World Cup Confederations Preview: UEFA Part 2

With the 2014 FIFA World Cup Final Draw now just two days away, we continue our look at how the rest of the world qualified. Here’s part two of our look at Europe.

With the 2014 FIFA World Cup Final Draw now just two days away, we continue our look at how the rest of the world qualified. Here-s part two of our look at Europe.

World Cup Stats: Europe

Number of member countries: 53 Number of qualifiers: 13 Number of winners: 5 Italy (1934; 1938; 1982; 2006) West Germany (1954; 1974; 1990) England (1966) France (1998) Spain (2010) FIFA 2014 World Cup participants: Spain, Germany, Belgium, Switzerland, Netherlands, Italy, England, Portugal, Greece, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia, Russia, France.

On Monday, we looked at Groups A-F in the UEFA Qualifiers. Today, we look at how the three remaining group winners and the play-off winners qualified for Brazil 2014.

Bosnia-Herzegovina: It was a two-horse race in Group G between Bosnia-Herzegovina and Greece. Eventually, Bosnia-Herzegovina prevailed on goal difference, after both sides finished on 25 points. Bosnia-Herzegovina dropped just five points throughout the qualification stage and they had the Group G top scorer in their side, Manchester City striker Edin Dzeko (10 goals).

England: England, such dominant qualifiers for the last World Cup when Fabio Capello was coach, did things the hard way in Group H. Heading into the final double header of matches, it was between England and Ukraine for the automatic qualification spot, and the loser would play France in a play-off. England held their nerve, beating Montenegro 4-1, then Poland 2-0 at Wembley, to book their place in Brazil. Wayne Rooney, with seven goals, was the top scorer in Group H.

Spain: In Group I, Finland, Georgia and Belarus never stood a chance. It was always going to be between Spain and France for the top spot and eventually Spain finished in first place on 20 points, three clear of France. Olivier Giroud-s 94th minute equaliser meant that honours were even when the two teams first clashed. The difference was Spain-s 1-0 win in March this year, courtesy of Pedro-s second half goal.

Portugal: Portugal, runners up in Group F, faced off against Sweden, runners up in Group C. The tie was billed as Ronaldo v Zlatan, and so it proved. A Ronaldo goal gave Portugal a 1-0 win at home in the first leg in Lisbon. The away game though, will go down as an epic. Ronaldo-s away goal had Portugal in control, before Zlatan pulled one back. He scored again four minutes later, to level the scores at 2-2 and give Sweden hope. Ronaldo had other ideas, scoring twice more to complete an unbelievable hat-trick.

France: The France v Ukraine tie will be remembered as one of the great comebacks. The first leg was in Kiev and Ukraine stole a 2-0 win, with goals from Roman Zozulya and Andriy Yarmolenko, from the spot. Ukraine “parked the bus” in the second leg at the Stade de France, but the home side mustered all the spirit of the French side that won the 1998 FIFA World Cup Final at the same ground. Centre back Mamadou Sakho was the unlikely hero. He and Karim Benzema scored in the first half to level the score, before Sakho popped up again in the 72nd minute to score the goal that sent France to Brazil.

Greece: Greece, only defeated in Group G on goal difference, took on Romania in their two-legged play-off. Konstantinos Mitroglou scored twice in the first leg as the Greeks won 3-1 at home, before scoring again in a 1-1 draw in the second leg in Bucharest. The 4-2 aggregate victory saw Greece progress comfortably to Brazil 2014.

Croatia: The final play-off tie saw Croatia, runners up in Group A, clash with Iceland, surprise runners up in Group E. Croatia was big favourites to progress, but a 0-0 draw in Reykjavik in the first leg gave Iceland hope that they could complete a remarkable victory. The second leg in Zagreb though was a different story and goals from Mario Mandzukic and Dario Srna gave the hosts a 2-0 win and progression to the main tournament.