Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Happy Trails in 2015 (184-169): Dead on Arrival

This is part of what ought to be a consistent series about the teams eliminated from contention for the World Cup. It ought to be consistent, and I ought to be better about balancing work and personal life. Still, before we embark on another big year in international soccer it's nice to remember those we are destined to forget about in 2015.

There's a lot of them so we'll split it into two posts: first up those teams whose qualification collapsed at the first hurdle.

OFC 1st Round
184 Muo Nofo A, Tonga (2014 Finish #172; -12
Why They Lost: Tonga struggled much more than last time out, failing to gather a single point against their fellow Oceanic Minnows (which is to say their fellow Sardines of world football).

What We'll Miss: All the delightful comedy of the Tongalese youth movement (8 players are Under 23, including three strikers no older than 18 and also fielded 15-year-old Anthony Likiliki.

183 Ka Kite, Cook Islands (2014 Finish #174; -9)
Why They Lost: With a group leading six points entering the final match, a draw would have been enough to see the Cooks [not their nickname] into the next round, instead two second half goals to American Samoa dropped them into a three-way tie and undid the work of Taylor Saghabi who netted all 4 of the Cooks goals.

What We'll Miss: Trying to popularize their national team nickname: THE COOKS!

182 Tofa, American Samoa (2014 Finish #173; -9)
Why They Lost: While both Cook Islands and Samoa walloped little Tonga 3-0, American Samoa had to come back after ceding a first half goal and only took a 2-1 victory. Had they matched the other scores, they'd have had the goal difference needed to move on.
Saelua and Rongen

What We'll Miss: In addition to references to the inimitable Thomas Rongen (known to my Minnesota readers as the former coach of the Tampa Bay Rowdies), there's also the remarkable story of Jaiya Saelua who made her debut as the first transgender athlete in a World Cup qualifier (but failed to appear in this round of qualifying)

CAF 1st Round
181 Ma'as salaama, Djibouti (2014 Finish #171: -10
Why They Lost: Djibouti ceded 7 goals to those bullies from Swaziland. Then again, that was an improvement from their eight-nil drubbing against Namibia last time out. But when you've only played 5 matches in four years, you can't expect top form.

What We'll Miss: The chance to compose satirical...okay, just punny...lyrics to the classic Buddy Hackett song "Shipoopi"

180 Nabad geylo, Somalia (2014 Finish #168 - 12)
Why They Lost: Somalia still can't host any games and gave up two on their Ethiopian "home leg" to Niger. From there the trip to Niamey was more or less a forgone conclusion

What We'll Miss: As someone who lives in the heart of the Somali diaspora I'm still dreaming of an additional excuse to watch a match and gorge on Sambusa.

179 Selamet, Eritrea (2014 Finish #165; -14)
Why They Lost: Four years ago, Eritrea struggled after two years of non competition. This time around, the 18 men called up had a grand total of 13 caps to their names. Botswana won both legs handily.

What We'll Miss: Great coverage of the Eritrean team by local writers...oh wait! No we wouldn't because local dictator Isaias Afewerki is currently celebrating his eighth straight year atop the "least-free press" rankings. When you're suppressing opinions that much, it's hard to work in time on the pitch.

178 M'asselema, South Sudan (Did not exist for 2014 Qualifiers
Why They Lost: Despite a first leg draw at home (when all the scoring was done in the first 5 minutes), South Sudan ceded four goals in Mauritania to seal their fate.

What We'll Miss: After decades of struggle, conflict and war, (decades that are still going on, by the by) it's a shame that the Bright Stars don't have a slightly longer run to distract them.

177 Orevwar, Seychelles (2014 Finish #170; -7
Shirt badge/Association crestWhy They Lost: The Pirates had no answer for Burundi's deadly striker: Fiston Abdul Rizak. He netted in both legs, the Secyhelles netted in neither, and that does make it hard to compete.

