Oct 132014

The international break continues, and if anything, a number of upsets have made things in Europe much more interesting than expected. Along with Euro and Africa Cup of Nation qualifiers, we are adding Women’s World Cup Qualifiers! Here’s what’s worth watching.

As always, ACNQ=2015 African Cup of Nations Qualifier; BSE=BeIN Sports Español; BIS=BeIN Sports; EQ=Euro 2016 Qualifier; FS1=Fox Sports 1; FS2=Fox Sports 2; WWCQ=2015 Women’s World Cup Qualifier.

Monday Oct 13

10:30-12:30. ESPN. International Friendly. Oman v Uruguay. This is an odd match that I can’t figure out why ESPN would show, other than perhaps that Luis Suarez would have completed the term of his ban from world football after the famous biting incident at the World Cup. But every source I can find says he is still banned for 2 more weeks.

1:45-4pm. ESPN2. EQ. Bosnia-Herzegovina v Belgium. A year ago these team were seen as two possible dark-horse candidates from Europe to go deep at the World Cup. But then Bosnia failed to even qualify, while it took 120 minutes for Belgium to beat the unfancied US. Bosnia’s fortunes have fallen even farther, with only 1 point in their first two games. Belgium’s only game to date has been a win, but that was at home against minnow Andorra. Just how much sterner a test will Bosnia be?

1:45-4pm. FS1. EQ. Iceland v Netherlands. Tiny Iceland has had a great start to qualifying, beating Turkey at home 3-0 and then winning Friday at Kazakhstan by the same score. The Dutch will be looking for a better road result than their first one, a loss at the Czech Republic.

1:45-4pm. FS2. EQ. Wales v Cyprus. The Welsh are currently leaders of their bracket, but Cyprus has been overperforming thus far in the tournament as well. Will one of the two teams come back down to Earth?

Tuesday Oct 14

1:45-4pm. ESPN. EQ. Denmark v Portugal. Denmark currently lead their group with a win and tie, while Portugal is in last after a home loss; can World Player of the year Cristiano Ronaldo turn things around for his country?

6-8pm. BSE. International Friendly. El Salvador v Ecuador.

7-9:30pm. ESPN. International Friendly. USA v Honduras. A very young US squad put in a decent performance against Ecuador last week. Now Klinsmann has released a number of players and called in somewhat more experienced replacements. I think he’s looking for a win here.

8:15-10:15. BIS. International Friendly. Canada v Columbia. Columbia easily handled El Salvador, 3-0. Can one of the most exciting South American sides do as well against a Canada that is desperate to become a bigger force in our region?

8-10pm (Repeat). FS1. EQ. Germany v Ireland. When is a good time to play current World Cup champs Germany? Perhaps never, but perhaps the answer is now: Germany just lost 2-0 to Poland on Saturday while Ireland smashed Gibralter 7-0, with LA Galaxy forward Robbie Keane getting a hat trick.

Wednesday Oct 15

9-11am. BIS. ACNQ. Cameroon v Sierra Leone. Cameroon has had a very strong qualifying run, with 2 wins and a draw. But that draw came at Sierra Leone, and should be considered a bit of a let-down as Sierra Leone have lost their other games. But a win would see Cameroon sitting very comfortable indeed, all but qualified.

12-2pm. BIS. Côte d’Ivoire v Congo DR. If Ivory Coast and Cameroon both get the win today, this group will be pretty much finished. But although Congo DR does not have a strong history of soccer, nor a particularly good record, their one win this campaign has come on the road.

2-4pm. BIS. ACNQ. Ghana v Guinea. Ghana have been the class of Africa for the last two World Cups, managing to play with both flair and discipline. But on Saturday they faced a much tougher game at Guinea than they would have expected, getting only a draw. Can they get the win at home this time, or will Guinea continue to make this one of the tightest groups in ACN qualifying?

5-7:30pm. FS2. WWCQ. Guatemala v Haiti. Frankly, neither of these countries have much of a history in Women’s soccer, but with the 2015 Women’s World Cup (to be played in Canada!) expanding from 16 to 24 teams, 3 of the 8 remaining teams in CONCACAF will qualify, with the 4th place team entering a playoff against Ecuador. And one of the 8 remaining teams is actually ineligible to compete in the World Cup, meaning more than half the teams will have a chance to compete in the finals. That said, this is still more an appetizer for the next game, and a chance to see how the women’s game is progressing in the smaller nations in our region. Almost a third of the Guatemalan teams plays either college or semi-pro soccer in the US.

7:30-10pm. FS2. WWCQ. USA v Trinidad and Tobago. The US women kick off the final phase of their World Cup Qualifying campaign, and while no one doubts they will qualify they are also the biggest team in the region, and the one all the others will be gunning for. Unfortunately there is a bit of a cloud hanging over the team as goalkeeper and star Hope Solo is under indictment for assault in a domestic violence case, and many feel she should have been dropped from the team until the trial was over. On a positive note, Abby Wambach, the leading scorer, male or female, in international soccer history, seems to just keep going and will play a role in this campaign. Can she continue to push the record forward (currently at 170 goals)?

Thursday Oct 16

5-7:30pm. FS2. WWCQ. Jamaica v Martinique. Martinique is the team that cannot advance to the knockout rounds. They are ineligible to earn a spot in the Women’s World Cup because they are not a member of FIFA, as they are a department of France. So why are they even playing? Well, one of the oddities of international soccer is that although they are not a member of FIFA, they are a member of CONCACAF, and this tournament is not only a qualifying event for the FIFA Women’s World Cup, but also a tournament in its own right: the 2014 CONCACAF Women’s Championship. It certainly would be interesting if they finished high enough to qualify, though.

7-9pm. ESPN. MLS. Houston Dynamo v New England Revolution. With their loss last night, the Dynamo were denied a playoff spot for only the second time in their nine-year history. New England have already qualified, but will want to fight to maintain their 2nd place position and home-field advantage in the conference playoffs. NE midfielder Lee Nguyen has had a phenomenal season this year, making him one of the short list candidates for league MVP.

7:30-10pm. FS2. WWCQ. Costa Rica v Mexico. Mexico, until recently, was sometimes called the “US B team”, owing to the large number of Mexican-Americans either born or raised in the US on the team. Even though that is no longer a fair assessment, it is still true that proximity to the US still makes for a large influence, as around a quarter of the team was born in the US, and another quarter played college soccer here.

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