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.