Wilfried Zaha

Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images

Ranking the worst failures in World Cup qualifying

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So many high expectation nations missed the 2018 World Cup that a second-tier tournament is being bandied about, enough so that people are legitimately intrigued at the idea.

That begs the question: How did we get here? In some cases, sides missed the big dance due to wonky qualifying schedules. Others had tough draws and couldn’t rebound in a playoff. Another group just flat out flopped in red, white, and blue.

[ USMNT-PORTUGAL: Match recap | Player ratings ]

Who’s failure was most heinous? Let us count the ways, er, teams.

7) Netherlands — This is a nation that, like England, has overachieved so many times that neutrals expect more from them that, perhaps, is rational. Their domestic league is not what it once was, but finishing behind Sweden is a tough pill to swallow for a side which has been on the proverbial podium the past two World Cups and four times in its history.

6) Ivory Coast — Africa’s qualifying is brutal, but Les Elephants lost two of three home qualifiers and managed two scoreless draws away from home. In fact, the team was blanked thrice despite a unit with Gervinho, Salomon Kalou, Jonathan Kodija, and Wilfried Zaha. Yes, the nation is on a downswing, but still were the favorites to advance past Morocco.

5) Bosnia and Herzegovina — Perched atop the group for a decent period of qualifying, a loaded BNH side drew Greece home and away, lost in Cyprus, and lost at home to Belgium in a cycle which could’ve seen them make a deep run powered by Edin Dzeko, Sead Kolasinac, Asmir Begovic, and Miralem Pjanic.

4) Italy — The highest-ranked ELO team to miss the tournament, Italy had the misfortune of being drawn with Spain (and vice versa). Second-place there was no shame, but being unable to finish over two legs against Sweden may be understandable — Blågult only allowed nine goals in qualifying — but Gian Piero Ventura’s keeping Lorenzo Insigne out of the starting lineup will be questioned for a long, long time.

[ MORE: Arena’s baffling pregame comment ]

3) Chile — CONMEBOL qualifying is as difficult as any confederation, and probably the toughest. Still, La Roja was shutout in six of its nine away qualifiers, including losses to eighth place Ecuador and ninth place Bolivia. For a side with Alexis Sanchez and Arturo Vidal to be blanked that many times? Brutal.

2) Ghana – At least the Ivory Coast finished second in its group! Ghana drew all three of its home matches, managing its only win at the Republic of Congo. That means Apparently the Black Stars couldn’t imagine a World Cup without the USMNT.

*1b) United States — With respect to the improving nature of CONCACAF, the confederation’s relative weakness and wildly forgiving Hex means the Bruce Arena’s men did as poorly as any decent nation in the world. To not even make a playoff is embarrassing, and the first leg of Honduras versus Australia lets you know all that’s needed about the quality of the lesser friends of CONCACAF.

*1a) Australia — The asterisks is important because the Socceroos dominated Honduras in the first leg only to not find a goal, and can still advance to the World Cup with a win at 4 a.m. ET in Sydney. But losing to Honduras after finishing behind Saudi Arabia on the weakness of handing Thailand one of its only two points of qualifying? Wooooof.

Premier League player Power Rankings

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After 11 games of the season, we are almost a third of the way through the Premier League campaign. We have plenty of familiar names in our rankings.

[ MORE: Power Rankings archive ]

Players from Manchester City dominate our rankings with Pep Guardiola‘s men getting off to the best-ever start in PL history, while Liverpool, Tottenham and Chelsea are also well represented.

Remember: this is a list of the top 20 performing players right now in the Premier League.

Let us know in the comments section below if you agree with the selections of the top 20 players in the PL right now.


  1. Kevin De Bruyne (Man City) – Even
  2. Mohamed Salah (Liverpool) – New entry
  3. Leroy Sane (Man City) – Even
  4. N'Golo Kante (Chelsea) – New entry
  5. Riyad Mahrez (Leicester) Up 4
  6. David Silva (Man City) – Up 3
  7. Eden Hazard (Chelsea) – Down 5
  8. Wilfried Zaha (Crystal Palace) – Down 3
  9. Alvaro Morata (Chelsea) – New entry
  10. Harry Kane (Tottenham) – Down 4
  11. Sadio Mane (Liverpool) – New entry
  12. Sergio Aguero (Man City) – Up 2
  13. Roberto Firmino (Liverpool) – New entry
  14. Glenn Murray (Brighton) – New entry
  15. John Stones (Man City) – Up 2
  16. Jonas Lossl (Huddersfield) – New entry
  17. Eric Dier (Tottenham) – New entry
  18. Ederson (Man City) – Even
  19. Pascal Gross (Brighton) – Even
  20. Nemanja Matic (Man United) – Down 15

PL wrap: Pep’s City sets new standard; Man Utd tops Spurs (video)

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Only one of the Top Six failed to claim maximum points on Saturday, with Tottenham losing its battle for second place with Manchester United.

