World Cup Confederations Preview: UEFA


With the 2014 FIFA World Cup Final Draw now just four days away, we continue our look at how the rest of the world qualified. Here’s part one of our look at Europe.

With the 2014 FIFA World Cup Final Draw now just four days away, we continue our look at how the rest of the world qualified. Here-s part one of our look at Europe.

World Cup Stats: Europe

Number of member countries: 53
Number of qualifiers: 13

Number of winners: 5 Italy (1934; 1938; 1982; 2006) West Germany (1954; 1974; 1990) England (1966) France (1998) Spain (2010)

FIFA 2014 World Cup participants: Spain, Germany, Belgium, Switzerland, Netherlands, Italy, England, Portugal, Greece, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia, Russia, France.

Europe is the largest continent in terms of nations competing for a place at the World Cup and with 13 nations in the world-s top 20 at the time the Final Draw seedings were made, it is arguably the most competitive. Correspondingly, UEFA received 13 places for the tournament in Brazil – more than double any other federation. Interestingly 12 of the 13 countries in the top 20 won through, with just France (21) qualifying ahead of Ukraine (20), suggesting it also has one of the fairest systems in place.

This European qualification process started back in September 2012, after Euro 2012 with all 53 EUFA member countries included in the draw. In round one, teams competed in eight groups of six teams and a single group of five teams. All countries played each other home and away to decide the final standings in the group.

The nine group winners qualified, while the eight best runners-up – ranked according to all their games except for games against the sixth-placed team in their group – entered into the play-offs for the four remaining spots.

The nine countries that topped their group to automatically book their place for Brazil were: Belgium, Italy, Germany, Netherlands, Switzerland, Russia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, England and Spain. The play-off winners being Portugal, France, Greece and Croatia.

UEFA will have four countries in the seeded pot (Spain, Germany, Belgium and Switzerland). The remaining nations will go in a European pot, with their lowest ranked qualifier (France) will likely to end up in a pot with the South America and African qualifiers. The precise makeup of the Final Draw pots will be confirmed by FIFA tomorrow.

Here we take a look at how half of Europe-s qualifiers topped their group.

Belgium: The Belgians qualified as the winners of Group A, streaking ahead of Serbia and Croatia to book their spot. At the time the seedings were awarded (based on October-s rankings) they were ranked fifth in the world. Despite recently dropping six places many consider the Belgium a dark horse for the tournament. Australia has never played Belgium in an international.

Italy: The four-time World Cup winners qualified as the leaders of Group B, going undefeated in their group with a six wins and four draws record. The Italians recorded two wins against Malta and wins against Armenia and Denmark in their first five games to ease their passage to Brazil. The Socceroos have only played Italy once in an international – that infamous World Cup exit at Kaiserslautern in the 2006 World Cup.

Germany: The Germans accrued the equal most points in their play-offs with a record of nine wins and one draw, scoring the most goals of any European nation in the process to top Group C. The World No.3 side only dropped points at home to Sweden where they somehow let a four goal half time lead slip. The Socceroos defeated the Germans the last time these two sides met, when they recorded a 2-1 victory in March 2011.

Netherlands: The Netherlands were the other nation to accrue an amazing 28 points through the qualification process, doing so with the best goal difference of any nation. The Dutch scored an amazing 34 goals, while only conceding five to top Group D. Australia are one of the few nations who enjoy an unbeaten record against the Dutch, notching a win and two draws in our three internationals.

Switzerland: The Swiss progressed to Brazil as the winners of Group E, fending off competition from Iceland and Slovenia to book a place in the seeded pot in the process. Switzerland will be making their tenth appearance at a World Cup and have progressed to the quarter-final stage on three occasions. The Socceroos played out a goalless draw with Switzerland on the one occasion they-ve met back in 2010.

Russia: The Fabio Capello coached Russia qualified as the winners of Group F. It was no mean feat, either, as they finished a point ahead of Portugal, despite only drawing with Azerbaijan in their final match. Brazil 2014 will be Russia-s third World Cup, they previously qualified for USA 1994 and Korea/Japan 2002. The Socceroos have never played Russia in an international fixture.

On Wednesday, we’ll take a look at how the rest of Europe qualified.