Soccer Post-Swiss Scenarios

Will Israel qualify for the World Cup Finals for the second time in 4,000 years?

Will Israel qualify for the World Cup Finals for the second time in 4,000 years? Here are the possible scenarios following Saturday's crucial qualifier against Switzerland.

Israel beats Swiss

If Israel gets three points in Basel, national team coach Avraham Grant and his squad will almost definitely finish the qualifying campaign with 20 points, assuming it earns six points from its two remaining qualifiers, both against the Faroe Islands. If the other main contenders in Europe Group Four continue to draw in games played against each another, Israel will finish in first place and go to Germany 2006.

If France, Ireland or Switzerland earns six points against the other two teams, Israel will finish second, and would have to win a playoff against another second-place finisher to get to the big show.

If, after a win on Saturday, Israel loses two points (or more) against the Faroe Islands, it would almost certainly cost the team a card to Germany and even a playoff.

Another potential scenario is that Israel earns nine points in its three games and finishes with 20 points, but France beats Switzerland, as well as Faroe Islands and Cyprus, and draws against Ireland. The Irish, meanwhile, beat Switzerland and Cyprus. That would leave Israel, Ireland and France tied with 20 points. All the games between the three nations would have finished in draws, and goal differential would then be applied as the tiebreaker. As of now, Israel is not looking good on this front: even with three more wins, Israel could wind up in third place.

A draw Saturday

In this case, the most probable outcome is 18 points. Meanwhile, none of the other three contenders lose points against Cyprus or the Faroe Islands, and one of the remaining games between Switzerland-Ireland-France ends in a victory. The winner of that game would top the group, and goal differential would then be applied to determine whether Israel makes it to a playoff or finishes third.

Another possibility is that Ireland at home, or France away, wins their two remaining games against their major rivals, as well as against Cyprus and Faroe Islands. Israel makes it to a playoff if the remaining game - France-Switzerland if the Irish win their games, Ireland-Switzerland if the French win their games - finishes in a draw. Otherwise, Israel finishes third.

Alternatively, the plague of draws continues, not just Saturday, but throughout the rest of the qualifying campaign. Meanwhile, every team wins its matches against the two teams at the bottom of the table. The big four all finish with 18 points, and goal differential decides. First place is a theoretical possibility, but so is fourth.

Israel loses in Basel

In this case, even two wins over the Faroe Islands and a strong goal differential are unlikely to help. In all probability, a loss against Switzerland would seal Israel's fate.

Another possibility, however, is that after beating Israel, the Swiss also defeat France and Ireland. Meanwhile, the French and Irish draw one another. Israel, France and Ireland would all finish with 17 points, and goal differential would determine which team finishes second and goes to a playoff.

A variation on this last scenario is that either Israel, Ireland or France loses a point against Cyprus or the Faroe Islands, which would benefit the other two teams.