Friday, November 20, 2009

Final pieces completed

The final teams to qualify for South Africa 2010 became known after the play-off matches were completed in November. Greece who had been held to a goalless draw at home, silenced Ukraine with a single goal in the return match to book themselves a spot in the finals while a 1-0 win for the Republic of Ireland in France was only enough to take the match into extra time where a highly controversial goal marked the end of the road for the irate Irish. A goal and penalty save for New Zealand at home to Bahrain gave the Kiwis a place in the finals as the lowest ranked team to qualify where they will be joined by Uruguay despite being held to a 1-1 home draw by Costa Rica.
In Africa where only group winners would succeed, Cameroon secured qualification with a 2-0 victory in Morocco while Tunisia fell at the last hurdle losing 1-0 in Mozambique allowing Nigeria to overtake them with a 3-2 win in Kenya and qualify for the finals at their expense. Egypt who had forced a replay with a last gasp goal in their 2-0 home win over Algeria were stunned 4 days later in Sudan when the Algerians scored the only goal of a tense match to become the last representatives of Africa in the 2010 World Cup.
World Cup qualification was not the only prize on offer as Mali who had already been eliminated earned a place in next year’s African Cup of Nations with a 2-2 draw in Ghana.
In the Asian Cup qualifiers Thailand enjoyed a 3-1 win in Singapore but were brought back to earth suffering a shock 1-0 defeat in Bangkok. Syria could only draw 0-0 at home to Vietnam but the point was enough to secure them a place in the 2011 Asian Cup finals.
A 2-0 win for Qatar over Paraguay in France and a victory by the same score line for Azerbaijan against the Czech Republic in the UAE were the most unexpected friendly results in November.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

The surprises of spring

With qualification for the 2010 World Cup reaching its final stages teams with varying needs produced some unexpected results in October.
Needing only a draw to qualify, Slovakia were stunned 2-0 by visiting Slovenia but bounced back to win 1-0 in Poland and qualify for the finals. Bulgaria saw their hopes shattered 4-1 in Cyprus while England’s only defeat of their campaign gave Ukraine a place in the play-offs after following their 1-0 home win against the English with 6 goals in Andorra. Belgium enjoyed a 2-0 home win against Turkey but suffered a reversal in Tallinn at the hands of Estonia who had lost by the same score line at home to Bosnia & Herzegovina. Chile celebrated a place in the World Cup with a 4-2 victory in Colombia whose 2-0 win in Paraguay 4 days later was to no avail. Brazil who had already qualified, moved back into 2nd place in after losing 2-1 in Bolivia and playing a goalless match at home to Venezuela. Denmark’s celebrations for qualification were dampened when Hungary scored the only goal of the match in Copenhagen, while Germany who had qualified by winning 1-0 in Russia needed a late goal to avoid defeat and draw 1-1 at home to Finland. Serbia lost 2-1 in Lithuania but had already qualified by thrashing Romania 5-0 four days earlier in Zagreb. Azerbaijan registered a rare away win with a 2-0 success over Liechtenstein. The USA booked a place in the finals with a 3-2 victory in Honduras, while in Africa, Ghana who are World Cup bound, lost 1-0 in Benin. A last minute penalty gave Uruguay a 2-1 win in Ecuador, but they could only reach the play-offs after losing 1-0 at home to Argentina who became the last South American team to gain automatic qualification. In the Asia/Oceania first leg play-off match New Zealand held Bahrain to a 0-0 draw in Manama.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

September separates boys from men

A busy period at the beginning of September marked the end of the road for some of the weaker World Cup hopefuls while Brazil, Paraguay, England, Spain and Ghana made sur of qualification.

Poland were held 1-1 at home to Northern Ireland and suffered a demoralising 3-0 defeat in Slovenia 4 days later resulting in the dismissal of their coach Leo Beenhakker. Costa Rica were another team to have a miserable time losing 3-0 at home to Mexico and 1-0 away to El Salvador. Latvia’s shock 1-0 win in Israel was even more enjoyable as they not only overtook the Israelis but drew level on points with Greece who lost 2-0 in Switzerland. Luxembourg earned a goalless draw in Moldova and the Faroe Islands registered a rare win beating Lithuania 2-1 at home. Belgium continued their slide down the rankings losing 2-1 in Armenia while Austria returned from Romania with a creditable 1-1 draw, and a last minute goal gave Sweden a vital 2-1 win in Hungary. Kazakhstan recorded a 3-1 win away to Andorra and Russia enjoyed the same score-line in Wales while England crushed Croatia 5-1 at Wembley. In Africa Cameroon got back to winning ways with a 2-0 success over Gabon, and Malawi overcame Guinea 2-1 at home. In South America Chile dropped 2 points in their 2-2 draw at home to Venezuela while their closest rivals Ecuador lost 2-0 in Colombia before their 3-1 victory in Bolivia, and Uruguay suffered a setback losing 1-0 away to bottom team Peru. In friendly matches Cape Verde enjoyed a 2-0 win in Malta and New Zealand prepared for their play-off matches with a 3-1 victory in Jordan.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Summer warm-ups for battles ahead

