitution, Kim Källström headed home unmarked at a free-kick to put Sweden 2-0 up. That’s how it finished, despite the late dismissal of Mikael Dorsin for the hosts, who qualified for their 11th Finals, and first since 2006.
Australia 3-2 aet Paraguay (5-5 agg, 4-3 pens)
Australia have qualified for their third consecutive World Cup Finals after a five-goal thriller in Sydney, which reversed the 3-2 result in Paraguay last week. Scott McDonald and a Brett Emerton penalty put the Socceroos two-up on the night, and saw them goal a goal-up on aggregate.
After his hat-trick on Friday night, Oscar Cardozo added another to his international tally with a 65th minute goal that squared it at 4-4 on aggregate, with the away goals rule not applying in the cross-region playoffs. Cardozo then scored his 22nd goal for his country with just seven minutes of extra-time left.
Scott McDonald wasn’t having any of it and after waves of Australian attacks, he beat the ‘keeper to a Carl Valeri through-ball and poked home the goal that put Australia ahead on the night, and tied the match at 5-5 on aggregate, with a little over a minute to play. After Pablo Zeballos had his spot-kick saved, it fell to Valeri to score the penalty to send Australia to Brazil. Finding the top corner, Sydney erupted in celebration.
New Zealand 0-3 Jamaica (1-6 agg)
Sylvan Ebanks-Blake scored a well-taken brace in Hamilton tonight as Jamaica completely outplayed a New Zealand side who came into the Playoffs as the lowest ranked nation still with a chance of qualification. Ebanks-Blake acored early in each half, sandwiching Karl Henry’s third international goal.
New Zealand rarely threatened after having the wind taken out of their sails, but did come close to grabbing a late consolation through Marco Rojas who had two efforts cleared off the line. Jamaica will be at the Finals for just the second time after their appearance at France 1998.
FIFA World Cup Brazil 2014 Qualifiers
|NORTH + CENTRAL AMERICA
(World Rankings in parentheses)
Ivory Coast (8th) are the highest-ranked nation not to qualify for Brazil 2014, after they lost 1-3 on aggregate to Ghana. The seven other nations in the world rankings top 32 not to qualify are: Cameroon (13), Russia (17), Denmark (19), Gabon (22), Peru (23), Hungary (26), and Wales (32).
The draw for the Group Stage will be made on Friday 6th December.