Saturday, December 31, 2011

Underdogs end year on a high

The final six weeks of the year produced some remarkable results at the lower end of the rankings. The lowest ranked nation, American Samoa, captured the headlines with their first ever win, beating Tonga 2-1 in a World Cup qualifier played in neighbouring Samoa and proved that their victory was no fluke by earning a 1-1 draw against the Cook Islands 2 days later at the same venue. Even the 1-0 defeat to hosts Samoa which denied them passage to the next round was a creditable result for the world minnows. Tonga bounced back from their embarrassing loss to draw 1-1 with tournament hosts Samoa and gain a 2-1 victory over the Cook Islands.
Playing in the South Asian Football Federation Cup, Afghanistan were another team to punch above their weight drawing 1-1 with hosts India and surprising Sri Lanka 3-1 on the way to the final. Nepal’s 1-0 win over Bangladesh was also noteworthy. Bahrain had a mixed month, losing a home friendly 1-0 to Palestine before brushing Iraq aside 3-0 on their way to winning the Pan Arab Games in Qatar.     

Friday, November 18, 2011

Ready for the Euros

In the space of 5 days the remaining 4 spots for Euro 2012 were claimed while the rest of the world battled for World Cup participation. The Republic of Ireland took 9-man Estonia apart 4-0 before securing a place in Poland and Ukraine with a 1-1 draw in Dublin while Croatia who had already destroyed the hopes of Turkey 3-0 settled for a goalless home draw and Portugal thumped Bosnia and Herzegovina 6-2 in Lisbon.
Lebanon excelled in the world rankings by shocking their Kuwaiti hosts 1-0 and stunning South Korea 2-1 in Beirut while a goal in Oman left Australia on the losing side and Japan fell by the same result in North Korea. China’s 4-0 win in Singapore was soured by Iraq’s 3-1 comeback in Jordan as signalled the end of the road for the Chinese.
Argentina bounced back from a disappointing 1-1 home draw against Bolivia to win 2-1 in Colombia while Paraguay and Peru lost 2-0 away to Chile and Ecuador respectively.
Tanzania were stunned 1-0 at home to Chad and Sao Tome & Principe earned a 1-1 draw in Congo while Ethiopia were held to a goalless draw at home to Somalia and Burundi lost 1-0 in Lesotho.
Puerto Rico slammed 4 past St Lucia in Castries and Belize struck twice away to Saint Vincent & the Grenadines while Canada fired blanks in St Kitts & Nevis. Trinidad & Tobago lost 2-1 in Guyana and Haiti were defeated by a single goal away to Antigua and Barbuda.
Spain remain top of the rankings despite losing 1-0 in England and needing a last-minute goal to draw 2-2 after trailing by 2 goals in Costa Rica.       

Friday, October 14, 2011

World stages matches

In a busy week of international football the European and African qualifiers concluded their group matches while in other parts World Cup qualifiers were taking place affecting the football rankings. Suriname suffered a shock 3-1 defeat at home to the Dominican Republic and Canada were held to a goalless draw at home to Puerto Rico while Trinidad & Tobago lost 2-1 in Bermuda and CuraƧao drew 2-2 in Haiti. Grenada sailed to a 4-1 victory in Belize while Guyana returned from Barbados with a 2-0 win and St Lucia managed a 1-1 draw in St Kitts & Nevis. In South America Chile returned home after taking a 4-1 beating in Argentina to defeat Peru 4-2 while Argentina lost 1-0 in Venezuela. The Peruvians had opened their campaign with a 2-0 home win over Paraguay. In Asia China were left with a mountain to climb after losing 1-0 at home to Iraq while Kuwait could only draw 2-2 in Lebanon, and Uzbekistan picked up 3 vital points with a single goal in North Korea while Iran battered Bahrain 6-0 in Tehran.
South Africa failed to qualify for the 2012 Africa Cup of Nations after a disastrous 0-0 draw at home to Sierra Leone and Guinea stunned Nigeria with a 90th minute goal to earn a 2-2 draw and qualify instead of their illustrious host while Rwanda caused an upset with a 1-0 win in Benin.
In Europe Wales had a successful week winning 2-0 at home to Switzerland and 1-0 away to Bulgaria while Austria enjoyed a 4-1 win away to 10-man Azerbaijan and Greece celebrated a decisive 2-0 victory at home to Croatia while Romania could only manage a 2-2 draw at home to Belarus. The Czech Republic swept their hosts Lithuania aside 4-1 and Sweden got the better of the Dutch 3-2 in Stockholm while Hungary ended their matches with a disappointing 0-0 draw at home to Finland, whereas a 1-1 draw between France and Bosnia & Herzegovina in Paris was enough to see the French qualify for the finals and their visitor for the play-offs.  
Earlier in the month Hong Kong won the Long Teng Cup in Kaohsiung by hammering hosts Taiwan 6-0 in the final.  