[ WATCH: Full PL match replays ]

That 1-0 decision, won by Anthony Martial and Romelu Lukaku, kicked off the 7-match Premier League slate, with three more to come by the time Newcastle and Burnley square off Monday.

West Bromwich Albion 2-3 Manchester City  — RECAP

Don’t let the score line fool you: Man City had this one in the bag for all but a minute, that moment coming when Jay Rodriguez took advantage of a lax Ederson move. Matty Phillips also scored for West Brom, but Fernandinho had a goal and an assist while Leroy Sane and Raheem Sterling scored to keep Man City five points clear of the pack.

And it’s also a bit of history for City:

Manchester United 1-0 Tottenham HotspurRECAP

Anthony Martial’s second half goal was the difference as Manchester United missed Paul Pogba nearly as much as Tottenham missed Harry Kane. Here’s hoping both are back come Jan. 31 at Wembley Stadium.

 

Watford 0-1 Stoke City  — RECAP

It’s a badly needed win for Darren Fletcher and Stoke, who scored off a well-designed corner kick that recalled a Paul Scholes goal or two.

Bournemouth 0-1 Chelsea  — RECAP

Eden Hazard beat old teammate Asmir Begovic hard and to the near post to keep the Blues in the Top Four.

Crystal Palace 2-2 West Ham UnitedRECAP

Slaven Bilic‘s Irons looked destined to cruise on goals from Javier Hernandez and Andre Ayew, but Palace converted a penalty kick and then Wilfried Zaha took advantage of a mindless late move from Michail Antonio as the Eagles claimed their fourth point of the season.

Arsenal 2-1 Swansea City — RECAP

Arsenal is looking dangerous again, in control for most of the match despite allowing a Sam Clucas goal on Swansea’s lone first half touch inside the Gunners’ 18. Sead Kolasinac and Aaron Ramsey scored for the Gunners, who are fifth but level with fourth place Chelsea on points.

Liverpool 3-0 Huddersfield Town  — RECAP

Town goalkeeper Jonas Lossl stopped a Mohamed Salah penalty kick in the first half, but that only slowed the roll of Jurgen Klopp‘s Reds in a highly-publicized battle with his best man: ex-Mainz teammate David Wagner. Georginio Wijnaldum, Daniel Sturridge, and Roberto Firmino scoring for Liverpool.

STANDINGS

Team GP W D L GF GA GD Home Away PTS
 Manchester City 10 9 1 0 35 6 29 4-1-0 5-0-0 28
 Manchester United 10 7 2 1 23 4 19 5-0-0 2-2-1 23
 Tottenham Hotspur 10 6 2 2 19 7 12 2-2-1 4-0-1 20
 Chelsea 10 6 1 3 18 10 8 2-1-2 4-0-1 19
 Arsenal 10 6 1 3 19 13 6 5-0-0 1-1-3 19
 Liverpool 10 4 4 2 17 16 1 3-2-0 1-2-2 16
 Watford 10 4 3 3 15 18 -3 1-2-2 3-1-1 15
 Newcastle United 9 4 2 3 10 8 2 3-1-1 1-1-2 14
 Burnley 9 3 4 2 8 9 -1 1-2-1 2-2-1 13
 Southampton 9 3 3 3 8 9 -1 2-2-2 1-1-1 12
 Huddersfield Town 10 3 3 4 7 13 -6 2-2-1 1-1-3 12
 Brighton & Hove Albion 9 3 2 4 9 10 -1 2-1-1 1-1-3 11
 Stoke City 10 3 2 5 11 20 -9 2-1-2 1-1-3 11
 West Bromwich Albion 10 2 4 4 9 13 -4 1-3-1 1-1-3 10
 Leicester City 9 2 3 4 12 14 -2 1-1-2 1-2-2 9
 West Ham United 10 2 3 5 10 19 -9 2-0-2 0-3-3 9
 Swansea City 10 2 2 6 7 12 -5 1-0-4 1-2-2 8

 Everton 9 2 2 5 7 18 -11 2-0-3 0-2-2 8
 Bournemouth 10 2 1 7 6 14 -8 1-1-3 1-0-4 7
 Crystal Palace 10 1 1 8 4 21 -17 1-1-3 0-0-5 4

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Hart rages after “so unprofessional” West Ham misery

John Walton/PA via AP
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Joe Hart is not used to this, at all.

