In the first of two features, FIFA.com takes a deeper look into five of the featured games on Matchday 7 of the McDonald's FIFA World Cup Predictor.
Only one team has ever defeated Mexico in their Azteca fortress; a unique stadium positioned 7,000 feet high in the mountains surrounding Mexico City. That team is Costa Rica, who accomplished the seemingly impossible during 2002 FIFA World Cup Korea/Japan™ qualification. As the only side still undefeated in North, Central America and Caribbean Zone qualifying for South Africa 2010, Los Ticos are optimistic they can repeat that heroic performance. However, Mexico are the clear favourites at 76 per cent to win.
Uruguay, who have been forced into play-offs in their last two FIFA World Cup preliminary campaigns, face surprise group leaders Paraguay. Oscar Tabarez's players must prepare for a fast, aggressive contest in Montevideo against a Paraguay team on a five-game winning streak. Despite the general perception that Paraguay are favourites, statistically the two teams are deadlocked at approximately 35 per cent to win.
Initial favourites to lead Group 1, Portugal have had a torrid time of late, winning just one of their four qualifiers. With Denmark comfortably leading the group after three rounds, Portugal's qualification could hinge on their result against Sweden. Portugal are statistical favourites at 70 per cent to win, while a Swedish surprise would return a massive 91 points.
At the halfway point in the final round of Asian Zone qualification, the usually dominant Saudi Arabia are four games away from potential elimination. Iran will relish the opportunity to beat a team that has often been responsible for forcing them into inter-continental play-offs. A Saudi win is only 17 per cent likely.
Last FIFA World Cup qualifying meeting: Saudi Arabia 1-1 Iran (Riyadh, 6 September, 2008)
FIFA World Cup qualifying head-to-head record: Played (8), Iran (3), Saudi Arabia (2), Draws (3)
Togo face African giants Cameroon in their first Group A match. Compounding their task, Togo must play all 'home' games in Ghana's capital, Accra (the Stade de Kegue remains suspended from use). Cameroon coach Otto Pfister also has the advantage of knowing the Togo team inside out, after managing them in 2006. An unlikely Togo win would return 88 points, while a Cameroon win is the safe bet at 71 per cent.
Next week, FIFA.com will cover the remaining five games on Matchday 7 of the McDonald's FIFA World Cup Predictor.