World Cup qualifying

BRASILIA, BRAZIL - JUNE 23: (L-R) Willian, Neymar and David Luiz of Brazil react after defeating Cameroon 4-1 during the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil Group A match between Cameroon and Brazil at Estadio Nacional on June 23, 2014 in Brasilia, Brazil.  (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)
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Brazil names squad to face trauma and Messi in WC qualifiers

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RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) Brazil not only faces Argentina in World Cup qualifying next month but also the ghost of the 7-1 debacle against Germany in the 2014 World Cup semifinals, coach Tite said on Friday.

Brazil plays Lionel Messi’s side in the same Mineirao Stadium in Belo Horizonte on Nov. 10. Five days later, Brazil is in Peru.

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“The psychological work has been perfectly placed. We have to see that two years have passed. That time has brought us maturity,” Tite said at his squad announcement. “It is the same stadium, but we have to know that this is a different moment.”

There were few changes to the squad, which features the return of Bayern Munich winger Douglas Costa and Real Madrid defender Marcelo after injuries, and the absence of Chelsea midfielder Oscar.

Tite started out with convincing victories against Ecuador, Colombia, Bolivia, and Venezuela, which lifted Brazil from sixth position in South American qualifying to first. But his dream of coaching the five-time world champion will seem more real, he said, when they meet fifth-place Argentina and Messi.

“I am living a dream that every Brazilian coach has. To be in a Brazil v Argentina is a great honor,” he said. “To face Messi and all his virtues is such a challenge.”


Goalkeepers: Alisson (Roma), Weverton (Atletico Paranaense), Alex Muralha (Flamengo).

Defenders: Dani Alves (Juventus), Fagner (Corinthians), Filipe Luis (Atletico Madrid), Marcelo (Real Madrid), Miranda (Inter Milan), Gil (Shandong Luneng), Marquinhos (Paris Saint-Germain), Thiago Silva (Paris Saint-Germain), Rodrigo Caio (Sao Paulo).

Midfielders: Casemiro (Real Madrid), Fernandinho (Manchester City), Giuliano (Zenit St. Petersburg), Renato Augusto (Beijing Guoan), Paulinho (Guangzhou Evergrande), Philippe Coutinho (Liverpool), Lucas Lima (Santos), Willian (Chelsea).

Forwards: Douglas Costa (Bayern Munich), Gabriel Jesus (Palmeiras), Neymar (Barcelona), Roberto Firmino (Liverpool).

AFC World Cup qualifying: Two surprise nations on pace for Russia

WELLINGTON, NEW ZEALAND - JUNE 14:  Remi Nassalan of Senegal hold off the challenge of Otabek Shukurov of Uzbekistan during the FIFA U-20 World Cup New Zealand 2015 quarter-final match between Senegal and Uzbekistan at Wellington Regional Stadium on June 14, 2015 in Wellington, New Zealand.  (Photo by Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images)
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A pair of surprises would be headed for Russia if Asian World Cup qualifying finishes the way it stands after four match days.

Because of that, we’d also have an incredible playoff match for the fifth spot with Japan and South Korea points off the pace.

[ MORE: UEFA World Cup qualifiers ]

The surprises come courtesy of Uzbekistan and Saudi Arabia. The former some of us saw coming, the latter not-so-much.

Here’s how it all played out on Tuesday.

Iran 1-0 South Korea

Sardar Azmoun continued his insane run to start life as a senior international, as the 21-year-old Rostov striker netted his 16th goal in 22 caps for Iran, which is atop Group A while Korea Republic slips third.

Uzbekistan 2-0 China

The White Wolves rebounded from a home loss to Iran to clinch its third win of qualifying on two second half goals. Veteran Marat Bikmaev and 20-year-old Otabek Shukurov scored for the hosts.

Australia 1-1 Japan

Aston Villa midfielder Mile Jedinak converted a 52nd minute penalty to keep Australia in an automatic qualifying spot, one point ahead of Japan. The visitors opened the scoring through Hertha Berlin winger Genki Haraguchi in the fifth.

Saudi Arabia 3-0 United Arab Emirates

Both sides had the chance to take advantage of group powers Australia and Japan drawing, and it was the Saudis who got the job done on goals from three different players. The Green Falcons lead Group B with 10 points, while UAE is a point back of Japan and sits fourth.

Qatar 1-0 Syria

The lone goal of the game comes from a Hassan Al Haidous penalty.

