|06-09-2005, 04:25 PM||#1 (permalink)|
MSgt USMC Ret
Join Date: Aug 2004
Location: San Diego
6 Countries Set to Vie in 2006 World Cup
By ROBERT MILLWARD, AP Soccer Writer
LONDON - With the World Cup a year away, five teams have joined host Germany in the 32-nation field for the soccer showpiece.
Japan and South Korea, co-hosts of the 2002 World Cup, were among the four teams qualifying Wednesday from Asia. They were joined by
Iran and Saudi Arabia.
In South America, two-time champion Argentina qualified for the ninth time in a row by beating five-time winner and reigning champion Brazil 3-1.
Brazil, in second place in South American qualifying, needs one more victory in its last three games to maintain its record as the only nation to play at all 18 World Cups.
The United States is positioned to make it for the fifth straight time after a 3-0 victory in Panama. Like group leader Mexico, Bruce Arena's team needs to win two of its remaining five games.
"Two wins from now, we'll be OK," striker Brian McBride said after his team's second straight 3-0 victory. "But until then, we'll just think about the next game (Aug. 17 at home to Trinidad and Tobago)."
The line of European contenders is led by a team that's never made it to the World Cup — Ukraine.
With AC Milan star Andriy Shevchenko in the lineup and two-time World Cup player Oleh Blokhin as coach, Ukraine needs one victory from its last three games to reach the championship for the first time since the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991.
"It was a big win for us ... we're 99.9 percent in Germany," Blokhin said.
Ukraine could qualify at the expense of European champion Greece while there's a strong chance Spain and France also might fail to advance.
The Ukrainians beat Greece 1-0 to move seven points ahead of their European Group 2 rivals. A 6-0 victory by Turkey in Kazakhstan dropped the Greeks to third in the standings.
In Europe, the eight group winners and best two runners-up are guaranteed places in the June 9-July 9 tournament. The other six second-place finishers can advance through playoffs.
The Netherlands and the Czech Republic, both high-scoring winners Wednesday, could qualify from their group. The Dutch, World Cup runners-up in 1974 and '78, downed Finland 4-0 in Helsinki. The Czechs, who lost in the 1934 and '62 finals, routed Macedonia 6-1, with Jan Koller scoring four times.
Poland and England, neck and neck in their group, could clinch World Cup berths before they face each other in the final round of games at Old Trafford in October.
Three-time winner Italy, seeking its first World Cup title since 1982, is in a strong position to qualify for the 12th time in a row, leading its group by four points.
France, however, no longer looks like the power that won World Cup and European titles in 1998 and 2000. Raymond Domenech's team has slipped to fourth in its group, although the French could easily finish first ahead of Ireland, Switzerland and Israel.
Spain's chances of qualifying were dealt a blow Wednesday with a 1-1 tie at home against Bosnia-Herzegovina. The Spaniards needed a tying goal six minutes into injury time to avoid a stunning defeat.
Luis Aragones' team is unbeaten in seven games but has four ties. Serbia-Montenegro has a stronger chance of finishing first in the group.
No team has yet qualified from Africa, which has emerged as a force in world soccer since Morocco was the first from the continent to qualify in 1970. The Moroccans are among the favorites to qualify, holding a four-point lead over Tunisia.
South Africa, Togo and Ivory Coast also are group leaders. Nigeria, aiming to reach the tournament for the fourth time in a row, is tied with Angola, which has never qualified.
World Cup organizers get to test their readiness during the June 15-29 Confederations Cup, the eight-team tournament in five cities that will serve as a dress rehearsal for next year's championship.
"We are taking it very seriously," World Cup spokesman Jens Grittner said. "We are not yet at World Cup level in every area, but we still have a year of hard work."
|2006, countries, cup, set, vie, world|
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