Friday, September 09, 2016

All roads to Russia

Less than 2 months after Portugal lifted Euro 2016 in Paris, as Europe became the last continent to kick off their Russia 2018 World Cup qualifiers, the Portuguese began their campaign with a 2-0 defeat away to Switzerland while new boys Kosovo picked up a 1-1 draw in Finland and England began life under Sam Allardyce with a 1-0 victory in Slovakia. After losing 2-0 at home to Spain in a friendly, a double from Lukaku helped Belgium to a 3-0 win in Cyprus while France fired blanks in Belarus as did Hungary away to the Faroe Islands. Austria were 2-1 winners in Georgia while Scotland ran out 5-1 winners in Malta with a hat-trick from Snodgrass and Germany put 3 past their Norwegian hosts without reply. Romania could only manage a 1-1 draw at home to Montenegro and in a friendly match the Dutch lost 2-1 at home to Greece.
Bolivia enjoyed the biggest leap in the rankings after winning 2-0 at home to Peru and travelling to Chile where they held the continental champions to a goalless draw. The Chileans had earlier lost 2-1 in Paraguay who went on to suffer a 4-0 spanking in Uruguay with Cavani claiming half the goals while Brazil enjoyed a 3-0 win in Ecuador and Argentina drew 2-2 away to Venezuela after having won by a single goal at home to Uruguay.
In the North, Central America and Caribbean section Haiti upset their Jamaican hosts 2-0 and Honduras returned from Mexico with a goalless draw while Guatemala enjoyed a spectacular 9-3 goal fest at home to St Kitts and Nevis.
In a friendly match Kazakhstan lost 2-0 in Kyrgyzstan while in competitive matches in Asia Japan suffered a shock 2-1 defeat at home to the UAE but picked up a 2-0 win in Thailand 5 days later while the UAE fell to a single goal in Australia. Qatar lost 1-0 at home to Uzbekistan while there were creditable goalless draws for Bhutan in Bangladesh and Syria in South Korea.
Africa took a break from the World Cup qualifiers to decide the final participants for the 2017 Africa Cup of nations. Rwanda earned a 1-1 draw away to already qualified Ghana while Congo hosted and defeated group winners Guinea Bissau 1-0 and Libya won also in vain by the same scoreline away to Cape Verde. There were 1-1 draws for Mauritania in South Africa and for Sierra Leone away to the Ivory Coast while Swaziland lost 1-0 in Malawi.  

Friday, July 01, 2016

Red hot Chile rule the Americas

A year after Chile hosted and won the 2015 Copa America, the Copa America Centenario was hosted by USA in a celebration of the centenary of the South American football confederation. The 10 South American countries, hosts USA plus Mexico, Costa Rica, Jamaica, Haiti and Panama took part in the competition.
The Americans topped group A ahead of Colombia after sweeping Costa Rica aside 4-0 and watching Costa Rica shock Colombia 3-2 in the final match of the group.
In group B Brazil were held to a goalless draw by Ecuador and despite hammering Haiti 7-1 with a hat-trick from Coutinho were eliminated after losing controversially 1-0 to group winners Peru.
In group C with both teams reduced to 10 men, Mexico scored 2 late goals to overcome Uruguay 3-1 and with the Uruguayans suffering a shock 1-0 loss to Venezuela, their 3-0 win over Jamaica was a mere consolation while Mexico, who defeated Jamaica 1-0, were group winners on goal difference ahead of Venezuela after tying with them 1-1 on the final group day.
Argentina and Chile progressed from group D while Panama beat Bolivia 2-1 into 3rd place. Ten-man Panama were pummelled 5-0 by group winners Argentina with a hat-trick from Lionel Messi.
Chile demolished Mexico 7-0 with 4 goals from Vargas in the quarter finals while Argentina brushed Venezuela aside 4-1 before burying their American hosts 4-0 to reach the final.
The USA finished 4th in the tournament after losing 1-0 to Colombia while in the final Chile and Argentina played out a goalless match with the Chileans winning on penalties and moving to the top of the football rankings having seen Messi miss his spot kick for Argentina.