Saturday, September 10, 2011

European doors open

httpEarly September matches saw Germany, Italy, Spain and the Netherlands qualify for Euro 2012 as expected, but having enjoyed a handsome 3-0 win in Andorra, it was Armenia’s amazing 4-0 triumph in Slovakia, who had just held Ireland to a goalless draw in Dublin, that sent shockwaves around Europe. Estonia also soared in the rankings after stunning Slovenia 2-1 before returning home to hammer Northern Ireland 4-1 while their neighbours Latvia picked up a 1-0 win in Georgia, whereas Lithuania drew blanks at home to Liechtenstein. Bosnia and Herzegovina overtook Belarus in the table with a 2-0 win over their hosts, and Hungary also had a fruitful week winning 2-1 at home to Sweden and 2-0 away to Moldova. England eased to a 3-0 win in Bulgaria while Montenegro suffered a 2-1 loss in Wales and Israel lost by a single goal to their visitors from Greece. Norway fell to 2 goals in Denmark while Portugal sank Cyprus 4-0 in Nicosia.
Asia and Concacaf hosted World Cup qualifiers where Belize caused the biggest upset with the 3-0 grinding of Grenada in Saint George’s while St Kitts and Nevis had mixed fortunes managing only a 0-0 draw at home to Puerto Rico but beating St Lucia 4-2 on the road. Nicaragua returned from Dominica with a 2-0 win while the Dominican Republic made life difficult for El Salvador losing to their more illustrious hosts by the odd goal in five. Iraq suffered a 2-0 home defeat to Jordan but reversed the scoreline away to Singapore 4 days later and Australia came from behind at home to overcome Thailand 2-1 before travelling to Saudi Arabia where they ran out 3-1 winners. The Thais returned from their close match in Australia to continue their good form with a 3-0 victory over Oman while the United Arab Emirates took a 3-1 beating in Lebanon and Bahrain won 2-0 in Indonesia.
African heavyweights Egypt lost 2-1 away to Sierra Leone in an Africa Cup of Nations qualifier and South Africa were humiliated by the same result in Niger while Angola celebrated a 2-0 home victory against Uganda. Botswana lost 1-0 in Togo while Benin could only draw 1-1 in Burundi and Morocco were held to a goalless draw away to the Central African Republic.       

Friday, August 12, 2011

Preparing for the big games

With bigger matches on the horizon, a day in August was set aside for Friendly matches and one Euro qualifier in with Northern Ireland sailed 4-0 past the Faroe Islands. Venezuela, who had enjoyed a successful Copa America, lost 2-1 to El Salvador and 2-0 to Honduras on neutral grounds in a matter of days while in another friendly match Senegal lost 2-0 at home to Morocco and in a friendly tournament in the Seychelles, the Maldives were hammered 5-1 by their hosts. In prestigious matches in Europe Germany defeated Brazil 3-2 while world champions Spain lost 2-1 in Italy and Chile drew 1-1 away to France to remain highly ranked.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

The 2014 World Cup alternative draw

The draw for the 2014 World Cup was made by FIFA based on the FIFA rankings to make up the following groups in Europe:
Group A
Croatia, Serbia, Belgium, Scotland, Macedonia, Wales
Group B
Italy, Denmark, Czech Republic, Bulgaria, Armenia, Malta

Group C
Germany, Sweden, Republic of Ireland, Austria, Faroe Islands, Kazakhstan

Group D
Netherlands, Turkey, Hungary, Romania, Estonia, Andorra

Group E
Norway, Slovenia, Switzerland, Albania, Cyprus, Iceland

Group F
Portugal, Russia, Israel, Northern Ireland, Azerbaijan, Luxembourg

Group G
Greece, Slovakia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Lithuania, Latvia, Liechtenstein

Group H
England, Montenegro, Ukraine, Poland, Moldova, San Marino

Group I
Spain, France, Belarus, Georgia, Finland

The above groups were created by placing teams into pots according to the FIFA rankings and drawing one from each pot to create a group.
Pot 1: Spain, Netherlands, Germany, England, Portugal, Italy, Croatia, Norway, Greece.
Pot 2: France, Montenegro, Russia, Sweden, Denmark, Slovenia, Turkey, Serbia, Slovakia.
Pot 3: Switzerland, Israel, Republic of Ireland, Belgium, Czech Republic, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Belarus, Ukraine, Hungary.
Pot 4: Bulgaria, Romania, Georgia, Lithuania, Albania, Scotland, Northern Ireland, Austria, Poland.
Pot 5: Armenia, Finland, Estonia, Cyprus, Latvia, Moldova, Macedonia, Azerbaijan, Faroe Islands.
Pot 6: Wales, Liechtenstein, Iceland, Kazakhstan, Luxembourg, Malta, Andorra, San Marino.