After their heroics in the Confederations Cup, the USA hosted the Gold Cup and were brought down to earth in a 2-2 draw with Haiti, but reached the final where they were thrashed 5-0 by Mexico. In the same competition Guadeloupe celebrated a 2-1 victory over Panama, and in group A El Salvador shocked Costa Rica with a 2-1 win, but finished bottom of the group which was won surprisingly by Canada.
Just over a month later Costa Rica suffered another setback losing 4-0 away to Honduras in a World Cup qualifier. Norway enjoyed the same result as they trampled ten-man Scotland in Oslo, and Croatia picked up 3 points with a 3-1 win in Belarus.
In friendly internationals the Republic of Ireland suffered their heaviest home defeat under Trapattoni losing 3-0 to Australia, and Mali were victorious by the same score-line against Burkina Faso in France. Webo scored both goals of the match for Cameroon in Austria while Uruguay lost 1-0 in Algeria. The Cypriot’s visit to Albania ended in a 6-1 defeat while Turkey enjoyed a 3-0 win in Ukraine, and Iran came from behind with late goals to win 3-2 away to Bosnia & Herzegovina. Chile continued to enjoy their lofty position in the football rankings after their 2-1 win in Denmark. September 5th-9th will be a vital period for teams still with a chance of qualifying for next year’s World Cup.

Watch goals from Gold Cup final

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Brazil top of the pile

Brazil moved to the top of after winning the Confederations Cup in South Africa. The opening match that will be remembered for a bizarre miss by the hosts ended with Iraq earning a 0-0 draw, while in the same group Torres bagged a hat-trick as Spain demolished New Zealand 5-0. On the 2nd day Brazil started brightly but Egypt matched them for goals until a last minute penalty scored by Kaka left Egypt with no time to reply and Brazil with a 4-3 victory. Italy laboured to a 3-1 win against USA who were down to 10 men for a large portion of the match. On day 3 a single goal for Spain against a defensive Iraq was enough to see them through, and South Africa got off the mark with 2 goals against New Zealand. Brazil eased past the Americans wit 3 goals on day 4, while Egypt celebrated a 1-0 triumph over world champions Italy. A goalless draw between Iraq and New Zealand saw both teams eliminated from group a, while South Africa joined Spain in the next round despite losing to them by 2-0. On the last day of the group matches an amazing turn of events saw Italy and Egypt head home after The Italians lost 3-0 to Brazil, and Egypt lost by the same score to the plucky Americans. In the semi-final matches USA pulled off a huge shock by defeating Spain 2-0 to reach the final where they would meet Brazil who ended South Africa’s hopes with a goal 2 minutes from time. Spain claimed 3rd place with a win over their hosts in extra time, and Brazil were given a first-half shock by the Americans but came from 2 down to score 3 times in the second half and win the Confederations Cup.
Full reports on all the Confederations Cup matches can be read at

Watch goals from final in Portuguese.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Privileged six enjoy summer break

With the World Cup finals just a year away 5 teams will be taking a worry-free break having already joined hosts South Africa as the first nations to qualify for the competition. Japan became the first team to book their place in the finals after earning a 1-0 victory against Uzbekistan in Tashkent. Four days later the jubilant Japanese only managed a 1-1 draw at home to Qatar. Australia did not mind their goalless draw in Qatar as it was enough to secure them qualification. South Korea secured a seventh successive World Cup finals place thanks to a 2-0 victory over the UAE in Dubai, and were joined by their neighbours North Korea (pictured celebrating) who held Saudi Arabia to 0-0 draw in Riyadh 11 days later.

The Netherlands became the first European team to qualify after a 2-1 win in Iceland. Partly avenging their embarrassing home humiliation, Romania turned the tables on Lithuania with a 1-0 win in Marijampole. Sweden lost ground with a 1-0 home defeat to Denmark, as did Finland after going down 3-0 to Russia in Helsinki.

In the CONCACAF section Costa Rica are leading at the half-way stage having defeated the USA 3-1, while Mexico who lost 2-1 in El Salvador are languishing in 4th place. Chile, the surprise package in South America, moved up in Mark’s Rankings after winning 2-0 away to group leaders Paraguay who consequently relinquished the top spot to Brazil who swept aside Uruguay 4-0 in Montevideo.

In Africa Gabon enjoyed a 3-0 home win against Togo while Egypt lost 3-1 in Algeria before jetting off to play in the Confederations Cup. Ghana were 2-0 winners in Mali and a single goal gave Burkina Faso all 3 points in Malawi.

