The outlook for next year's World Cup in Germany will become clearer in the next few days, with 76 qualifying games being played from Cameroon to Croatia. Play begins today, with a few games tomorrow and continues Wednesday with only 10 teams set for the 32-team field.
Host Germany and four Asian teams -- Iran, Japan, South Korea, and Saudi Arabia -- are already in. Ukraine has qualified from Europe. Five-time winner Brazil and two-time champion Argentina have made it from South America, and Mexico and the United States have qualified from Central and North America.
Costa Rica can claim the third spot by beating the Americans today in San Jose.
Today, all five African berths will be decided. Ghana can lose its match at Cape Verde Islands and advance, Togo advances with a tie and Cameroon and Angola need wins. The other African spot will go to Morocco or Tunisia, who play each other near Tunis.
In Europe, Ukraine is the only qualifier so far by winning Group 2.
The eight group winners and best two second-place teams advance automatically. The other six runners-up play off next month for three berths.
In Group 1, the Netherlands can secure a place by avoiding defeat today at the Czech Republic.
Portugal will win Group 3 by beating or drawing Liechtenstein. France will advance with a victory at Switzerland in Group 4. Italy also is on course in Group 5 and will advance with a home tie against Slovenia.
Poland leads Group 6 by five points and England must win its last two games -- against Austria and Poland -- to win the group. If not, the Poles will win the group.
In Group 7, Serbia and Montenegro, Spain and Bosnia and Herzegovina still could win the group. All three teams have two to play.
Group 8 is easier. Sweden will qualify by winning at second-place Croatia today.
South America is more straightforward: Ecuador and Paraguay could join defending champion Brazil and two-time winner Argentina.
Ecuador will advance with a tie at home against Uruguay.
-- From News Services