The worrying, hand-wringing and nail-biting from fan boys across the world can stop. Cristiano Ronaldo will be at the 2018 World Cup. Portugal dominated the UEFA Group B title bout for a surprisingly easy 2-0 win over Switzerland on Tuesday in Lisbon. The result put both teams on 27 points, with Portugal earning the group’s automatic World Cup qualifying berth by virtue of goal differential and the Swiss going to the UEFA playoff.
France, fresh off a successful albeit ultimately disappointing Euro 2016, secured automatic qualification to the 2018 World Cup after defeating Belarus 2-1 on Tuesday. Goals from Antoine Griezmann and Olivier Giroud confirmed France’s passage from a tricky UEFA qualifying group also containing Sweden, the Netherlands and Bulgaria.
Lionel Messi might not go to the World Cup. Argentina need to win in Ecuador, a country they have only won in once in the last 56 years, to guarantee at least a spot in a playoff to go to Russia.
This is disheartening for most soccer fans, because Lionel Messi is the best player in the world and a joy to watch. His resume speaks for itself: five Ballon d'Ors, 2014 World Cup Golden Ball, La Liga all-time top goalscorer, Argentina all-time top goalscorer, 30 trophies won with Barcelona.
As much as Bruce Arena wants you to believe CONCACAF has the toughest World Cup qualifying cycle, North America and the Caribbean have nothing on Africa. Take Gabon, for instance, which is blaming orange juice for its 3-0 loss to Morocco, which ended Gabon World Cup hopes on Saturday.
The USMNT has a mean streak now. They're still the team that lost to Costa Rica and drew Honduras last month, and that still needs at least a draw against Trinidad & Tobago to be completely sure of not being knocked out of World Cup qualifying, but when they want to be dickish, this team can be gloriously dickish.
Serbia is back in the World Cup after defeating Georgia 1-0 in its final match of UEFA World Cup qualifying on Monday in Belgrade. The victory gave Serbia 21 points in Group D, enough to finish ahead of second-place Ireland, which edged third-place Wales with a 1-0 victory for a spot in the UEFA playoffs.
A brace from Australia’s all-time leading scorer, Tim Cahill, was enough to see the Socceroos narrowly edge Syria 2-1 after extra time, 3-2 on aggregate, in Sydney. Cahill’s header in the 109th minute completed the Aussie turnaround and sent them into the inter-confederation playoff, most likely against Panama or Honduras, at the expense of a spirited Syrian side that pushed them until the very end.