Friday, November 29, 2013

Puzzle completed

The final teams for the 2014 World Cup were revealed after play-off matches were completed. Ukraine took a healthy 2-0 lead to Paris where the French hit back with 3 goals to celebrate qualification while a Christiano Ronaldo hat-trick in Sweden gave Portugal a 3-2 win and a place in Brazil. Uruguay were held to a goalless draw by Jordan in Montevideo having earlier slaughtered their opponent 5-0 in Amman while in Africa Tunisia were thumped 4-1 away to Cameroon who were joined by Ghana despite their 2-1 defeat in Egypt.
In the Asian Cup qualifiers Iran continued to move up the rankings with a 3-0 win in Thailand and a 4-1 away victory over Lebanon who had earlier held their Kuwaiti hosts to a goalless draw. In other matches across Asia Syria travelled to Iran where they put 4 past Singapore without reply while Uzbekistan won 3-0 in Vietnam and Iraq picked up a 2-0 win away to Indonesia.
In the ABCS tournament Bonaire finished third with a 2-1 win over Aruba while Suriname won the tournament with a 3-1 victory over hosts Curacao in the final.
Among friendly matches Trinidad & Tobago won by a single goal in Jamaica while Belgium lost 3-2 at home to Japan and Spain were beaten 1-0 in South Africa. 

Friday, October 25, 2013

The final push

With many countries already looking forward to participation in the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, two days in October gave the remaining hopefuls the chance to claim a place in the finals or play-offs. Croatia qualified for the play-offs despite ending their group matches with two defeats; going down 2-1 at home to group winners Belgium -who were later held to a 1-1 draw at home to Wales- and losing 2-0 in Scotland. Armenia continued to impress, but fell short of the play-offs ending their campaign with a 2-1 home win over Bulgaria and a 2-2 draw in Italy having twice led the four times world champions in Naples, while the Czech Republic who defeated Malta 4-1 and Bulgaria 1-0 in away matches also failed to progress from their group. Having already qualified for the finals, Germany came from behind to widen the gap between themselves and their hosts with a 5-3 win in Sweden, while the Dutch showed no mercy hammering the hapless Hungarians 8-1 in Amsterdam before winning 2-0 in Turkey, who had enjoyed the reverse result in Estonia, to finish their group well ahead of Romania who had earlier won 4-0 in Andorra. Portugal dropped vital points when a late goal gave Israel a 1-1 draw in Lisbon while Russia were winning 4-0 in Luxembourg and the Israelis themselves were held to a 1-1 home draw by Northern Ireland 4 days later. Among other noteworthy results in Europe were Latvia's 2-0 loss in Lithuania and Spain's narrow 2-1 win at home to lowly Belarus, while by far the most surprising result was Moldova's 5-2 triumph in Montenegro moving them above their hosts in the rankings.
In South America Uruguay lost 1-0 in Ecuador, but returned home to defeat Argentina 3-2 and qualify for the play-offs while Paraguay drew 1-1 in Venezuela and lost 2-1 at home to Colombia to finish bottom of the group below Bolivia who finished with a 1-1 draw in Peru.
In North America Mexico's 2-1 win at home to Panama on the penultimate day proved priceless as they scraped through to the play-offs while in Africa the first leg of the play-offs saw Ghana bury Egypt 6-1 in Kumasi.
In Asia the continental qualifiers saw Syria lose 2-1 in Singapore and Iraq surrender 2-0 to Saudi Arabia in Jordan while Qatar put 6 past their visitors from Yemen without reply having lost 2-1 at home to Vietnam in a friendly earlier in the month. In another friendly match the Philippines were beaten 2-1 at home to Taiwan. 

Friday, September 20, 2013

Rio on the horizon

Two days in early September gave a clearer picture of the teams that will be taking part in the 2014 World Cup, but there were the usual shocks adding spice to the mix and affecting the rankings. The amazing Armenians were up to it again beating the Czechs 2-1 in Prague, but their celebrations lasted only 4 days when they were beaten 1-0 at home to Denmark whom they had humiliated 4-0 in Copenhagen earlier in the summer. Bosnia & Herzegovina suffered a shock 1-0 loss at home to Slovakia but overcame the Slovaks 2-1 in the return match while the Scots lost 2-0 at home to Belgium before enjoying a 2-1 victory in Macedonia. Estonia held the Dutch to a 2-2 draw in Tallinn but were then thumped 5-1 away to Hungary who had lost 3-0 in Romania, but the biggest shock came when Romania lost 2-0 to the visiting Turks. Iceland earned a 4-4 draw in Switzerland who won 2-0 in Norway while Slovenia enjoyed the same result in Cyprus and Northern Ireland lost 3-2 in Luxembourg. Sweden upset the Irish 2-1 in Dublin and Wales lost 3-0 at home to Serbia and France won 4-2 in Belarus while in a friendly match Azerbaijan drew 1-1 in Israel.    
In South America Argentina qualified with a 5-2 win in Paraguay who had fired 4 past Bolivia without reply 4 days earlier while Uruguay enhanced their chances by winning 2-1 in Peru and 2-0 at home to Colombia. In North America Mexico's poor run continued, losing 2-1 at home to Honduras while Panama fired blanks at home to Jamaica and Costa Rica celebrated a 3-1 home win over the USA.
In Africa Cape Verde were effectively disqualified from the World Cup for fielding a suspended player after their 2-0 win in Tunisia was awarded 3-0 to their hosts while in other matches Lesotho triumphed 3-1 in Sudan, Tanzania lost 2-0 in Gambia, DR Congo were beaten 2-1 away to Togo and Ivory Coast were held to a 1-1 draw at home to Morocco.
Jordan defeated Uzbekistan on penalties after a 1-1 draw in Tashkent to qualify for the play-offs from Asia.

