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Odd Happenings in World Cup Qualifying

Marcus+Rashford+celebrates+his+goal+for+England.
Marcus Rashford celebrates his goal for England.

Marcus Rashford celebrates his goal for England.

Catherine Ivill, Getty Images

Catherine Ivill, Getty Images

Marcus Rashford celebrates his goal for England.

Lawson Sumler, Reporter

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Another exciting weekend of international soccer came to a close last week and the picture for next year’s World Cup in Russia became a bit more clear.

Of the 32 spots open for the tournament, eight have already been secured: host country Russia, perennial powerhouse Brazil, North American darlings Mexico, European talent Belgium, and the Asian coalition of Iran, South Korea, Japan, and Saudi Arabia.

This list is missing quite a few of the household names for soccer, especially on the international scene.

England remains hopeful after securing another victory in qualifying competition, this time securing a 2-1 victory over Slovakia. The squad for the Three Lions remains impressively young, showcased via goalscorers Marcus Rashford and Eric Dier.

However, the big story out of the game was Tottenham midfielder Dele Alli. Alli was caught on camera making an obscene gesture, which is under investigation by FIFA officials. Alli says the gesture was toward good friend and former teammate Kyle Walker.

As for the defending World Cup champion, Germany, Joachim Low’s boys turned in an impressive 6-0 victory over Norway. The Germans showcased some of their top-class talent in an absolute romp, with goals from five different players. Most notably, young standout Timo Werner of shock Bundesliga finishers RB Leipzig had a brace on the day, showing promise for the future of Germany’s front line.

In another piece of good news for the European powerhouses, they topped the recent FIFA rankings. Going into 2018 with buckets of form, the Germans seem to be the team to beat.

European Championship runner-ups France suffered a tough 0-0 draw at the hands of Luxembourg. While certainly an impressive tied for the lowly Luxembourgians, the French had 34 shots on goal and could not put one away.

The recent upstarts remain on top of Group A despite the stumble; however, the French media is beginning to doubt that a team of such youth has the experience needed to win on the big stage.

While stars such as Atletico Madrid’s Antoine Greizmann and recent PSG loanee Kylian Mbappe have the French crowds’ mouths agape with their skill and energy, both are inexperienced at the international level. Despite this, the French are on track to punch their ticket to Russia.

Across The Pond, the United States is in an ever-flowing state of form, sometimes changing day-to-day. New manager Bruce Arena picked up right where Jurgen Klinnsman left off: wildly inconsistent. Despite having some of the best talent to ever grace the American side, the team fought hard for a 1-1 draw with rival Honduras.

The Americans have a 69 percent chance to qualify for the World Cup, according to ESPNFC. While fanhood in the United States is continually growing, MLS dependency may be becoming an issue. While the MLS consistently attracts former world-class players that sell tickets, this system may stifle the youth America needs to succeed.

The highlight of the American youth system, Borussia Dortmund standout Christian Pulisic, had to flee to Germany to get the playing time he needed against better talent. Hopefully, Arena can right the ship and send the United States back to World Cup glory.

Finally, Copa America runner-up Argentina find itself in an unfamiliar position: second from the bottom of their qualifying group. This ranking is simply unacceptable for a team that boasts a top two player in the world on its roster. Most recently, the Argentines suffered a 1-1 draw with Venezuela and sunk further and further from qualification.

The tough performances matched with unrest from Lionel Messi could potentially leave the country without its top star for the rest of his career. After teasing a retirement after the gutting loss to Chile in the finals of the 2016 Copa America, this could be Messi’s swan song.

On the other hand, Argentina’s decline has led to a bit of the changing of the South American guard. Newcomers Colombia and Peru have taken advantage of the Argentine’s misfortune, taking the third and fourth spot respectively. At this point, we could be seeing a radically different picture of South America represented in Russia in 2018.

World Cup qualifying is an exciting time, where youthful exuberance and experience can be honed for the big stage. As for the time being, we can simply wait for the picture of Russia to go from blurry to far more clear as time advances.

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