Czech point and Bulgarian blockade negotiated: The road to Brazil is open again

The Samba beats, the Copacabana nudity ban and that statue of Christ are within reach again for the national team and their fans, who are hoping to qualify for the 2014 World Cup

Denmark's hopes of qualifying for the 2014 World Cup could have ended this past week, but in the end, four points from their two games, away in the Czech Republic and at home to Bulgaria, have kept their dreams of travelling to Brazil very much alive.

The emphatic 3-0 defeat of the Czechs in Olomouc last week on Friday night was that country’s worst home defeat since Czechoslovakia lost 1-5 to West Germany in 1985. It ensures Denmark will have the superior record should they finish equal on points.

And while their 1-1 draw against Bulgaria on Tuesday night, salvaged by a 63rd minute penalty by Daniel Agger, was disappointing, it at least cancelled out the 1-1 draw in Sofia last year, meaning it will come down to goal difference should the teams tie for second place.

Back in October, Denmark’s qualification chances had looked in dire straits after they drew with Bulgaria and lost to Italy in two games that they played a total of 110 minutes against ten men. After three games, Morten Olsen’s men had only managed to secure two points and were sitting second from bottom. Now, they have six points, two behind the Czechs, four behind Bulgaria, and seven behind the group leaders Italy.

Crucially, Denmark have already played their three main rivals away from home and have an easier run-in compared to their competitors. They face Armenia and Malta twice, the two weakest teams in the group, and host Italy in Copenhagen at a time when Italy may have already qualified and not be as motivated to perform.

The Bulgarians on the other hand face Italy, Armenia and Malta away and the Czechs at home. The Czechs face Italy twice, Armenia at home, and Bulgaria and Malta away.

While Italy certainly look poised to finish top of the group and secure direct qualification, even if Denmark finish second in the group, they are still not guaranteed a play-off spot. 

From the nine European qualification groups, only the eight best second-placed teams progress to the play-off round, which is contested over two legs, home and away. 

When selecting the eight, only points gained against the teams that fill the other top five positions are counted. In the Danish group’s case, this will probably mean that all the points scored against Malta will be nullified. This will therefore add extra pressure on Denmark to win both their games against Armenia and perhaps get a tough result against Italy in October as well. 

Still, eight out of nine are good odds, and there are several other groups where at least three teams are vying for second place and therefore likely to take points off each other: Group C (Sweden, Austria and the Republic of Ireland), Group D (Hungary, Romania and Turkey), Group E (Iceland, Albania and Norway), Group G (Greece, Slovakia and Lithuania) and Group H (England/Montenegro, Ukraine and Poland).

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