World Cup prognoses for all confederations

AP Photo/Natacha Pisarenko
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Eight teams are headed for the 2018 World Cup, while only a half-dozen others should feel comfortable with their tickets to Russia.

Here’s where it stands in terms of who’s in, who’s likely in, and who’s reached the next step with a playoff berth.

[ MORE: Should USMNT go 3 at the back? ]


Qualifying in a nutshell

IN: Russia (hosts), Brazil, Belgium, Iran, Japan, South Korea, Saudi Arabia, Mexico

NEARLY THERE: Costa Rica, Uruguay, Germany, Serbia, England, Spain.

PLAYOFF BOUND:
(Australia vs. Syria winner) vs. (CONCACAF fourth place)
(CONMEBOL fifth place) vs. New Zealand


Africa

— Tunisia controls its own destiny with a three-point lead on DR Congo and no matches between the two.

— Nigeria leads Zambia by three points ahead of an Oct. 7 meeting between the two. A win will ensure a spot, while a draw would put it on the precipice via a significant goal differential advantage.

— No one’s been eliminated in Group C, though Mali is an extreme long shot. Ivory Coast leads the group, a point ahead of Morocco, and two clear of Gabon.

— Senegal is now in pole position after FIFA ruled that a match-fixing scandal demanded a replay between South Africa and the Senegalese. Full breakdown here.

— Egypt has a two-point lead on Uganda, and two will not meet. Ghana is four back of Egypt, but could be eliminated before it gets a chance to face the Egyptians on Nov. 6.

Best guesses: Tunisia, Nigeria, Ivory Coast, Senegal, Egypt.


CONCACAF 

Costa Rica needs a point to join Mexico in Russia.

Panama will clinch an automatic spot with a win over the U.S. on Oct. 6, before hosting presumably-safe Costa Rica on Oct. 10.

— The United States will get an automatic spot with a win over Panama on Oct. 6 and by bettering Panama’s result versus Costa Rica.

— Honduras heads to Costa Rica on Oct. 6 and hosts Mexico on Oct. 10.

[ MORE: USMNT’s World Cup scenarios ]

Panama has 10 points, while the USMNT and Honduras have nine. One will automatically qualify for Russia, while another will face Australia or Syria over two legs in November. A third will be left out in the cold.

Best guesses: USMNT finishes 3rd, Panama to playoff where it loses to Australia.


CONMEBOL

One of the most fun and breakneck tournaments in sports, Brazil is in, Uruguay as close to being in as Ecuador and Paraguay are to being out, and both Bolivia and Venezuela are out.

Remaining opponents
2. Uruguay (27 pts) – Venezuela (A), Bolivia (H)
3. Colombia
 (26 pts) – Paraguay (H), Peru (A)
4. Peru (24 pts) – Argentina (A), Colombia (H)
5. Argentina (24 pts) – Peru (H), Ecuador (A)
6. Chile (23 pts) – Ecuador (H), Brazil (A)
7. Paraguay (21 pts)– Colombia (A), Venezuela (H)
8. Ecuador (20 pts) – Chile (A), Argentina (H)

Uruguay, Colombia, and Argentina should be relatively happy with their routes, while there is — stunningly — a scenario in which Chile wins both its matches and still misses out on an automatic playoff spot. Of the teams in the Top Four, Peru has looked good but faces the hardest route to stay in a slot. Of the teams beyond, both Argentina and Chile will like their chances of catching Peru. Paraguay would set up one of the wildest final days ever if it wins in Colombia on Oct. 5.

Best guesses: Uruguay, Colombia, Argentina qualify; Chile to playoff win over New Zealand.


UEFA

— France only has a one-point lead on Sweden thanks to a surprise draw with Luxembourg. The Netherlands will hope to pull at least a three-goal win over the visiting Swedes on the final day while at least matching their result on Oct. 7. Bulgaria needs a wild array of results, but is alive.

— Switzerland has a three-point lead on Portugal, who has 11 goals better differential. The two sides meet in Portugal on Oct. 10 at which point the EURO champs will likely have strengthened their almost insurmountable GD advantage, but will still need a win.

— Northern Ireland is likely heading to the playoffs unless it beats Germany in N.I. on Oct. 5, and then wins in Norway while Germany loses at home to Azerbaijan.

— Serbia needs to choke to allow Wales or Ireland into the top spot, while the Welsh hold a one-point advantage over the visiting Irish should it come to their Oct. 9 meeting. Austria needs to win both — likely by multiple goals — then hope both Wales and Ireland are upset in their Oct. 6 matches before drawing each other.

