Friday, November 18, 2005

World Cup Line-up Completed

The world finally knows the identity of the 32 participants in the 2006 World Cup.

A solitary Australian goal on Wednesday meant extra time and a penalty shootout, in which Mark Schwarzer made 2 excellent saves to send the hosts to the World Cup instead of Uruguay. In Bahrain a single goal was enough to see Trinidad & Tobago through for the first time, and another 1-0 win saw the Czech Republic book a place in the finals at the expense of Norway. Spain’s visit to Slovakia was not much more than a formality; a 1-1 draw confirmed their presence in next year’s finals. In Turkey an early spot-kick conversion by Switzerland left the home team with a mountain to climb, needing to win by a 3 goal deficit. The battling Turks came close, but a 4-2 win was not enough, as Switzerland qualified on the away goals rule.

In recent friendly matches Ghana gained an impressive 3-1 win in Saudi Arabia. Italy and the Ivory Coast drew 1-1 in Switzerland, while Bulgaria travelled to the USA and beat Mexico 3-0 to move up 4 places in the rankings.

Monday, November 14, 2005

First leg in playoffs

A Luis Garcia hat-trick saw Spain all but qualify for the World Cup finals by beating Slovakia 5-1 in their home match. Switzerland will take a 2-0 lead to Turkey on Wednesday; both teams have been climbing the rankings at: www.rankfootball.com

Norway’s good away form will be severely tested in the Czech Republic, as they will attempt to overcome a1-0 home defeat, while Australia will have home advantage against Uruguay after going down 1-0 to the South Americans. Bahrain will start their home tie on equal terms after a 1-1 draw away to Trinidad & Tobago.

There were a number of friendly matches taking place this weekend. Italy came from behind to beat the Dutch 3-1 on their home soil, while 2 late goals from Michael Owen gave England a 3-2 victory over Argentina in Switzerland. Germany held France to a 0-0 draw in Paris, but goals were not hard to come by in the UAE where Brazil thrashed the hosts 8-0. The Ivory Coast beat Romania 2-1 in France, and Poland made easy work of Ecuador with a 3-0 win in Spain. Portugal and Iran beat Croatia and Togo 2-0 respectively. Both the Iranian goals were scored by world record international goal scorer Ali Daei from the penalty spot.

Friday, October 14, 2005

Ready for Playoffs

After Wednesday’s matches there are now only 5 places up for grabs; which will be determined by playoffs in November.

In the group of draws the trend continued as the Irish drew blanks in Dublin against Switzerland who qualified for the playoffs. A Turkish goal in Albania eliminated Denmark and the European champions Greece, giving Turkey a spot in the playoffs.

Spain’s 6-0 victory in San Marino wasn’t enough to give them automatic qualification. That honour went to Serbia & Montenegro who beat Bosnia & Herzegovina 1-0. Spain will playoff against Slovakia who knocked Russia out with a goalless draw.

Norway who won 1-0 in Belarus will meet the Czech Republic who triumphed 3-0 in Finland for a place in the World Cup.

In South America Colombia’s 1-0 victory in Paraguay was in vain as Uruguay beat Argentina by the same score to book a double encounter with Australia.

Despite a valiant effort by Guatemala which resulted in a 3-1 victory against Costa Rica, the playoff spot in that region went to Trinidad & Tobago who beat Mexico 2-1 which Stern John scoring both goals after having missed a penalty. They will meet Bahrain who held Uzbekistan to a goalless draw in Manama.

The only 3 countries to be added to the list of World Cup participants on Wednesday were Sweden, France and Serbia & Montenegro.

Among the teams to do well in Mark’s rankings; which can be seen at www.rankfootball.com,

were Macedonia who drew 0-0 in the Netherlands, Guatemala, Trinidad & Tobago, Armenia with their 3-0 win in Andorra and in particular Scotland who returned from Slovenia with a 3-0 victory.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Final Day in Africa

The qualifying round came to an end in Africa this weekend and 4 teams qualified for the very first time. Cameroon’s stoppage time penalty miss against Egypt gave Ivory Coast their ticket to Germany. Ghana booked their place in the finals with a convincing 4-0 win away to Cape Verde, while Togo won 3-2 in Congo to deny Senegal another World Cup appearance. Angola’s solitary goal in Rwanda made Nigeria’s 5-1 win in Zimbabwe meaningless, and in a direct battle for qualification Tunisia and Morocco who had both qualified before, fought out a 2-2 draw which was enough for the hosts and champions of Africa to progress to the finals.

In one of the most eagerly anticipated matches in Europe; the Netherlands won 2-0 in the Czech Republic, not only to qualify themselves, but to give direct qualification to Poland, England and Croatia. The Czechs moved down to 5th place in Mark’s rankings with this defeat.

Scotland’s slim hopes were dashed when they lost 1-0 at home to Belarus, while Italy qualified from that group with a 1-0 victory against Slovenia. Portugal failed to impress, but their narrow 2-1 win against Liechtenstein was rewarded with a place in next summer’s finals.

