The Arabian tussle for coveted World Cup 2014 spots


Photo - Asian Football Confederation

The World Cup is undoubtedly football's grandest arena.

The dream and epitome of every footballer from east to west, it is fast approaching its climax with nations all over the world vying for their place among the best of the best. Many nations are competing for a spot in the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, with few Arab nations left vying for the coveted two automatic berths offered to Asian Football Confederation nations, along with two playoff spots.

With just a couple of rounds left, we analyse the chances of each remaining Arab nation in the qualifying stage for next year's finals in Brazil.

Jordan


Jordan football team.  Photo - Jordan Football Association

Jordan's national football team, also known as "The Chivalrous", probably have the best chance among the five Arab nations left to qualify for the 2014 Football World Cup. The side, led by respected Iraqi manager Adnan Hamad, has had its ups and downs throughout the campaign from memorable win against Australia, continental heavyweight, to a humiliating loss at the hands of Japan.
 
Despite the checkered track record, they are currently in the mix for the most sought after spot alongside Australia and Oman in Group B. Left with a couple of tricky fixtures against both sides, Jordan's performances so far should give them the confidence to prevail under challenging circumstances. With the calming presence of shrewd Hamad and quality players like Amer Deeb, Hasan Abdel-Fatah and Amer Shafi, The Chivalrous have every right to feel confident that this may be their year.

Iraq

Iraq football team. Photo - Mohan/Doha Stadium/ Flickr under Creative Commons License

The "Lions of Mesopotamia" was perhaps the most upbeat team about before playing Oman in Muscat on 4 June. However, not everything went according to the plan. Despite boasting the likes of Younis Mahmood and Nashat Akram, reckoned as one of Asia's best footballers, the Iraqi football team did not live up to the expectations and sits at the bottom of the Group A.

However, Iraq still has got an extra game in hand and things could quickly sway into their favor in a hot-heeled competition. They need to regroup and their big players, who have given a disappointing performance so far, need to take charge by scruff of the neck, given the trickiness of their remaining fixtures - an away fixture against Australia, along with a tie against runaway leaders, Japan. Things don't look too promising after a 1-0 defeat to Oman. Having said that, Iraq's illustrious football history and top quality players, one should write off the "Lions of Mesopotamia" at their own peril.

Oman

Oman football team. Photo - Mohan/Doha Stadium/ Flickr under Creative Commons License

Just like Jordan, Oman also stands a fine chance of receiving that elusive ticket to Brazil 2014. The "Red Warriors", led by former Lyon manager Paul Le Guen, have proven to be a stiff competition for its rivals despite being written off by many detractors. A home win against Jordan and two commendable away draws against Australia and Iraq confirm that notion.

Oman proved they are a force to be reckoned with after a well-deserved home victory against the latter in Muscat on 4 June, which moved them to second place above Jordan and Australia. Their remaining away fixture against Jordan is going to be a challenging, but definitely winnable one. It's squeaky bum time and for their top players to stand up and be counted. They may never have a bigger opportunity than this!

Qatar

Qatar football team. Photo - Mohan/Doha Stadium/Flickr under Creative Commons License

"The Maroons" have struggled to stamp their mark in Group A sitting at fourth position just ahead of bottom side, Lebanon. Despite boasting fine players of the likes of former Asian player of the year Khalfan Ibrahim and Sebastian Soria, the team has struggled against South Korea and Uzbekistan - sides that stand a bigger chance of qualification and most likely to go through. They limped to victory twice against struggling Lebanon, and have endured a tough time away from their home-court.

Qataris still have a slim chance of qualification with just a few points separating them from the top two sides and an extra play-off still to come for the third-placed team from the two groups. The other heavyweight in contention is Iran, which has managed to defeat Qatar on their home turf. However, The Maroons' chances for automatic qualification are pretty slim.

Lebanon