The U.S. bounced back with four points against Honduras and Panama, putting them in much better position to qualify for the 2018 World Cup. Here are some major countries still facing a grave challenge to qualify.
When things go well for the Dutch with a golden generation, they go very well. Right now is one of the not-so-golden periods. After a semifinal appearance in Brazil, the Dutch failed to qualify for an expanded Euro 2016. They may fail to qualify for the 2018 World Cup as well. They lost a 2-0 match at Bulgaria, leaving them in fourth place in UEFA Group A (first is in, second advances to the playoff). The Dutch fired coach Danny Blind afterward. Not all is lost, but Bulgaria and Sweden at home (as well as Belarus away) are must wins. Even pulling that off, it’s likely the Dutch would have to go through a playoff.
What’s worse than a brutal loss in the final of a major tournament? Not reaching the tournament. Argentina lost 2-0 to Bolivia, dropping them from third to fifth place in CONMEBOL qualifying. The top four qualify. The fifth must go through a playoff. The scary part for Argentina is Lionel Messi is still suspended for three of the remaining four matches. That could be devastating. Argentina has won five of the six qualifiers Messi has played this cycle. The Argentines have won one of the eight matches where he hasn’t played.
The Black Stars have qualified for the past three tournaments. They have reached the knockout rounds in two of them. We’re only two matches into the six-match qualifying round in CAF Group E. But, after drawing Uganda at home and losing 2-0 at Egypt, Ghana is five points behind group leader Egypt. Only the top team advances. Ghana can still win a six-pointer against Egypt at home. But, if the Egyptians take care of business against Uganda (home and away) and the Congo (home), it won’t matter.
Australia has qualified for the last three World Cups. They have reached the final of the past two Asian Cups. But, they are in a tricky spot for qualification. They are in third place in Group B, three points behind Japan and Saudi Arabia in the automatic qualification places. Three matches remain. Two are against those two teams. The Aussies can still finish third place and qualify, though they would have to win the third-place playoff and then win the playoff with the fourth-place CONCACAF team.