Iraq 4-0 Thailand

Not one, not two, not three, but four goals came from 23-year-old Mohannad Abdul-Raheem, who plays for Al-Zawra’a SC in Iraq.

Assessing the field after three matchdays of UEFA World Cup qualifying

CARDIFF, WALES - OCTOBER 09:  Gareth Bale of Wales challenges goalkeeper Giorgi Loria of Georgia during the FIFA 2018 World Cup Qualifier Group D match between Wales and Georgia at Cardiff City Stadium on October 9, 2016 in Cardiff, Wales.  (Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images)
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UEFA World Cup qualifying is 364 days away from its final group stage match day, with thirty percent of matches in the books ahead of next month’s fourth batch of games.

If it all wrapped up today, uneven schedule and all, we’d see five Pot 1 sides heading to Russia: Germany, Belgium, England, Spain, and Croatia. Two Pot 2 sides — France and Switzerland — would join them, while Serbia (Pot 3) and Montenegro (Pot 4) complete the nine automatic bids.

[ MORE: Tuesday’s UEFA roundup ]

Headed to the playoffs would be eight of the following team, with the remaining ninth second-place team eliminated: Azerbaijan, Ireland, Portugal, Sweden, Poland, Lithuania, Italy, Greece, and Iceland.

Notable names who would miss out on the 2018 World Cup? Iceland, Ukraine, Slovenia, Slovakia, Denmark, Wales, Austria, Northern Ireland, Czech Republic, and Netherlands (amongst others).

Perhaps you’re asking which of these national teams currently have misleading statuses? Let’s take a look.

Netherlands (Group A, third place)
The Dutch sit third, but have already played two of its toughest matches. Danny Blind’s side lost 1-0 at home to France and drew 0-0 at Sweden. It’s a tough group, but the Dutch still have plenty of hope of catching second-place Sweden.
Verdict: Contender

Azerbaijan (Group C, second place)
These guys might be for real in the race to finish 1-2 with Germany, who is 3-0 and cruising. Azerbaijan have scooped a road point at Czech Republic while winning at home against Norway. Second place and a playoff bid is a legit thought.
Verdict: Contender

Czech Republic (Group C, fifth place)
Conversely, the Czechs are in real trouble with their winless start. Two home draws gave points to Azerbaijan and Northern Ireland, giving them loads of work to do on the road to make up points on the field.
Verdict: In real trouble

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Wales (Group D, third place)
Gareth Bale and the Dragons are two points back of Serbia and Ireland, which doesn’t seem bad until you consider Wales has played the fourth, fifth, and sixth place teams in the group. The home draw against Georgia is tough to stomach.
Verdict: Not dire, but not good

Montenegro (Group E, first place)
A draw at Romania and a win in Denmark have the Brave Falcons dreaming big, and deservedly so. Given the relative on-field struggles of Poland — who still have 7 points — and a November date with in Armenia, Montenegro should be in first over the four-month break.
Verdict: Contender

England (Group F, first place)
No, the Three Lions have not looked good in a single match of qualifying. But England is unbeaten through three and has the two toughest road matches out of the way (draw to Slovenia, win over Slovakia). England is probably going to Russia (Yes, already).
Verdict: Contender

UEFA World Cup qualifying: England listless in Slovenia; Montenegro flying

LJUBLJANA, SLOVENIA - OCTOBER 11:  Daniel Sturridge of England reacts during the FIFA 2018 World Cup Qualifier Group F match between Slovenia and England at Stadion Stozice on October 11, 2016 in Ljubljana, Slovenia.  (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)
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There were far fewer goals in Tuesday’s batch of UEFA World Cup qualifiers, as traditional names struggled in Europe.

[ MORE: Bradley on Serie A rumors ]

England will be left scratching their heads after a poor performance but fine point, while surprising Montenegro now leads its group after three match days.

Denmark 0-1 Montenegro

Dynamo Moscow striker Fatos Beqiraj scored his seventh international goal, and Montenegro won despite Denmark’s healthy advantage in shot attempts. Romania’s draw means Montenegro sits atop Group E.

Slovenia 0-0 England

Turns out the problem wasn’t Wayne Rooney alone.

England played another tricky qualifier, and would’ve been down 1-0 if not for a phenomenal second half save from Joe Hart.

Hart was injured on the play, but stayed in the game to bail out Three Lions on several occasions.

