Monday, November 25, 2013

Happy Trails #43-33: So Close, Yet So Far

The final spot was booked, the full field is set, and the fearing and fretting has kicked into high gear before the World Cup Draw on Friday, December 6th.

We're exploring ways to cover the Draw live on the blog, and we'll make sure to include some more analyses of those teams who recently added their names to the roster before all that analysis is rendered utterly irrelevant by the actual draw.

But before we do any of that we should tip our hats in the direction of the last 11 teams to fall short of Brazil. In the last qualification round of our Happy Trails posts.

File:Federatia Romana de fotbal.png#43 La Revedere, Romania
Why they lost: After surviving the battle royale type scrum with Hungary and Turkey to snare second place. Romania ran into the Greek buzz saw. Losing the first leg 3-1 meant that, no matter how stout the back line of Razvan Rat and Vlad Chriches might get, it would take a bundle of goals to get ahead...a bundle of goals they did not have.

What we'll miss: The eternally appealing Romanian spinning soccer ball of death error message on our computer screens, plus occasional allusions to Georghi Hagi and Transylvania.

#42 Hej Da, Sweden
Why they lost: Cristiano Ronaldo. Wait, let me say that again as the Swedes will now say it: "Javla Cristiano Ronaldo". Shortly after Zlatan Ibrahimovic put the Swedes in the contest. Drew them even on aggragate with two masterful goals and appeared to have all the momentum going their way. Ronaldo scored twice to crush all of Solna under his, not inconsiderable boot.

What we'll miss: Zlatan Ibrahimovic. Who sounds like he could be a super hero or a Bond villain, and has an ego to match both of those personas and a talent that gets slightly less overblown media coverage than Ronaldo.

#41 Bless, Iceland
We're upset too Gylfi
Why they lost: They couldn't capitalize when it mattered the most. All square going into the second leg in Zagreb, Croatia. Iceland just needed stout defense and a single goal to win their first cup berth in decades worth of trying. Even after Mario Mandzukic struck to put the Croats ahead--when the home side went down to 10 men, Icelanders were entitled to some confidence. But the offense never materialized and a second Croatian goal sealed the deal.

What we'll miss: The slim, but palpable odds that Icelandic midfielder Gylfi Sigurðsson would not only guide his team to a victory or two in Brazil, but also finalize some sort of historic Brazilian-Icelandic fishing accord.

#40 Budte Zdorovi,  The Ukraine
Why they lost: Overconfidence maybe? The Ukrainians were ranked. The Ukranians were favored. The Ukrainians had a 2-0 lead going into France. But like Ireland 4 years before them, "The Team" was stunned at Saint-Denis, falling 3-0 and not even getting a shot at penalty kicks. Free travel tip to Mahamdou Sakho, don't plan on a tour of Crimea any time soon.

What we'll miss: Say what you will about Russian oligarchs, Ukranian oligarchs are just as crazy (and have a more onomatopoetically appealing ring to them). Better luck next time Petro Poroshenko, Pavlo Lazarenko and Sergiy Tigipko. There's always 2018.

#39 Senebti, Egypt
Why they lost: They lost 6-1 in Kumasi, Ghana during their first leg. Six goals to one. That was the ball game. Sure they won 2-1 at home in the second leg, but it would have taken a lot more from vets Amr Zaki and Gedo to make the difference, it just wasn't coming.

What we'll miss: Bob Bradley. The little appreciated national coach led Egypt to a 66% winning percentage over 2 years, during what was undoubtedly a challenging time for the nation, let alone the national side. Bradley got dumped, and we can only hope that some Egyptian smart aleck posted this question: ماذا عن بوب؟ (That's "What about Bob?" for those of you keeping track at home)

Okay, we won't whip towels, we promise
#38 Dehna Hunu, Ethiopia
Why they lost: As great a story as the Walia made, they just didn't have an answer for Nigeria's striking force, ceding two goal sat home and two goals on the road to turn a marvelous run into a marvelous moral victory.

What we'll miss: Sewnet Bishaw. I'm never going to get tired of cheering for the ex-gym teacher. Here's hoping we bump into you in a teacher's lounge sometime soon.

#37 M'asselema, Tunisia
Why they lost: The Eagles of Carthage had no luck at home and needed a result on the road in Cameroon to move on. Instead they got skunked 4-1. Though perhaps there was some Cape Verde jinx for sneaking into the third round based on disqualifications rather than stellar play.

What we'll miss: Talking about "The Eagles of Carthage" which is probably the best/most historically amusing nickname in all of African futbol. If she were alive today, Queen Dido would be proud (and probably stoned to death by some militant modern day Tunisians for fooling around with Aeneas)
#36 Si jaama, Senegal

Why they lost: I'm going to go ahead and blame Senegal themselves for this affair. Had they not thrown rocks, bottles and other projectiles at Ivory Coast back in October of last year they would have been able to host the second leg of this tie. Instead they had to play in Morocco and could only manage a draw in the biggest game for the country since the '02 cup.

What we'll miss: The sweetly simplistic Senegalese logo, which looks natural, artful, effortless and sincere. You know, all the things that Italian football isn't.

#35 Bilfu, Burkina Faso
Why they lost: The fastest rising stars in African Football, the Stallions of Burkina Faso finished second at this spring's African Cup of Nations. They had a lead over Algeria. They were on the verge of being a second debutante next year at Brazil, and yet it all came undone in a 1-1 draw, because in the 68th minute at Ouagadougou, Carl Medjani scored a second goal. That was Algeria's 2nd away goal. And though the teams finished level on total goals...the away goals were enough to determine that Algeria was a better team despite the fact they didn't beat Burkina Faso in either match. LOGIC!

What we'll miss: The simple joy of seeing a new team revel in the thrill of their first world cup. Sometimes there's no need for snark, just for satisfaction.

Jordan's national team is a step up here...
#34 Salaam, Jordan
Why they lost: Losing 5-0 at home was pretty much all that was required to spell the end of Jordan's run towards Brazil. Though they played more assertively in the second leg, they needed assertiveness more along the lines of "Hulk Smash" than "Hulk hold rival to a very defensively minded draw"

What we'll miss: The inevitable Nike cross-marketing promotion with Michael Jordan

#33 Aaroha Ni, New Zealand
Why they lost: Like Jordan, the Kiwis gave up 5 goals in the first leg (though thankfully on the road), but couldn't fare any better in the second leg than Jordan did. Proving that even the very best that Oceania has to offer is no match for a bedraggled and inconsistent Mexico.

What we'll miss: Tourism suggestions from Flight of the Concords

We know who's in, but do we know who will win? Yes...or rather, we know who will win our wildly inaccurate six month early predictions.

Stay tuned for those

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