— Three teams are alive in Group E, with Poland leading Montenegro and Denmark by three points. The latter hold four-goal advantages in differential on Poland. Montenegro hosts Denmark and visits Poland, while Denmark also hosts Romania and Poland heads to Armenia. No one is safe, but Poland could solidify its advantage with a multi-goal win in Armenia.

— Second-place Slovakia has one-point and goal differential edges on Slovenia and Scotland. Scotland faces both its rivals, while Slovakia hosts Malta and Slovenia is off to England. Any of the three could win the playoff spot.

— Group G likely belongs to Spain, which has a three-point and 17-goal advantage on Italy, who needs just a point from a home match with Macedonia to make a final day meeting with Albania moot. The Albanians would have to win at Spain, then beat visiting Italy while making up 11 goals of differential and seeing Italy lose at home to Macedonia.

— Bosnia and Herzegovina are the favorites to nail down second, with a one-point edge on Greece and a four-point lead on Cyprus. BNH has to host mighty but already-qualified Belgium while Cyprus hosts Greece on Oct. 7. A road win over Roberto Martinez’s men would leave it with a trip to Estonia, while Greece’s last day is a visit from lowly Gibraltar and Cyprus is off to Belgium. Greece could be in the best position here.

— At the risk of writing another 900 words, Group I is jammed up. Croatia and Iceland have 16 points, while Turkey and Ukraine have 14. Here’s how they finish:

Croatia (16 pts, +9 GD): vs. Finland, at Ukraine
Iceland (16 pts, +4 GD): at Turkey, vs. Kosovo
Turkey (14 pts, +4 GD): vs. Iceland, at Finland
Ukraine (14 pts, +4 GD): at Kosovo, vs. Croatia

Your guess is as good as ours. Tricky, tricky group.

Best guesses:

Group winners — France, Portugal, Germany, Serbia, Poland, England, Spain, Belgium, Iceland, Turkey

Second-place* — Sweden, Switzerland, Northern Ireland, Republic of Ireland, Denmark, Slovakia, Italy, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia

*Republic of Ireland misses out on playoffs as lowest-ranked second-place team.

West Ham gets breakthrough win, goals for Scamacca and Bowen

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West Ham United won a proper scrap with Wolves on Saturday at London’s Olympic Stadium, using a beautiful goal from Gianluca Scamacca and a clever finish from Jarrod Bowen to post a 2-0 win.

WATCH WEST HAM vs WOLVES FULL MATCH REPLAY STREAM

The Irons win their second match of the year to move clear of the bottom three with seven points.

Wolves now occupy 18th place on the Premier League table with six points, but will feel hope at the performance of Diego Costa off the bench for the final 32 minutes.

[ MORE: How to watch Premier League in USA ]


What we learned from West Ham vs Wolves

Gianluca Scamacca is feeling comfortable: He was spotted visibly angry when a teammate’s sloppy first touch destroyed an early chance, and Scamacca is obviously not sheepish about his role in the team. He also clearly wanted to take a start over Michail Antonio to make his case to start every week. His thunderous goal from the edge of the 18 should’ve adequately made it.

Diego Costa flashes: The big, tempestuous veteran striker still knows where to be on the pitch and was just put off enough on a powerful header that went wide of the goal. Costa was a fine hold-up man, something Wolves have used to thrive when Raul Jimenez is at or near his best. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see Costa become the positive difference in 3-4 matches this season… maybe even next Saturday against old pals Chelsea?

Declan Rice: Speaking of the positive difference, Declan Rice is a force from endline-to-endline.

West Ham vs Wolves
fotmob.com

Jarrod Bowen reaction: ‘Just what we needed’

“It’s just what we needed. We haven’t had the start we wanted, and we had an international break to regroup our thoughts and go out on the front foot. We suffered without the ball but what this manager does is we’re a tough team to break down and we can counter. Massive three points for us, and we’ve got a lot of games now.”


Gianluca Scamacca reaction: First Premier League goal ‘amazing’

“It was an amazing feeling, for the fans. We needed to win. Today we worked very hard and made a good victory.”


Tactical focus

Declan Rice, Lucas Paqueta, and Tomas Soucek going up against Joao Moutinho, Ruben Neves, and Matheus Cunha was a grind and we think all deserve ice baths. Not so much a midfield muddle as a melee, Neves and Paqueta were kept from their creative best in order to snap into tackles, though Rice stepped forward to seize the day on several occasions

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]


Stars of the Show

Declan Rice

Jarrod Bowen

Rayan Ait-Nouri


What’s next?