Friday, August 23, 2013

American gold

Shortly after Brazil had moved to the top of the world rankings by toppling world champions Spain 3-0 in the Confederations Cup final at the Maracana, the United States hosted and won the CONCACAF Gold Cup with a single goal in the final against Panama who had defeated Mexico 2-1 and topped their group despite a disappointing 0-0 draw against Canada before going on to thump Cuba 6-1 and once again beating the troubled Mexicans 2-1 to reach the final. The tournament had begun with a stoppage time goal for Martinique that stunned the Canadians who crashed out with a solitary point. Trinidad & Tobago earned a 2-2 draw against El Salvador and lost 2-0 to Haiti before coming back from the dead with a 2-0 victory against group winners Honduras who knocked Costa Rica out 1-0 in the next round. Costa Rica had laboured to a 1-0 win over Belize who where comfortably beaten 4-0 by Cuba.
In mid August Russia lost a World Cup qualifier 1-0 in Northern Ireland while among friendly matches Mexico salvaged some pride with a 4-1 win over Ivory Coast in America while Switzerland celebrated a 1-0 win over their illustrious visitor from Brazil and Pakistan were beaten 3-0 away to the improving Afghanistan.     

Friday, June 28, 2013

Summer shocks

Two World Cup days in June and several friendly matches produced a handful of unexpected results affecting the world rankings. Having suffered a 1-0 loss at home to Malta, Armenia pulled off one of the biggest shocks ever when they derailed Denmark 4-0 in Copenhagen while Scotland stunned Croatia with a single goal in Zagreb and Iceland lost 4-2 at home to Slovenia. Ukraine thumped their Montenegrin hosts 4-0 while Bosnia & Herzegovina did a goal better in Latvia and Sweden lost 2-1 in Austria while Luxembourg earned a 1-1 draw in Azerbaijan. Iran qualified for the World Cup as group winners after winning 1-0 in Qatar, 4-0 at home to Lebanon and securing a 1-0 victory away to South Korea who also qualified at the expense of Uzbekistan who had to settle for the play-offs after coming from behind to hammer Qatar 5-1 in Tashkent. Japan were the fist team to qualify for the World Cup after salvaging a 1-1 draw in Saitama with a last minute penalty against Australia who joined them a week later by putting 4 past Jordan in Melbourne. In South America Ecuador lost 1-0 in Peru while Chile won 2-1 in Paraguay and Colombia held Argentina to a goalless draw in Buenos Aires. In North America Mexico fired blanks at home to Costa Rica while in Africa Mali had their hopes dashed with 2 home draws 1-1 against Rwanda and 2-2 against Benin losing out to Algeria who had won 3-1 in Benin. Ethiopia * reached the play-offs by winning 2-1 in Botswana and celebrating the same result at home to South Africa who had earlier won 3-0 in the Central African Republic. Senegal strengthened their position with a vital 2 goal win in Liberia and Zambia surrendered 1-1 at home to Sudan while Togo * enjoyed a 2-0 home victory over Cameroon but where then beaten by the same scoreline away to Libya. Namibia earned a 0-0 draw in Malawi and a 1-1 draw at home to Nigeria while Niger lost 4-1 at Gabon. Guinea thrashed Mozambique 6-1 but were eliminated as Egypt triumphed 4-1 away to Zimbabwe. Among friendly matches St Vincent and the Grenadines were beaten 2-0 at home to St Lucia and Turkey lost by the same scoreline to Slovenia in Germany while Iraq lost 1-0 at home to Liberia. Estonia were held to a 1-1 draw at home to Kyrgyzstan and Haiti scored 2 late goals to share 4 goals with Italy in Brazil while Thailand celebrated an amazing 5-1 win away to China.

