FIFA World Cup playoffs begin Wednesday; Mexico, Uruguay favored … but on the spot

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Mexico has done this before, positioning its kickoff for an afternoon start – the better to exploit all its advantages of playing at Azteca Stadium. Who could blame them? All is fair in love and $650 million World Cup berths.

Kickoff is set for 2:30 p.m. locally (or 3:30 p.m. ET); the game can be seen on ESPN, Univision or Univision Deportes.

Why get started during the day when more Mexicans could take in an evening kickoff time, which is more typical of a mid-week match? New Zealand players will struggle to deal with the thin air (altitude is over 7,000 feet) as it is. All the better if they also must deal with the hottest possible afternoon temperatures, not to mention a time of day when smog levels reach their ickiest.

All of this is after the All Whites traveled halfway around the world to arrive over the weekend into Mexico City.

More on the match itself Wednesday at ProSoccerTalk on Wednsday.

Meanwhile, don’t forget that Jordan and Uruguay also begin their home-and-away playoff; Wednesday’s first leg is in Amman, Jordan. Liverpool’s Luis Suarez is warning anyone who will listen that Jordan cannot be taken lightly by his country.

But the oddsmakers say: uh, go ahead and take them lightly. If you know a guy who knows a guy, the odds you’ll get on Jordan getting past Suarez, Edinson Cavani and the rest of Uruguay’s talented team, never mind that wobbly World Cup qualifying effort, land anywhere from 9-1 to 16-1.

Them ain’t good odds.

More on Jordan is here.

The European playoffs (also home-and-away sets with a berth in Brazil on the line) begin Friday. As a reminder, here are those matchups:

  • Greece-Romania
  • Portugal-Sweden
  • Ukraine-France
  • Iceland-Croatia