Wolves have a trip to Anderlecht for Thursday action in the Europa Conference League before Fulham visits London’s Olympic Stadium on Sunday, Oct. 9.

Wolves will reunite Diego Costa with Chelsea come 10am ET Saturday.


How to watch West Ham vs Wolves live, stream link and start time

Kick off: 12:30 pm ET, Saturday
TV channel: NBC
Online: Stream via NBCSports.com


Key storylines & star players

For both sides, the goal-scoring woes are a result of not only a failure to convert scoring chances, but also their inability to create them. West Ham and Wolves both rank in the bottom five of the Premier League in expected goals with identical paltry 0.9 xG averages (per 90 minutes). No other side in the Premier League is anywhere close to underperforming their expected numbers by more than 50 percent.

Goals have come much more easily for West Ham in the Europa Conference League, where they have scored three goals in all four games thus far — six in two games against Danish side Viborg, and three apiece against Romanian runners-up FCSB and another Danish side in Silkeborg.

Wolves made the effort to be a better attacking side this season, as they spent $18 million on Sasa Kalajdzic, but the Austrian international striker tore his ACL on his debut for the club. Raul Jimenez, meanwhile, has played just 211 minutes in three Premier League appearances (none since Aug. 31) and has just one goal, in the League Cup. The Mexican international is now in a race against time to be healthy and fit for the 2022 World Cup eight weeks from now.


West Ham team news, injuries, lineup options

OUT: Nayef Aguerd (ankle), Benjamin Johnson (hamstring)

Wolves team news, injuries, lineup options

OUT: Raul Jimenez (groin), Sasa Kalajdzic (torn ACL), Nathan Collins (suspension), Chiquinho (knee)

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Liverpool vs Brighton goal fest features Trossard hat trick

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Brighton and Hove Albion refused to go away, giving new manager Roberto De Zerbi a memorable debut in a 3-3 draw with Liverpool at Anfield on Saturday.

Leandro Trossard scored twice early to give the Seagulls a 2-0 lead and completed his hat trick after the hosts had rallied behind a Roberto Firmino brace and an Adam Webster own goal to lead 3-2 with 27 minutes left in the 90.

WATCH LIVERPOOL vs BRIGHTON FULL MATCH REPLAY STREAM

Brighton remains fourth and now has 14 points through seven games, good for fourth and no worse than fifth depending on the result of the Manchester derby on Sunday.

Liverpool sits ninth with 10 points through seven games. Both clubs have a match-in-hand on most of the field.

[ MORE: How to watch Premier League in USA ]


What we learned from Liverpool vs Brighton

De Zerbi’s dynamic start: Life after Graham Potter was plenty good going forward for Brighton and Hove Albion, but Roberto De Zerbi’s buzz might wear off when he watches the Seagulls defending. Only a little, though, because every team gives up chances to Liverpool and the Reds were pretty due to bang some home (Mohamed Salah is now very much overdue for a big, big game of finishing… bookmark that one).

Liverpool’s defense messy, messy, messy (Yes, Jurgen, especially Trent): There Is not a level-headed person alive who would deny Trent Alexander-Arnold his status as one of the best right-sided playmakers in the world. There’s an argument that he’s could become his generation’s Andrea Pirlo as a central midfielder. But he’s not playing central midfield, and teams are targeting his side of the pitch and finding joy. As Jordan Henderson ages out and Thiago Alcantara and Fabinho exist as cover, how long before Jurgen Klopp finally says, “Yes, okay, here” to those who see what everyone else sees: a dynamic player who turns 24 on Friday and isn’t improving at the defensive duties of a right back but intercepts passes so well.

That said, his performance is less of a talking point if Virgil van Dijk connects on a clearing attempt of the Brighton cross that became Trossard’s third goal. This game could’ve been 6-5 and while we would’ve loved that entertainment, Klopp has to wonder what’s next. Andy Robertson and Ibrahima Konate were missing but Liverpool’s spent plenty for depth that’s been disappointing (and Joel Matip isn’t exactly paid like a depth piece, is he?).

Trossard top of his game: The Belgian international now has five goals and two assists through seven Premier League games for Brighton this season, which is pretty, pretty good. The 27-year-old is now an every-game player and part-time starter for Belgium, and what a nice place he’s made for himself at the Amex.


Jurgen Klopp reaction: Liverpool problem ‘not in our DNA’

“Directly after the game it is a massive knock,” said Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp. “N, slowly but surely, we feel that is just the situation and we will get through. We got a point and not what we wanted.

