World Cup Group F
There is the general sense that the action is far from done in Group F of the FIFA 2014 World Cup qualification in Europe. The Russian powerhouses have been making up for a dismal Euro 2012 by running straight out of the blocks, rattling of four wins in a row without conceding a single goal. You can’t ask for a much better start on the road to a World Cup than that. The natural power, technical ability and flair of Russia really should see them coast the rest of the way to book their place at Brazil 2014. So are the Russians likely to be deposed from the top of the group after their early form? It is highly unlikely and they will remain outright favourites to take the automatic qualification spot.
However, the race behind them looks as if it is going to be massively interesting. Israel and Portugal both opened with the same record after four games, making the scrap for second spot very intriguing. What makes it even more interesting is that they still have to face each other twice in the group and they will be big matches. Those are really the only two who are likely to get themselves in the frame for a place at the 2014 World Cup. Israel showed a tremendous eye for goal over the early qualification stage, helped by big wins over Azerbaijan and Luxembourg. They did lose against Russia, but yet so did the Portuguese.
Portugal just about qualified for the 2010 World Cup after a near disastrous qualifying campaign but then bowed out in the round of sixteen at the finals, knocked out by Spain. A struggle through the qualification process was the same for the Portuguese as they eyed a place at Euro 2012. They only came through a play off to reach the finals after finishing second in their qualification group. To their credit they took the most of their chance, playing some enterprising football and losing in the semi finals, again to Spain.
So there looks to be a great battle ahead between Israel and Portugal for the qualification spot behind the Russians. Making up the group, Northern Ireland, who did earn themselves a tremendous 1-1 draw in Portugal against the odds, Azerbaijan and Luxembourg all look to be falling well short of the quality needed to push for a place at Brazil 2014.