Brazil 2014 European Play-Offs: First Leg Summaries and Second Leg Predictions

There are four spots left for European teams at next year’s World Cup in Brazil.

On Friday night the first legs of the play-offs were played and the second leg matches will be played on Tuesday.

Some results looked predictable but some outcomes were perhaps more surprising than others.

Here are summaries of the first legs as well as some predictions on the second legs:

Portugal v Sweden

This match pitted two stars in Cristiano Ronaldo and Zlatan Ibrahimovic against each other. “CR7” scored the solitary goal in a match which Paulo Bento’s side dominated.

Erik Hamren’s side is still in the tie but “Ibra” will need to play a great game for the Swedes to have any chance of qualification. Portugal should be able to hold on and qualify.

Aside from “CR7”, Bento can count on Joao Moutinho, Nani, Raul Meireles and a few others. Hamren lacks another star like Ibra and although Johan Elmander and Sebastian Larsson are decent players, they aren’t world-beaters.

Iceland v Croatia

Lars Lagerback’s side managed to deal with Croatia’s attacks and kept the first leg scoreless. Iceland had to defend after Olafur Skulason was sent-off and Gylfi Sigurdsson came off injured.

The Croatians failed to make their chances count and Niko Kovac’s side must to so in Zagreb. Kovac replaced Igor Stimac recently but the move could backfire if Iceland springs a shock and qualifies for the World Cup for the first time ever.

Greece v Romania

A Greek victory might not have been surprising but the Greeks scoring three might have been. Kostas Mitroglou starred in attack by scoring a brace and veteran forward Dimitris Salpingidis scored the other goal in a 3-1 win.

Despite scoring an away goal, it looks unlikely that Victor Piturca’s team can overcome the deficit in the second leg. The Greeks will probably sit back and defend for the duration. If there is a winner in Bucharest, it will likely be a 1-0 win for Greece.

Ukraine v France

Arguably the biggest shock of the play-offs, Ukraine won 2-0 in Kiev. France was highly-fancied before a ball was kick, especially with the talent at Didier Deschamps’ disposal.

Nasri flopped in midfield but his teammates weren’t much better. Ribery failed to make an impact and Giroud started in attack instead of Karim Benzema.

The Ukrainians don’t have a star like Andriy Shevchenko in their squad but Andriy Yarmolenko is a fine player and Anatoliy Tymoschuk wasn’t even used.

The French need to win by three goals to qualify, which will be a hard task. Perhaps the more technically gifted Benzema should start ahead of the static Giroud for France to have any hope.