* Due to the use of ineligible players FIFA has awarded the following results:
Equatorial Guinea v Cape Verde 0-3, Botswana v Ethiopia 3-0, Cape Verde v Equatorial Guinea 3-0 and Togo v Cameroon 0-3. The Ziaian rankings have been updated accordingly.

Friday, March 29, 2013

March to Rio

Two more international days in March took the world closer to the Brazil 2014 World Cup. The Czech Republic suffered a demoralising 3-0 defeat at home to Denmark, but bounced back with 3 goals in Armenia 4 days later while the Danes were held to a 1-1 draw at home to Bulgaria. Norway were stunned by a single Albanian goal in Oslo while Slovenia lost 2-1 at home to Iceland and Ukraine triumphed 3-1 in Poland. The Republic of Ireland earned a goalless draw in Sweden but dropped points when they shared 4 goals with Austria in Dublin while Northern Ireland succumbed to a late Israeli double in Belfast and Wales conquered Scotland 2-1 at Hampden Park. Finland shocked European and world champions Spain with a 1-1 draw in Gijon, while South American champions Uruguay fell 2-0 in Chile having earlier dropped points in a 1-1 home draw against Paraguay to continue their fall in the Ziaian rankings and Asian champions Japan lost 2-1 away to Jordan. Newly crowned African champions Nigeria could only manage a 1-1 draw against their visitors from Kenya while Morocco were brushed aside 3-1 in Tanzania and Uganda lost 2-0 in Liberia. A single goal in Venezuela gave the hosts victory over Colombia and Argentina could only draw 1-1 in Bolivia. Bosnia & Herzegovina continued their good run with a 3-1 win over the visiting Greek and Lithuania drew 1-1 in Slovakia while the Dutch demolished Romania 4-0 in Amsterdam and Switzerland fired blanks in Cyprus.
Thailand were crushed 5-2 in Lebanon and Yemen lost 2-1 in Malaysia while Hong Kong beat Vietnam 1-0 and Oman earned a 2-2 draw away to Australia.
After their recent heroics in the Africa Cup of Nations, Cape Verde lost by an odd goal in 7 away to Equatorial Guinea and Togo were beaten 2-1 in Cameroon while Zambia drew 1-1 in Lesotho and there were 1-0 wins for Congo over Gabon and Malawi in Namibia. In North America Honduras lost 2-0 in Panama and Mexico were held at home to a goalless draw by the Americans.
Earlier in friendly matches Gambia suffered a surprising 2-0 loss at home to Mauritania before enjoying a 3-1 win in Niger while in the AFC Challenge Cup qualifiers in Myanmar the most surprising result was Guam's 3-0 victory over Taiwan.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Nigeria soar in Africa

Central American Cup hosts Cost Rica may have been the first to be crowned in 2013, but it was Africa Cup of Nations finalists Nigeria and Burkina Faso who rose most in the early Ziaian rankings. Costa Rica won the Central American Cup with a single goal in the final against defending champions Honduras who had been held to a 1-1 draw by El Salvador and only progressed from their group on goals scored. The Costa Ricans faired slightly better in their group but were disappointing having struggled to beat Belize 1-0 and drawn 1-1 against Guatemala who had earlier been held to a 1-1 draw by Nicaragua. Belize impressed with a goalless draw against Guatemala and a 2-1 win over Nicaragua ending up in 4th place.
The Gulf Cup was won by the United Arab Emirates who defeated Iraq 2-1 in extra time by the result of the tournament was Kuwait's 6-1battering of hosts Bahrain in the 3rd place match.
The Africa Cup of Nations began with debutants Cape Verde holding hosts South Africa to a goalless draw. South Africa made amends with a 2-0 win over Angola and made it to the next round together with Cape Verde despite sharing 4 goals with Morocco in their last group match. DR Congo came from 2 down to draw with Ghana who defeated Mali 1-0 to top their group but after losing to Burkina Faso on penalties were swept aside 3-1 by Mali in the 3rd place playoff match. Algeria failed miserably losing 1-0 to Tunisia and 2-0 to Togo before salvaging some pride with a 2-2 draw against Ivory Coast who had already eased 3-0 past Tunisia. Burkina Faso topped their group ahead of Nigeria on goal difference thanks to a 4 goal routing against Ethiopia, but Nigeria knocked pre-tournament favourites Ivory Coast out 2-1 before thumping Mali 4-1 to reach the final where they defeated the Burkinabe one nil.
Among World Cup qualifiers the Americans were beaten 2-1 away to Honduras while Mexico fired blanks against their visitors from Jamaica.
In the Asian Cup qualifiers Hong Kong celebrated a goalless draw in Uzbekistan and China lost 2-1 away to Saudi Arabia while Kuwait prevailed 3-1 in Thailand and Lebanon were hammered 5-0 in Iran.
Among friendly matches Kenya defeated Libya 3-0 in Tunis and Denmark lost 3-0 away to Macedonia.