The West Ham United keeper is used to battling for the top spots in the table, and at worst was a mid-table scrapper with Torino last season.

[ RECAP: Palace 2-2 West Ham ]

But his Irons tossed aside a 2-0 lead at Crystal Palace on Saturday, a silly decision from Michail Antonio allowing the Eagles to race to the other end and score a 97th minute equalizer through Wilfried Zaha.

Hart was baffled. From the BBC:

“I can’t believe we have done that. We fought all the way to the end and then we have been so unprofessional. It is two points dropped. As simple as that.”

It could cost manager Slaven Bilic dearly, with the under fire boss hoping his team’s midweek League Cup fight back at Tottenham would’ve lifted the team into a promising place.

Instead, West Ham’s snared just a single point and sit 13th instead of 10th. Those margins, frankly, are killing the Hammers.

“It feels like a defeat. We knew that the game was not over at 2-0 up at half-time. I am very disappointed with the penalty, but the way we conceded the leveler was very disappointing. We needed to keep the ball and we made the wrong decision with Michail Antonio choosing to cross the ball rather than keep it.”

Antonio was in the Palace corner deep into stoppage time, but instead dribbled toward the goal mouth before meekly giving away possession.

West Ham is one of the more infuriating sides in the Premier League, capable of sublime goals like Javier Hernandez’s opener but also just as adept at tossing aside leads in calamitous fashion. That, ultimately, feels like it will be Bilic’s undoing.

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Crystal Palace 2-2 West Ham: Palace snatch dramatic point

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  • Hernandez, Ayew put Hammers ahead
  • Palace launch incredible comeback
  • Zaha scores in 97th minute

Crystal Palace fought back to draw 2-2 against West Ham United at Selhurst Park on Saturday as Slaven Bilic‘s threw away three points.

The Hammers went 2-0 up early thanks to goals from Javier Hernandez and Andre Ayew but Palace came roaring back in the second half as Luka Milivojevic‘s penalty kick made it 2-1.

Joe Hart was in sensational form to deny Palace on multiple occasions as the Hammers looked like they would hold on to win a huge London derby but then Michail Antonio failed to hold the ball in the corner and Palace broke with Wilfried Zaha scoring a superb goal to make it 2-2. Cue bedlam at Selhurst Park.

With the draw the Hammers move on to nine points, while Palace stay bottom but now have four points on the season.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

A cagey opening first half saw both teams feel their way into the game but Palace soon had to make a chance as Patrick Van Aanholt came off and Timothy Fosu-Mensah came on at left back.

The game then exploded into life.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

West Ham went 1-0 up after Aaron Cresswell‘s cross from the left found Hernandez and his unorthodox finish flew into the net as Mexico’s all-time leading goalscorer has his fourth goal of the season for the Hammers.

Soon after it was 2-0 to the Hammers and Ayew scored a superb solo goal as he ran from close to the halfway line before cutting onto his left peg and slamming home a wonderful shot off the bar and in. 2-0 to West Ham.

Palace went close to getting back into the game as Joe Hart twice denied James Tomkins and Wilfried Zaha from close range and then Ruben Loftus-Cheek should’ve done better at the back post.

[ MORE: Latest Premier League standings ] 

The Eagles were handed a lifeline early in the second half with Andros Townsend shoved in the box by Angelo Ogbonna and a penalty kick was awarded.

Milivojevic scored the spot kick to make it 2-1 and moments later it should’ve been 2-2. Yohan Cabaye smashed an effort against the post and the ball almost struck Joe Hart on the back as it rebounded into play.

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]

Palace peppered West Ham’s goal late on as they pushed hard for an equalizer with Hart denying Zaha and then Cabaye’s brilliant free kick.

The Hammers looked like they would hold on but Antonio failed to keep the ball in the corner in the 96th minute and Palace broke with Zaha scoring with one of the last kicks of the game to make it 2-2.