Based on the Ziaian ranking system the pots would have taken a different look, resulting in a different outcome.

Pot 1: Spain, Netherlands, Germany, Portugal, Italy, Sweden, France, England, Croatia.
Pot 2: Republic of Ireland, Denmark, Switzerland, Norway, Turkey, Ukraine, Greece, Russia, Czech Republic.
Pot 3: Serbia, Slovenia, Romania, Israel, Belgium, Poland, Bulgaria, Montenegro, Hungary.
Pot 4: Scotland, Belarus, Slovakia, Georgia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Lithuania, Austria, Northern Ireland, Finland.
Pot 5: Armenia, Estonia, Wales, Macedonia, Latvia, Cyprus, Albania, Moldova, Iceland.
Pot 6: Azerbaijan, Liechtenstein, Kazakhstan, Faroe Islands, Luxembourg, Malta, Andorra, San Marino.

The first name out of the hat was Wales, or team one from pot 6, which would have been Azerbaijan. Following the rest of the procedure in the same vein would create the following groups:

Group A
France, Russia, Israel, Lithuania, Latvia, Azerbaijan
Group B
Sweden, Turkey, Belgium, Scotland, Armenia, Malta

Group C
Germany, Norway, Romania; Northern Ireland, Iceland, Faroe Islands

Group D
Netherlands, Greece, Hungary, Belarus, Wales, Andorra

Group E
England, Ukraine, Serbia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Macedonia, Kazakhstan

Group F
Italy, Switzerland, Slovenia, Austria, Moldova, Luxembourg

Group G
Croatia, Czech Republic, Poland, Georgia, Latvia, Liechtenstein

Group H
Portugal, Denmark, Montenegro, Finland, Cyprus, San Marino

Group I
Spain, Republic of Ireland, Bulgaria, Slovakia, Estonia

This would have produced a much fairer draw with more balanced groups.

Friday, July 29, 2011

The road to Brazil

The preliminary qualifiers for the 2014 World Cup got underway in Asia and the Caribbean islands. Bahamas sailed past Turks & Caicos picking up a 10-0 aggregate win while St Lucia needed a penalty shootout at home after suffering a 4-2 defeat away to Aruba and in the battle of the Virgin Islands the U.S. got the better of the British winning 2-1 away and 2-0 at home.
In Asia Mongolia shocked Myanmar with a single goal in Ulaan Baatar though they were sunk by a double in the return match and Philippines enjoyed a 4-0 win at home to Sri Lanka while Malaysia had to rely on away goals after losing 3-2 in Taiwan. Afghanistan held their Palestinian hosts to a 1-1 draw but lost 2-0 at home while Laos reversed their 4-2 defeat in Cambodia and scored 2 more in extra-time to eliminate their Cambodian visitors. In the final round Nepal who had already been annihilated 9-0 in their away match held Jordan to a 1-1 draw in Kathmandu while Bangladesh rallied to a 2-0 win over Lebanon only halving the deficit from the first leg and Qatar lost 2-1 in Vietnam but progressed thanks to a 3-0 win in their home tie.
Brazil themselves took part in Copa America hosted by Argentina and won by Uruguay who moved into 2nd place in the rankings. The Brazilians began with a goalless match against Venezuela and were eliminated in the next round on penalties as were Argentina who were held to a 1-1 draw by Bolivia in their first match. Venezuela put Chile out 2-1 and eventually finished 4th losing 4-1 to Peru who had struck twice in extra-time to eliminate Colombia.
Earlier the Gold Cup was hosted by U.S.A. who were humiliated 2-1 by Panama, but reached the final where they were outclassed 4-2 by the Mexicans.    

Friday, June 10, 2011

Earning a summer break

European and African continental qualifiers marked the end of the season with little Liechtenstein shocking the visiting Lithuanians 2-0 while Estonia were humiliated by the same result at the Faroe Islands. Bosnia & Herzegovina surrendered 3-0 in Romania and Azerbaijan lost 2-1 away to Kazakhstan while Denmark picked up a 2-0 win in Iceland. England moved down the rankings after being held to a 2-2 draw by Switzerland at Wembley while Sweden enjoyed a goal-rich week, winning 4-1 in Moldova before returning home to hammer their neighbours from Finland 5-0 a few days later. The Irish Republic also enjoyed a successful period with a 2-0 win in Macedonia and 2-0 friendly triumph over Italy in Belgium.
In Africa Algeria were taken apart 4-0 in Morocco and Benin were crushed 6-2 by their Ivorian visitors while Nigeria were held to a 2-2 draw in Ethiopia. Cape Verde lost to a single goal in Liberia and Tanzania lost 2-1 away to the Central African Republic while Libya drew 1-1 in Comoros. Namibia were beaten 4-1 at home to Burkina Faso and Rwanda lost 3-1 in Burundi while in a friendly match Argentina were pummelled 4-1 in Nigeria.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Continental qualifiers continue

