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Four nations that qualified for the World Cup on Friday



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World Cup

Three more European countries and a South American side booked their spots at next summer’s World Cup in Brazil thanks to victories on Friday night.

We look at how these nations did it and whether or not they can look forward to a successful campaign in eight months’ time when the tournament gets underway.


A pair of Radamel Falcao penalties helped Colombia to a 3-3 draw with Chile, which sent them to the World Cup.

Jose Pekerman has got the Coffee Growers up to fifth in FIFA’s world rankings, but they are relative outsiders at 25/1 to lift the trophy next summer.

Don’t think Colombia are all about the predatory Falcao up front either. River Plate attacker Teofilo Gutierrez, FC Porto’s Jackson Martinez and Sevilla summer signing Carlos Bacca are just some of the alternative options.

There is also the graft of Fredy Guarin (Inter Milan) and Abel Aguilar (Toulouse) to go with the guile of James Rodriguez (AS Monaco) in midfield.

Ageing legs in defence in Mario Yepes, 37, and Luis Perea, 34, however, explain the odds you can get. Veteran goalkeeper Faryd Mondragon is also still in squads, but acts as backup to OGC Nice stopper David Ospina.


Gokhan Inler

Ottmar Hitzfeld used an experienced spine supplemented with talented youngsters as he guided Switzerland to the World Cup finals courtesy of a tricky away win in Albania.

Ranked 14th in the world going into this final round of qualifiers, the Euro 2008 co-hosts are a massive 125/1 to taste glory in Brazil.

Getting to the tournament has seen the blueprint of a miserly defence from previous attempts successfully replicated. Steve von Bergen no longer has Arsenal affiliates Philippe Senderos or Johan Djourou as his centre back partner.

Fabin Schar, who has caught the eye in Europe with FC Basel, has broken into the Swiss XI because of his proficiency at set pieces.

Napoli pair Gokhan Inler and Valon Behrami, once of West Ham United, are part of that experienced core with keeper Diego Benaglio.

In attack you can expect the Swiss to send forwards aged 25 or younger to the World Cup. They have struggled to score on the big stage before, however, so punters should be reticent about backing them.


Joachim Low

Joachim Low eased past the Republic of Ireland without using a recognized striker and consigned Sweden to the lottery of the playoffs.

Germany, as you would expect, are among the favourites to win the World Cup. Behind hosts Brazil they are reckoned as likely to taste glory as holders Spain and top South American qualifiers Argentina at 5/1.

Strength in depth is obvious here. Captain Philipp Lahm, midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger and forwards Lukas Podolski and Miroslav Klose have well over 400 caps between them. Only Spain boasts similar amounts of international experience.

Low’s biggest challenge may be getting his roster down to 23. Preparations can begin now as Germany, ranked third best in the world, bid to win a fourth World Cup.

Arsenal pair Per Mertesacker and Mesut Ozil have key jobs at either end of the pitch. Expect a strong Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund presence in German ranks following their Champions League final meeting last May.


Romelu Lukaku

The dark horse tag has been shed here as Marc Wilmots guided the Red Devils to a decisive win over Croatia in the Maksimir. They are now ranked in the world’s top six.

Romelu Lukaku, yes it’s mystifying why Jose Mourinho let him go out on loan, won that match for Belgium in the absence of other main striker Christian Benteke.

Odds of 14/1 are still decent, but represent the latest dramatic slashing of Belgium’s World Cup price throughout the qualifying campaign.

From goalkeeper to centre forward there is competition for places. The squad practically picks itself. For Wilmots, the big question is does he try to make talented teenagers Zakaria Bakkali (PSV Eindhoven) and Adnan Januzaj (Manchester United) part of his plans?

Belgium have so many Premier League regulars on their roster, British audiences can be forgiven for adopting them as a side to follow next summer – whether England qualify or not.

Injuries could make or break their chances of going far. This is definitely a team to watch at the World Cup.