Irish people are still very bitter about the Thierry Henry handball in the 2009 World Cup Qualifier which gave the Boys In Green another summer off the following year. So it is with great joy that the nation counts down the hours as France look set to miss out on next year’s extravaganza in Rio. Yes, Ireland aren’t there either, but that is well beside the point.
As a brief reminder of the first leg results for people who were consuming a few beverages on Friday (and to give us another laugh at France), here they are in all their glory.
Portugal 1-0 Sweden
Ukraine 2-0 France
Greece 3-1 Romania
Iceland 0-0 Croatia
A quick look through the archives tell us that there have been just 15 World Cup Qualifiers between European teams, and they have all happened after 1997. We’ve gone through the stats and the trends are looking bleak if you’re a Frenchman or Romanian.
- 11 sides have won the first leg of their qualifier, and 10 have gone on to qualify
- Just one team from 15 have lost the first leg and still made it to the World Cup
- That was Slovenia in 2009. They lost the first leg 2-1 in Russia before winning 1-0 at home and went through on away goals
Therefore it would take a mighty effort for either France or Romania to qualify, as no side has ever managed to overturn a two-goal difference after the first leg.
Only one side has managed to overturn any kind of deficit at all. Romania might have a slightly better chance thanks to Bogdan Stancu’s away goal, but that is like saying Tom Cruise has a slightly better chance of becoming Pope than Richard Dawkins.
Sweden are in similar trouble but have home advantage in the second leg which might help them buck the trend.
Croatia and Iceland was mostly overlooked by the rest of Europe on Friday night. Partly because it is hardly a glamour tie, and partly because we were either sucked in by the ego battle between Cristiano Ronaldo and Zlatan Ibrahimovic or we were too busy laughing at the French.
Croatian fans will be the happier though, coming back from a tricky away leg with a clean sheet, and the trends put them in the driving seat.
- Four World Cup Qualifiers have been level after the first leg
- From those four, three of the sides that made it to the World Cup played the second leg on home soil
- The only exception was Greece in 2009, who beat Ukraine 1-0 away to qualify after drawing 0-0 in Athens
The stats suggest it will be Portugal, Ukraine, Greece and Croatia joining the party in Rio next June, and a fourfold on those teams to qualify on Tuesday night pays out at 11/8.
You can’t put a price on laughing at the French though.