The last days of March saw European and African teams battle to gain ground in their respective continents. Belgium Strengthened their position and moved up the rankings with a vital 2-0 win in Austria while Georgia stunned the visiting Croats 1-0 and a goal in Slovenia gave Italy all 3 points. Hungary were outclassed in Budapest 4-0 by the Dutch, giving their 5-3 defeat in Amsterdam 4 days later an air of respect.  
In African qualifiers Sierra Leone lost 3-1 in Niger while Zambia triumphed 2-0 in Mozambique, and Kenya earned a 2-1 home win against Angola. Recent World Cup hosts South Africa once again enjoyed home advantage winning 1-0 against African champions Egypt.
In an Asian Challenge Cup qualifier Bangladesh picked up a surprising 2-0 win away to Myanmar while in friendly matches Estonia embarrassed Uruguay 2-0 in Tallinn and Germany lost 2-1 at home to Australia.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Awake after the break

After the Asian Cup in January, the eyes of the world turned to the west in February as teams awoke from their winter break to engage in friendly internationals. World Cup failures France and Italy started the year well as the French celebrated a 1-0 win over Brazil in Paris and the Italians earned a 1-1 draw in Germany. In Portugal Guinea Bissau shocked Gambia 3-1 and Poland beat Norway 1-0 while a single goal was enough to give Cape Verde a win over Burkina Faso. Luxembourg stunned the visiting Slovaks 2-1 and Serbia returned from Israel with a 2-0 victory while Scotland sailed to a 3-0 win over Northern Ireland in Dublin and Iran continued to move up in the rankings with a 1-0 win over Russia in Dubai.    

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Japan a dominating force in Asia

Qatar hosted the 2011 Asian Cup and despite their initial defeat to Uzbekistan progressed from their group with wins over China and Kuwait losing narrowly to eventual winners Japan in the next round. The Uzbeks were the most improved team in the rankings during the tournament  winning group A and reaching the semi-final where they fell apart and were trounced  6-0 by Australia finishing forth after bouncing back but losing 3-2 to South Korea. China’s pivotal match resulting in their failure to get out of Group A was their 2-0 defeat to their hosts while Kuwait ended up making the numbers.
Iran negotiated group D with relative ease and were followed into the next round by reigning champions Iraq leaving behind them the barren North Korea and UAE who failed to score a goal between them. A South Korean goal in extra time ended Iran’s hopes in the quarter-finals while Iraq lost their crown in similar fashion to Australia sending the top teams from group C to the semi finals.
Japan started their campaign needing a goal in stoppage time to salvage a point against Jordan who were eventually knocked out 2-1 by Uzbekistan in the next round after victories over Syria and Saudi Arabia. The Saudis were a huge disappointment losing all 3 matches finishing the tournament with an embarrassing 5-0 hammering at the hands of Japan. The Japanese went on to knock their host out 3-2, beat South Korea on penalties and defeat Australia with a goal in extra time to win the Asian Cup for a record forth time.
Full reports from the 2011 Asian Cup can be read at score.    


Friday, January 07, 2011

Looking back at 2010

South Africa took centre stage in June and July with the World Cup being hosted on African soil for the first time, but in January Egypt, who had not qualified for the World Cup, won the African Cup of Nations in Angola with a 1-0 win in final against a young Ghana team that continued to impress in the World Cup.  Cameroon had a disappointing year scraping through their African group only to be knocked out in the next round, and losing all their group matches in the World Cup. The unattractive Algerians who progressed from their Africa Cup of Nations group thanks to the head-to-head rule were finally demolished 4-0 by Egypt and failed to score in any of their World Cup matches, though holding a dismal England side to a goalless draw may be considered an achievement. Botswana may have been absent from the final stages of both competitions but home and away wins against Tunisia moved them up in the 2010 rankings and has left them on the brink of qualification for the 2012 Africa Cup of Nations.
Spain were crowned world champions, but the Black Stars of Ghana did their continent proud by coming a penalty-kick away from a place in the top four, and New Zealand flew back as the only team not to lose a single match in the finals. Despite a glorious 1-0 victory over Germany, Serbia failed to reach the knockout round of the World Cup and were shortly after that humiliated 3-1 at home to Estonia in a Euro 2012 qualifier making them the team to move down the most, whereas Kuwait who had an active year in the Middle East taking part in friendly matches were the biggest climbers in the rankings battering Bahrain 4-1 and defeating Iran 2-1 on neutral grounds in the process.