“We are a dominant team and want to have the ball so when you give these goals away I know it is a problem. We have to find the solutions. We have to keep going. It is nothing in our DNA. It just happens and now it happens more often. This is a period where we struggle. We have to fight through this situation. We cannot fight anymore today though we just have to admit.”


Tactical focus

Maybe it’s the increased focus on the performances of Trent Alexander-Arnold, but it sure does seem like teams are targeting the right side of Liverpool’s defense.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]


Stars of the show

Leandro Trossard: Away hat tricks at Anfield are pretty rare.

Roberto Firmino: Guess that Darwin Nunez signing really can be for the (near) future, as Firmino has five goals and three assists in his last four Premier League outings.

Thiago Alcantara: 10-of-12 duels won and two key passes while drawing six fouls.


What’s next?

The challenge isn’t going to get any easier for Liverpool, who hosts Arsenal in eight days after a Champions League visit from Rangers on Tuesday. Brighton gets stung Tottenham in another test of top-four mettle.


Liverpool vs Brighton score

Liverpool: 3 (Firmino 33′, 54′, Webster o.g. 63′)

Brighton: 3 (Trossard 4′, 17′, 83′)


Leandro Trossard goal video(s): Belgian gives De Zerbi dream start

Roberto Firmino goal video: Liverpool pulls one back

Leandro Trossard hat trick video: Seagulls overcome blown lead for point


How to watch Liverpool vs Brighton live, stream link and start time

Kick off: 10am ET, Saturday
TV Channel/Online: Stream via Peacock Premium


Key storylines & star players

Is Liverpool ready to turn chances into goals at a more familiar rate? The Reds’ expected goal total for this season is close to leaders Manchester City and Arsenal but its actual goal production is fifth and somewhat-inflated by their nine-goal beatdown of Bournemouth previously this season.

Brighton, meanwhile, has to show that it’s getting a handle on life after Graham Potter, as De Zerbi’s credentials say things might not look too different. The former Sassuolo and Shakhtar Donetsk boss craves possession in his teams and delivers chances as a boss in the manner you’d expect from a former attacking midfielder.


Liverpool team news, injuries, lineup options

OUT: Calvin Ramsay (lower back), Curtis Jones (tibia), Ibrahima Konate (knee), Naby Keita (thigh), Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (thigh), Andrew Robertson (knee), Caoimhin Kelleher (groin), Ibrahima Konate (knee),

Brighton team news, injuries, lineup options

OUT: Jakub Moder (knee), Adam Lallana (lower leg), Enock Mwepu (illness).

Conor Gallagher breaks Crystal Palace hearts with late Chelsea winner

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Crystal Palace vs Chelsea recap: The Blues erased an early deficit and Conor Gallagher scored the late winning goal (his first for the club) as new manager Graham Potter made his Premier League debut at Selhurst Park on Saturday.

[ MORE: How to watch Premier League in USA ]

Odsonne Edouard got on the end of a fantastic cross from Jordan Ayew in the 7th minute as Crystal Palace began brightly and threatened in behind on a number of occasions early on. Chelsea hit back through Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang in the 38th minute, setting the stage for Gallagher to come off the bench and score the stunning winner. Gallagher, of course, starred on loan to Palace last season before being recalled to Chelsea in the summer.

WATCH FULL MATCH REPLAY


What we learned from Crystal Palace vs Chelsea

Thiago Silva avoids red card, sets up equalizer 5 minutes later

Chelsea’s race was nearly run in the 33rd minute, when Thiago Silva was caught napping and lost the ball in acres of space. As Ayew darted past the Brazilian, who was now lying flat on his stomach, Silva stuck out his left hand and slapped the ball away to prevent the counter-attack (and likely scoring chance). Referee Chris Kavanagh showed Silva a yellow card, deeming that either (or a combination of) the distance from goal (roughly 35 yards out) and at least one recovering defender meant there wasn’t an obvious goal-scoring opportunity to be denied.

Five minutes later, Silva headed the ball down for Aubameyang to rifle it home. From nearly a goal and a man down, to level on both, in 300 seconds.

Christian Pulisic down Potter’s pecking order, too

When Kai Havertz came off in the 76th minute, rather than inserting Pulisic (or any other attacking player for that matter) into the game, Potter instead brought on an extra central midfielder in Gallagher. Potter always thinks outside the box, though — seamlessly shifting team shape more narrow or wider, higher or deeper, extra man in midfield or out wide — always willing to make the first move in the tactical chess match, to play the game on his terms.

