This weekend features the first leg of a series of home-and-home series between countries to qualify for the remaining five berths in the World Cup for next summer.
South America’s fifth place team plays the winner of the Oceania region for one of those slots. Saturday’s match is a replay of the same scenario with Uruguay meeting Australia for the coveted spot in 2001. Back when the qualifying process began in 2003, according to my calculations Bolivia had a legitimate shot at making the 5th place finish. Winning every single game at home with the psychological and physiological advantage of the high altitude stadium could have made these dreams a reality.
However, those calculations were off by a large margin. Not only did Bolivia not come anywhere close to 5th, it finished dead last, including several terrible losses and ties in La Paz. At the time, I remember daydreaming and vowing that if Bolivia were to have the opportunity to play in that playoff series, I would be in Bolivia for that week no matter what. Even if I had to fly to Bolivia for one day and fly back the next, it would be well worth it to be in an environment where a return to the World Cup was on a possibility.
There’s always 2009.
The five games slated for Saturday:
• Czech Republic vs. Norway
• Spain vs. Slovakia
• Turkey vs. Switzerland
• Uruguay vs. Australia
NORTH, CENTRAL AMERICA & CARRIBBEAN/ASIA
• Trinidad & Tobago vs. Bahrain