The week of the 2014 World Cup playoffs is upon us, and we take a look at some of the potential sides that could be making their first appearance in Brazil next year if they get the better of their opponents. Qualifying for the World Cup often gets taken for granted by the bigger footballing nations but for first time entrants it is as big as winning the competition itself. Below we take at Iceland, Jordan and Ethiopia.
The Scandinavian side host Croatia on Friday and are priced at football betting odds of 29/10 with Betfair to win; these reasonable odds reflect the strength in the Iceland side. Despite having a population of just over 0.3 million, the Icelanders, coached by the wily Lars Lagerback, have been one of the surprise packages of UEFA’s qualifying tournament. Lagerback coached Sweden to five successive tournaments in the 2000’s and was coach of Nigeria at the 2010 World Cup. Led by the fleet-footed Gylfi Sigurdsson and prolific Heerenveen forward Alfred Finnbogason, they are quickly turning into one of the stronger European sides. Beating Croatia will be no easy feat but it is well within their reach. Croatia looked ordinary during their World Cup qualifiers, managing to lose to Scotland twice and are going into the playoffs with a new manager. Iceland have to make full use of Friday’s home advantage; they can’t go to Croatia without the lead. If they do manage to overcome Croatia, Iceland will be THE smallest country at next year’s World Cup.
The World Cup play-offs are a cruel one for Jordan, who will be up against a star studded Uruguayan side who were semifinalists at the last World Cup. Faced with the attacking threat of Luis Suarez and Edinson Cavani, it isn’t hard to see why Jordan are priced at 14/1 to win the tie.
The Ethiopians have to get past Nigeria to make it to their maiden World Cup. The Walias are 9/1 outsiders to beat the Super Eagles. However, Ethiopia did look impressive in qualification, topping their group and beating South Africa. As witnessed so often in African football, nothing is certain, so it isn’t too utopian to think that Ethiopia could make it to Brazil. The vast majority of the side still ply their trade domestically, so it will however be a massive achievement for a nation that had its heydays in the 60’s and 70’s. Nigeria will be hoping for an encore from the Africa Cup of Nations earlier this year, when they beat Ethiopia in the group stages.