Friday Internationals Open Thread

Pictured: The Case Against English Football - Michael Regan

We get a break from club football with international matches that actually count!

So what are today's games to watch?

Everyone knows that Group H, the Group of England, is coming down to the wire. England can win out to go top of the table and qualify for Brazil, but they might not. Ukraine, Poland and Montenegro all also have plausible paths to 1st or 2nd.

Group H: Ukraine v. Poland (began 2:00 EDT), England v. Montenegro (begins 3:00 EDT)

There are also a bunch of other matches in other groups worth watching.

Group B: Denmark v. Italy (began 2:15 EDT)

With Bulgaria losing and Malta next on Monday, Denmark should be through to the playoffs with a win. A loss and things go a bit nutty, opening the door to the Czechs and Armenians, a draw and they'll need to run up the score like mad men against Malta. If Denmark draws today, and then Bulgaria beat the Czechs at home, Denmark would need at least a 9-goal margin of victory over Malta to make the playoffs.

Update: It has been pointed out to me that one second-place finisher will not make the playoffs, and it is highly likely to be the second-place side from Group B. So Denmark could finish second and still be eliminated from qualification. For explanation see Wikipedia here.

Group C: Sweden v. Austria (begins 2:45 EDT)

Austria win, they're almost surely through to the playoffs on goal difference (Faroes next), Sweden win and they're through, draw means Sweden need a result v Germany on Monday.

Group D: Netherlands v. Hungary (began 2:30 EDT)

Hungary have Andorra next, so they're through with a victory. Any other result, though, and Romania should be favorites to win out and take second place (v. Andorra, @Estonia). Turkey would be waiting in the wings if Romania falter, but have a ton of goal difference to make up if not.

Group E: Iceland v. Cyprus (begins 2:45 EDT), Slovenia v. Norway (begins 2:45 EDT)

Three small nations enter, one small nation leaves. The question here is what's best for Iceland? Strákarnir okkar are a point ahead of Slovenia and two ahead of Norway. They should be favored home to Cyprus, and Iceland then travel to Norway for the Fjord Derby. Slovenia have the Swiss next. If Norway lose and Iceland win today, Norway's out, so that's probably the best result for Iceland. But Norway winning would mean that Iceland, given a Cyprus win, would be through to the playoffs with just a draw against the Norwegians. I don't know! And I probably shouldn't be assuming Iceland win vs Cyprus!

Indeed, Cyprus may have only four points in the group, but three of those were in a home defeat of, yup, Iceland. The tiny nation with massively overleveraged banking crisis nearly destabilizing all of Europe Derby here favors Iceland based on results, but Cyprus actually still has a population roughly 3x that of Iceland. So who knows?

Group F: Portugal v. Israel (3:45 EDT)

Israel's path to the World Cup basically requires both dice to land balanced on their edges, but it's still in play. Win here, hope Portugal choke hilariously against Luxembourg, it could happen. It won't. Portugal need a win here to have any real hope of finishing top, though they probably won't regardless.

Group G: Greece v. Slovakia (begins 3:00 EDT)

Bosnia have Liechtenstein today, but a moderately tough away game to Lithuania on Monday. Greece get three free points against Liechtenstein next. In the battle for first place, Greece need to win today in order to put pressure on the Bosnians on Monday. Anything less than a win and they make it way too easy.

And then after that, the games continue down in South America.

CONMEBOL: Colombia v. Chile (5:00 EDT), Ecuador v. Uruguay (5:00 EDT), Venezuela v. Paraguay (5:00 EDT)

Colombia qualifies for Brazil with any result, Chile with a win. They're both probably through regardless.

Ecuador v. Uruguay could be an interesting one. Good sides from small nations overperforming expectation is always fun. Playing at altitude in Quito should make Ecuador solid favorites. Both are on 22 points in 4th and 5th places, while Venezuela is 6th with 19 points. The winner of Ecuador-Uruguay is through at least to a playoff against Jordan. A draw puts that chance at risk, as Venezuela should theoretically beat Paraguay. Anything less than three points for Venezuela probably ends their world cup dreams.

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