What We'll Miss: This national team logo, which could easily be substituted for many, if not all Floridian teams.

176 Where'd you go, Mauritius (2014 Finish #175; -1
Why They Lost: A gritty nil-nil draw in Kenya is a good result for a team with Mauritius' low profile. Unfortunately it came after a 2-5 drubbing at home.

What We'll Miss: The only non-extinct Dodos are, as ever, one of my favorite nicknames of any national team.

Sorry Manasse!
175 Gue Ngozi, Central African Republic (2014 Finish #109; -66
Why They Lost: I'm tempted to say something about inability to protect their home turf (given the home loss and away draw), but it may be a little too soon after the civil war.

What We'll Miss: Predictions about C.A.R. players. Last time around I was all excited about Ligue 1 talents Fernander Kassai (who has now been kicked down to Kazakhstan) and Hilaire Momi (now clubless). This cycle's unlucky target? Defender Manassé Enza-Yamissi currently in the top league of Portugal, and soon to be starring in Antarctica.

174 Tchau, Sao Tome e Principe (2014 Finish #167; -7
Why They Lost: Having bested one of my long time favorites, Ethiopia at home, a three-nil drubbing in Addis Abbaba crushed the dream.

What We'll Miss: Extended gloating against fans of Sporting Praia Cruz, with 7 players on the national team you know those bandwagon fans would have been insufferable.

173 Nabai, Guinea Biseau (2014 Finish #164; -9)
Why They Lost: Last cycle, it was Emmanuel Adebayor who crushed the Djurtus' dream, this time it was Liberia's William Jebor, whose hat trick in Guinea Bissau was the death sentence.

What We'll Miss: A chance to see midfielder Zezinho, I said last time around that 19 year old midfielder Zezinho might grow into a force if he built up his time with Sporting Lisbon. Instead he has languished on loans, neither playing nor growing. Only two matches for Gineau Bissau doesn't help that either.

172 Tionana, Malawi (2014 Finish #67; -105)
Why They Lost: Malawi had a hard time finding the net, dropping behind two goals to Tanzania in the first leg, and only finding it once at home when there was everything to play for, but were unable to steal a win (or even send it to penalties)

What We'll Miss: As Malawi are "The Flames" and as the kids like to threaten to "Flame" their rivals, it seemed like a good time to establish some Malawian based insults, (i.e. "don't mess with me or I'll rip you apart like Chiukepo Msowoya rips apart Zambia!")...I'm not good at this.

Shirt badge/Association crest171 Fo tuma du, Gambia (2014 Finish #116; -55)
Why They Lost: Having fought back for a draw at home, it all looked good for Gambia when they took an early 1-0 lead in Windhoek. But defender/captain Abdou Jammeh couldn't lock down the back, and two second half goals later it was all over for the Scorpions.

What We'll Miss: Entry number two in our mid-nineties retro logo campaigns. Somewhere there's a brand executive muttering."..if they just changed that red to a teal...."

170 Tsamayng Hantle, Lesotho (2014 Finish #114; -56
Why They Lost: Mohamed M'Changama. A goal up with twenty minutes to go, Lesotho looked good for progression, but when Comoros' leading/only goal scorer slotted home, that away goal was all she wrote and Lesotho was gone.
We miss you already Kei

What We'll Miss: Strong defense. Literally. Lesotho has one top flight club run named for the armed forces and another organized by prison guards.

169 Nain Dat, Sierra Leone (2014 Finish #101; - 68
Why They Lost: Away goals. Away goals. My kingdom for someone who can explain the Away goals rule to me. Chad scored at the end of the first half in Sierra Leone, meaning that the two goals Sierra Leone scored to win the match weren't enough to win the series. C'mon...there's got to be another way...third match on neutral turf? Anything's better than "away goals"...except a coin flip maybe.

What We'll Miss: Like all good American fans there's only one acceptable answer: Kei Kamara.

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