Five Tottenham players are still hoping that their countries will make it to the World Cup Finals in Brazil. Their hopes of a competitive summer of football are looking bleak as France, Iceland and Romania play the second leg of the play-offs tonight.
All three countries would have been hoping for more positive results from the 1st leg matches and rather surprisingly it could be Iceland who are in the best position to make it to the Finals next June.
After their hard-earned scoreless draw at home to Croatia, they know that a score draw in Zagreb would see them qualify for the finals for the first time in their history and become the smallest country to reach the Finals of a World Cup competition.
Gylfi Sigurdsson and the Iceland team know that they have a difficult task ahead of them but will have taken encouragement that having played for most of the second half with 10 men, that the more experienced Croatia team failed to take advantage in spite of dominating possession. Iceland have shown fighting qualities in the Group stages of the competition and will not give up this opportunity lightly. Another encouragement to them will be that Croatia lost their final two home matches in the qualifiers to Belgium and Scotland. they have since changed manager but are not at their best and Iceland players will be hoping to unsettl ethem early on. The Croatia team on Friday evening had three former Spurs players in their starting line-up, goalkeeper Pletikos, Vedran Corluka and Luka Modric while Nico Kranjcar was an unused substitute.
The odds favour Croatia with home advantage and experience but lookout for a shock from the battling Iceland team with Sigurdsson a very important member of the team.
Hugo LlorisHugo Lloris will be hoping for a vast improvement in his team in the 2nd leg in Paris against Ukraine. France are two goals down having conceded twice in the last 29 minutes while both teams were reduced to ten men in stoppage time. France must keep a clean sheet in order to give themselves any chance of making the finals. They have to score two goals and need a third unless the game is going to go to the lottery of penalties after extra-time.France will hope for an early goal to set them on the road but Ukraine will be difficult opponents with a two-goal advantage from the first match.
As Lloris captains the France team, two of his Tottenham colleagues will also be hoping for a positive result from Paris. Younes Kaboul and Etienne Capoue who were both in the France team before their injuries would be looking to regain their place in the squad for the finals. If France fail to make the Finals it will be the first time in 20 years that they have not taken part although it was a close call last time as they progressed through the play-offs in very controversial circumstances with Thierry Henry’s handball against Ireland.
Vlad ChirichesIt had appeared that Vlad Chiriches would have to watch and wait. Having captained Romania in the recent group matches he missed the 1st leg against Greece due to the nose injury sustained against Newcastle and had been expected to miss the return game. The latest news, from 101 great goals, however, indicates that he could play wearing a face mask to protect his nose and could also wear it for Spurs match on Sunday at Manchester City. Speaking to the media in Romania about the mask after wearing it in training Chiriches said,
I feel very good with the mask, it do not interfere at all.
Like France, Romania face a difficult task having lost 1 – 3 in Athens. With an away goal Romania know that a two goal win would take them through. As with France they will be looking to score early to give themselves a boost and create some uncertainty in the minds of the Greek team.
Five Tottenham players with aspirations for a summer of World Cup football but there is the possibility that none of them will be meeting up with the other Tottenham players whose countries are already assured of their place in Brazil. It will be a tense evening as these three matches are played out around Europe and while the players’ thoughts will be solely on World Cup qualification, Andre Villas-Boas will be hoping for no further injuries to his players in this round of internationals.