Friday, April 03, 2009

The pressure of spring matches

The last weekend in March and April Fools day presented some of the continental heavyweights with uncomfortable tests which may have a lasting effect on their quest to qualify for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa as other teams edge closer to the finals.
Saudi Arabia came from behind to stun their hosts Iran with 2 late goals in the Azadi Stadium. The 2-1 defeat resulted in the dismissal of Iranian manager Ali Daei.
Farhad Tadjiev made the most of Uzbekistan’s numerical advantage with a hat-trick as the home side enjoyed a 4-0 win against 10-man Qatar.
Morocco got off to a poor start in their 3rd round matches losing 2-1 at home to Gabon, while Togo, who were ordered to play their home fixture in Ghana, replied with a 1-0 triumph over Cameroon.
Bosnia and Herzegovina did the double over Belgium winning 4-2 away and 2-1 at home while Finland finished off Welsh hopes with a 2-0 victory in Cardiff. The Czech Republic suffered a blow losing 2-1 at home to neighbours Slovakia, and Kazakhstan came unstuck losing 5-1 at home to Belarus. Poland who had lost 3-2 in Northern Ireland returned home to run riot against San Marino handing them a 10-0 humiliation.
Bolivia provided the world with the biggest shock of the round as they thrashed Maradona’s Argentina 6-1 in La Paz with Botero Joaquin grabbing a hat-trick.
A 3-1 defeat away to Honduras with Carlo Costly scoring twice cost Sven Göran Eriksson his job as Mexico manager.
The effect of these and other results on the rankings can be seen at

Watch highlights from the Bolivia v Argentina match:

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Early action in 2009

The year began in Uganda where the hosts lifted the 2009 CECAFA Cup with a 1-0 win over Kenya in the final. Tanzania, who had earlier suffered a shock 1-0 defeat to Somalia, finished third by beating Burundi 3-2.
The stage then moved to Asia and the 2011 Asian Cup qualifiers where Indonesia and Thailand held their hosts Jordan and Oman respectively to goalless draws and Japan narrowly defeated Yemen 2-1 at home while Vietnam having beaten Lebanon 3-1 at home found themselves on the wrong end of a 6-1 drubbing in China. The United Arab Emirates were far too strong for Malaysia and returned home with a 5-0 win under their belts, but were brought down to earth a week later with a 1-0 home loss to Uzbekistan. Indonesia kept another clean sheet earning a point at home to Australia while Oman enjoyed a 1-0 victory in Kuwait and Japan fell to a single goal in Bahrain.
In the 2009 UNCAF Cup hosts Honduras who started with a weak 2-1 win against Belize reached the semi-finals where they were beaten 1-0 by eventual winner Panama and had to settle for 3rd place after a 1-0 win over El Salvador who had also started badly only managing a 1-1 draw against Nicaragua. The Nicaraguans shocked Guatemala with a 2-0 victory to claim 5th place and the last spot in the 2009 COCCACAF Gold Cup (Samuel Wilson, pictured above, scored both goals). In the final Costa Rica, who had eased past Panama with a 3-0 win in their group match, failed to break the deadlock and lost to the Panamanians on penalties.
Many teams began their year with international friendly matches in February. The reports can be accessed in Score. There were also World Cup qualifiers in which Bahrain continued their run of good results and ascent in the football rankings with a 1-0 win in Uzbekistan and Saudi Arabia lost by the same result in North Korea. Mexico suffered a blow, losing 2-0 in the USA. Among friendly matches the historic 1-0 triumph of Norway in Germany was the most notable.

Friday, January 02, 2009

A look at 2008

Spain (pictured) ended the year on top of the football rankings after finally winning a major tournament in the shape of Euro 2008, and continuing their run of good results in their World Cup qualifiers. The Netherlands also had an impressive year despite losing to Russia in extra time in the Euros, having sailed through the group of death with a 3-0 win over world champions Italy followed by the 4-1 thrashing of France and a 2-0 victory over Romania.
In South America Chile enjoyed the sharpest rise with wins in Bolivia and Venezuela followed by the 4-0 crushing of Colombia and a memorable 1-0 win at home to Argentina.
Egypt demolished the Ivory Coast 4-1 on their way to the final where they beat Cameroon 1-0 to win the African Cup in front of a jubilant home crowd in February. Senegal had a miserable year failing to reach the knockout stages of the Cup of Nations and suffering elimination from the 2010 World Cup at the hands of Gambia.
Grenada were the most improved country in the world, capping their year by reaching the final of the Caribbean Cup. The biggest surprises of the year were the 3-0 triumph of Lithuania in Romania and 2-1 wins for Bermuda and Liechtenstein away to Trinidad and Tobago, and Switzerland respectively.