National soccer teams compete in playoffs to reserve spot in 2014 World Cup

Alex Kontopanos, Photo Editor

“All In One Rhythm.”
That’s the slogan for the 2014 World Cup.
This international FIFA soccer tournament will be held in Brazil from June 12 to July 13. It is the 20th World Cup, and Brazil is hosting for the first time since 1950.
For those of you who don’t understand the way the World Cup system works, it’s fairly simple. Each country had a team, with players from teams of different regions or provinces in the country. The teams (of the countries) play teams from other countries in that same continent to qualify. The teams that qualify go to the World Cup.
Some continents have already had their play-offs to decide the qualifying teams. For example, Asia has 4.5 qualifying teams: Australia, Japan, Iran and Korea Republic. Jordan will be playing Uruguay Nov. 13 and 20 for the Intercontinental Play-Offs.
In North, Central America and Caribbean, there are 3.5 qualifying teams: Costa Rica, the United States and Honduras. Mexico, the fourth to place, will play in an Intercontinental Play-Off against New Zealand.
New Zealand is the only qualifying team for the Oceania continent.
In South America, Brazil automatically qualifies because they’re hosting the games. Other qualifying teams include Argentina, Chile, Ecuador and Colombia.
In the Europe, 13 teams qualify.
So far, the qualifying teams are Belgium, England, Italy, Russia, Switzerland, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Germany, Netherlands and Spain. There are four spots left for qualified teams. The play-offs continue as the following teams go head-to-head on Nov. 15 and 19: Iceland vs. Croatia, Portugal vs. Sweden, Ukraine vs. France and Greece vs. Romania.
Ranked number one in the American and Caribbean zone, the United States holds a record of 11- 3. Led by coach Jürgen Klinsmann, “the sky might just be the limit in Brazil” for the team, according to the FIFA website. Key players to watch for are forward Jozy Altidore, midfielder Clint Dempsey, central midfielder Michael Bradley and forward Landon Donovan.
In the South American zone, Argentina is ranked the highest and shows great potential, especially with Lionel Messi, winner of four consecutive FIFA Ballon d’Ors, to lead the team. Other strong players include forward Carlos Tévez, midfielder Ángel Di María and midfielder Javier Mascherano.
Europe brings promising teams to the games such as Spain, Germany and Belgium, ranked first, second and third respectively in their continental zone. Audiences will keep a close eye on Spain’s midfielders Xavi Hernández, Andrés Iniesta and Xabi Alonso and forwards Fernando Torres and David Villa. Spain has also gone undefeated since the first match with a record of 6-0 and are defending their title as champions of the 2010 World Cup.
With a record of 9-0, Germany shows strength and talent. Featuring key players like keeper Manuel Neuer and midfielder Mesut Özil, this team has potential to make it to the finals.
One of the most anticipated play-off games is Portugal vs. Sweden. With the famous forwards Cristiano Ronaldo and [Luís] Nani and defenders Pepe and Fábio Coentrão going head-to-head with Sweden’s powerful forwards, Zlatan Ibrahimović and Kim Källström, there is no doubt this game will be interesting to watch.
For more information about match dates and times, visit: fifa.com/worldcup/preliminaries/matches.
Information from the FIFA website.

2014 World Cup Fun Facts:
Official mascot: tatu-bola (an armadillo native to Brazil) named “Fuleco” (a combination of Futbol and Ecologia)
Official ball: Adidas Brazuca
Number of host cities: 12
Estimated tickets available: 3.3 million
When the 2014 world cup trophy will make its appearance in USA: April 14-20
Final match location: Maracana Stadium, Rio de Janeiro