[ MORE: Analyzing Bob Bradley to Swansea ]

England was sloppy, and Danny Rose and Daniel Sturridge misfired late on rare occasions that saw the side provide genuine threats to the Slovenian goal.

And it was Rooney’s 78th minute shot off the bench, wearing No. 18, that seemed to put England in control. And Manchester United teammate Jesse Lingard forced a terrific save out of Atletico Madrid backstop Jan Oblak.

Poland 2-1 Armenia

Despite a 30th minute red card to Marseille back Gael Andonian of the visitors, Poland only found the net via an own goal in 90 minutes. Both of those goals came just after halftime in a match that saw the hosts attempt nearly 20 more shots. One of those came from Robert Lewandowski in the fifth minute of stoppage, and Poland scraped by with a win.

Slovakia 3-0 Scotland

Zenit Saint Petersburg winger Robert Mak scored twice for the hosts, then crossed for Adam Nemec to head home in the 68th minute.

Germany 2-0 Northern Ireland

Julian Draxler and Sami Khedira scored goals in a four-minute span to give the Germans a two-goal lead well before halftime.

Norway 4-1 San Marino

If you Google the name Stefanelli, you’ll find pages of results before you get to Mattia Stefanelli. There’s a candy shop, a meteorologist, a chef, a politician, and even a Maryland running back.

But this Stefanelli provided an equalizer on San Marino’s only shot on target of the first hour of play in Norway on Tuesday, and surely his countryman care more deeply about this than how many yards the Terps get on the ground this weekend.

[ MORE: Klinsmann wants no change in WC qualifying ]

Unfortunately for the minnows, Hull City striker Adama Diomande snapped Norway back into the flow and West Ham teenage starlet Martin Samuelsen gave the hosts insurance five minutes later. Another Premier Leaguer, Bournemouth’s Joshua King, scored late to further ice the match.

Lithuania 1-0 Malta

Fiodor Černych scored in the 75th minute to help the hosts to all three points, and Arvydas Novikovas added the insurance goal.

Kazakhstan 0-0 Romania

Three total shots on target in this barnburner.

Czech Republic 0-0 Azerbaijan

Robert Prosinečki’s charges continue fine qualifying run with huge road point.

World Cup qualifying: Asian sides face separation day on Tuesday

South Korea's Son Heung-min, left, celebrates with his teammate Ki Sung-yueng after scoring a goal, during the World Cup qualifying soccer match between South Korea and Qatar, at Suwon World Cup Stadium in Suwon, South Korea, Thursday, Oct. 6, 2016. (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)
AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon
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A quartet of miserable performing sides means very few Asian sides can feel even close to certain about their slots in Russia after Tuesday’s fourth match day.

Thailand, Iraq, and Qatar have failed to find a single point through three matches, while China is barely better thanks to a home draw with Iran.

We could see some separation from the pack at the top end and some lifelines at the bottom come Tuesday, however. No less than three matches pit teams with six or seven points.

[ MORE: $225 million offer for Neymar? ]

The day begins with the probable best of the bunch. Ageless Tim Cahill and Australia dropped their first points of qualifying in Thursday’s draw in Saudi Arabia, and now host Japan in Melbourne. The Samurai Blue has rebounded from an opening day upset at home to UAE, but those were expected wins against Thailand and Iraq. Australia is a different story.

No players have scored more in qualifying than UAE‘s Ahmed Khalil and Saudi Arabia‘s Mohammad Al-Sahlawi, with 14 goals each. Both will aim to go atop Group B, hopeful of an Australia loss or tie.

Over in Group A, things are only a little less congested between the Top Four. World Cup veteran sides Iran and South Korea will tangle. The hosting Taegeuk Warriors have yet to lose in qualifying and the same can be said for Team Melli. Should be a fun one.

As for the lifelines, Iraq hosts Thailand and a loser would be a minimum of six points adrift of even a World Cup playoff spot. Qatar needs to hold serve against a Syria side which could sneak into the Group A discussion with a road win.

Tuesday matches
Australia vs. Japan — 5 a.m. ET
Iraq vs. Thailand — 8:30 a.m. ET
Uzbekistan vs. China — 9 a.m. ET
Iran vs. South Korea — 10:45 a.m. ET
Qatar vs. Syria — Noon ET
Saudi Arabia vs. UAE — 1:45 p.m. ET