Friday, November 21, 2014

Minnows make their mark

In the final European qualifiers of the year, several small nations went into the winter break making history and shaking the world rankings. The Faroe Islands caused a Greek tragedy with a single goal in Greece that resulted in the dismissal of manager Claudio Ranieri while Liechtenstein won by the same result in Moldova, and Estonia, who had earlier stunned Norway 1-0 in an Oslo friendly, were held to a goalless draw away to Euro Minnows San Marino. The Norwegians made amends with a single-goal win in Azerbaijan while Malta returned from Bulgaria with a 1-1 draw and Wales earned a point by shutting out Belgium in Brussels. Poland continued their good form with 4 goals in Georgia while the Swiss enjoyed the same result at home to Lithuania and Israel put 3 past their visitors from Bosnia and Herzegovina.
The qualifiers for the 2015 Africa Cup of Nations were completed with several big names missing out on the flight to newly elected hosts Equatorial Guinea. Nigeria, who won 2-0 in Congo, could only draw 2-2 at home to South Africa with comeback thanks to an Aluko double and were eliminated as Congo netted a single goal for 3 points in Sudan. In group B Mali lost 2-0 in Malawi but reversed the result away to World Cup heroes Algeria to qualify behind their North African opponents with Malawi missing out after a 0-0 draw in Ethiopia while in group D Ivory Coast cemented qualification with a 5-1 romping at Sierra Leone. Uganda, who had recently disposed of Ethiopia 3-0 in a home friendly, hosted and defeated group E winners Ghana 1-0 but lost out on the last day to Guinea who had earlier tranced Togo 4-1 on the road with a hat-trick from Soumah, while in group F Zambia paved their way to the finals with a 1-0 victory in Mozambique. Tunisia topped group G despite firing blanks in Botswana and were joined by Senegal who were buried Egypt 1-0 in Cairo.
Jamaica won the 2014 Caribbean Cup on home soils with a win on penalties against Trinidad and Tobago in the final having drawn their opening match 1-1 with Martinique who had a mixed tournament losing 3-0 to Haiti before bouncing back to put 2 past Antigua and Barbuda. French Guiana drew 1-1 against Cuba before enjoying a 4-1 win over Curacao to finish 5th and qualify for the Gold Cup play-off while Haiti finished 3rd with a 2-1 victory against Cuba.
 In East Asian Cup qualifiers played in Taiwan, Guam shocked their hosts 2-1 and held Hong Kong to a goalless draw while Taiwan, who finished last, foiled the advances of top team North Korea.
Among friendly matches Belarus defeated their Mexican visitors 3-2 and Uruguay returned from Chile with a 2-1 victory while a late goal gave Portugal a win over World Cup finalists Argentina in Manchester and Oman thumped Kuwait 5-0 in the Gulf Cup hosted by Saudi Arabia.