Ecuador and Paraguay did enough to qualify from South America, while in a heroic 3-0 win over the USA gave Costa Rica a place in next year’s World Cup. Trinidad & Tobago kept their hopes alive with a 1-0 win in Panama.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Wednesday Matches in September

While Africa and South America were resting, Mexico booked their place in Germany with a 5-0 win over Panama.

In Europe France became the first team in their group to win a match against one of the other top 3 when they beat Ireland 1-0 in Dublin and move up into the top 10 in Mark’s Rankings.

England were embarrassed 1-0 in Northern Ireland, but are guaranteed one of the 2 top spots in their group after Austria drew 0-0 in Azerbaijan.

Among other results that affect the rankings were; Scotland’s 2-1 victory in Norway and Turkey’s 1-0 win in Ukraine who had already qualified. Toni scored 3 times for Italy who returned from Belarus with a 4-1 victory, while a solitary goal was enough to give Bosnia & Herzegovina 3 points in Lithuania. Croatia will be disappointed with their 1-1 draw in Malta as they dropped out of the top 10, while Sweden’s last minute winner in Hungary took them to 3rd place in the rankings which can be seen at: www.rankfootball.com

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Weekend of Matches

A weekend of matches saw Brazil, Ukraine and the USA qualify for the World Cup.

The Brazilians thrashed Chile 5-0 with an Adriano hat trick, while the USA overtook their neighbours and rivals Mexico with a 2-0 win to claim one of the automatic spots from their region. Despite only drawing 1-1 away to Georgia, a last minute Danish equalizer in Turkey meant that Ukraine could not be caught.

Probably the most eagerly anticipated match took place in Africa between the Ivory Coast and Cameroon. The hosts needed a win to qualify for the very fist time, but Cameroon had other ideas. The visitors scored with 5 minutes remaining to beat the Ivory Coast 3-2 and put themselves in the driving seat.

The Netherlands moved down one place to 3rd in Mark’s World Football Rankings after losing to a double helping by Mutu in Romania. Argentina who have already qualified for the finals, lost ground in the rankings when they suffered a 1-0 defeat in Paraguay. In other matches that had big effects on the rankings; Costa Rica won 3-1 in Panama, and Venezuela beat Peru 4-1. South Africa lost 3-1 in Burkina Faso and Finland fired blanks in Andorra, while Nigeria put on a late show in Algeria to win 5-2.

As usual, the rankings can be seen at: www.rankfootball.com

Friday, August 19, 2005

Mark's World Football Ranking

After a day of World Cup qualifiers and friendly matches; Mark’s world football rankings at: www.rankfootball.com has been updated resulting in many changes.

The day’s matches started in Asia with Japan securing top spot in their group after beating Iran 2-1. Bahrain lost 3-2 to bottom team North Korea in the same group despite pulling back a 2 goal deficit. There were celebrations in Uzbekistan after they came back from 2 down to beat Kuwait 3-2 and book a place in the Asian play-off match against Bahrain. South Korea huffed and puffed, but couldn’t cancel out an early Saudi Arabia goal in Seoul.

In Europe Cyprus found their trip to the Faroe Islands easier than expected and were comfortable 3-0 winners, while Finland enjoyed the same score line in Macedonia. Russia were held 1-1 in Latvia, and Slovakia returned from a disappointing goalless match in Liechtenstein. Georgia beat Kazakhstan 2-1 away from home with Demetraze finding the net twice, and Mutu scored both goals to earn Romania 3 points at home to Andorra.

In North America Guatemala got an important last minute goal to beat Panama 2-1, and an early goal was all the USA needed to get 3 points against Trinidad & Tobago. Mexico took another step towards the finals by beating Costa Rica 2-0.

The African champions Tunisia couldn’t add to their 2nd minute goal against Kenya, and Sudan beat Benin by the same result.

Among notable friendly matches was the meeting between the Netherlands and Germany. The hosts took a 2 goal lead, but Germany fought back to earn a 2-2 draw. England fell apart in Denmark, losing 4-1. All the goals came in the second half after another David James error had given Denmark the advantage. Isaksson make a string of saves to send the Czech Republic home with a 2-1 defeat. Poland who had their goalkeeper sent off in the first half won the Lobanovsky tournament in Ukraine by beating Israel 3-2, scoring 2 late goals after the Israelis had a player dismissed with 15 minutes left. The host Ukraine won 3rd place with 2-1 victory over Serbia & Montenegro.

In other friendly matches Argentina were 2-1 winners in Hungary, while Brazil drew 1-1 in Croatia. Switzerland enjoyed a 2-0 win in Norway, and European champions Greece continued their slide losing by the same score line in Belgium. Italy ended Ireland’s long run of unbeaten home matches with a 2-1 win. Portugal and Spain won 2-0 against Egypt and Uruguay respectively. South Africa froze in Iceland, losing 4-1 and Turkey suffered a 3-1 defeat in Bulgaria. Austria scored 2 late goals to gain a 2-2 home draw against Scotland, and Peru beat Chile 3-1. An international comeback by Zidane inspired France to a flattering 3-0 win over the Ivory Coast.

There were a total of 44 matches played with a lot of changes in Mark’s rankings which can be seen at: www.rankfootball.com