So, let’s not read too much into Pulisic sitting on the bench (for 84 minutes), but it’s clear he’ll have to make a whole lot out of very little to impress Potter and regain a regular place in the team. Right on cue, it was Pulisic who made the zig-zagging run past two defenders to set up Gallagher for the winner. No small contribution for a player currently out in the cold.


Reaction from Crystal Palace vs Chelsea

Conor Gallagher, on scoring his first Chelsea goal and doing so against Chelsea…

“It’s a very special moment to come on and get the winner and my first goal for Chelsea.

“It was written in the stars. Unfortunately it came against Palace but I’m just buzzing to get my first goal.

“Everyone knows how much I loved it here, and I thank the whole club and the fans — even today with the reception they gave me.

“Hopefully I can build a bit of confidence with the goal and push on. I want to work as hard as I can for him [manager Graham Potter] and be available wherever he needs me, whether starting or coming off the bench.”

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How to watch Crystal Palace vs Chelsea live, stream link and start time

Kick off: 10am ET, Saturday
TV Channel: USA Network
Online: Stream via NBCSports.com


Key storylines & star players

What will Graham Potter’s first Premier League XI look like come Saturday? Kepa Arrizabalaga could be in goal if Edouard Mendy is not ready, but will Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang remain a starter? Are Jorginho and Mateo Kovacic locks for the midfield? Lots to monitor as Christian Pulisic, Conor Gallagher, Ben Chilwell, and Hakim Ziyech will hope to have made a major impression.

Palace has played well against the “Big Six” this year, leading Man City 2-0 before an Erling Haaland hat trick, drawing Liverpool, and losing on Opening Day vs Arsenal while holding 57% of the ball and matching the Gunners in shots and shots on target. A win over the Blues sure would do the trick.


Crystal Palace team news, injuries, lineup options

QUESTIONABLE: James McArthur (groin) | OUT: James Tomkins (calf), Nathan Ferguson (ankle), Jack Butland (hand)

Chelsea team news, injuries, lineup options

QUESTIONABLE: Edouard Mendy (knee), N’Golo Kante (thigh)

Brentford on lucky end of Bournemouth penalty decision, scoreless draw

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Bournemouth vs Brentford recap: The Bees were perhaps lucky to escape with a point, thanks to a curious penalty decision, in a 0-0 draw at Vitality Stadium on Saturday.

[ MORE: How to watch Premier League in USA ]

The game’s biggest moment came in the 20th minute, when Brentford defender Kristoffer Ajer appeared to slide through Bournemouth left back Jordan Zemura. Ajer made no contact with the ball (he could have, as it appeared well within his reach) before pulling out of the challenge, leaving his legs high and catching Zemura who tried to hurdle the outstretched defender.

Referee Thomas Bramall initially said no foul, and then maintained that position following his own lengthy video review session.

Ivan Toney made a goal-line clearance at one end of the field and missed the game’s best scoring chance at the other, both in the second half as Brentford controlled possession and looked the likeliest to score in the stalemate affair.

WATCH FULL MATCH REPLAY


How to watch Bournemouth vs Brentford live, stream link and start time

Kick off: 10 am ET, Saturday
Online: Stream via Peacock Premium


Key storylines & star players

Brentford sit 9th in the Premier League table, even after only seven games, is no small achievement for a tiny club that only made its PL debut a year ago. They look like they belong in the top half of the table as well, with their 15 goals scored bested by only Manchester City, Tottenham and Arsenal — the top three sides in the league heading into matchweek 8. Ivan Toney is back to his goal-scoring best with five in seven games, chipping in a pair of assists as well as he continues to prove himself a complete player at the top level, resulting in his first England call-up (but not appearance, yet) last week.

Bournemouth are trying to replicate Brentford’s top-flight success after returning to the Premier League this season. Without a star center forward like Toney (six goals scored, 4th-fewest in the PL), the Cherries will frequently look to grind out results by keeping clean sheets, only their defensive record (19 conceded in seven games) runs to the contrary.


Bournemouth team news, injuries, lineup options

OUT: David Brooks (fitness), Lloyd Kelly (knee), Joseph Rothwell (thigh), Benjamin Pearson (undisclosed), Ryan Fredericks (undisclosed)

Brentford team news, injuries, lineup options

OUT: Christian Norgaard (achilles) | QUESTIONABLE: Keane Lewis-Potter (knock), Ethan Pinnock (knee)

Follow @AndyEdMLS