Friday, September 08, 2017

Summer end in sight

With Russian summer nearing its end many teams took a step or two closer to the 2018 World Cup and several nations celebrated qualification while there was heartbreak or despair for others. Saudi Arabia lost 2-1 away to the UAE, but qualified with a 1-0 home win over Japan who had already qualified while Syria made it to the play-offs after a 3-1 home win over Qatar and a late draw in Iran. Africa is yet to find any representatives, but Cape Verde did the double over South Africa winning 2-1 home and away while Cameroon were thumped 4-0 in Nigeria and eliminated as were Algeria who lost 3-1 Zambia. Ivory Coast enjoyed a 3-0 win in Gabon but were stunned 2-1 in their return match while Ghana who could only manage a 1-1 draw at home to Congo hammered their Congolese hosts 5-1 in the return fixture 4 days later. Another surprising result in Africa was Guinea’s 1-0 loss in Libya. Chile suffered a massive fall in the football rankings after their shocking 3-0 loss at home to Paraguay who were beaten 2-1 at home to Uruguay less than a week later while in North America USA lost 2-0 at home to Costa Rica. And in Oceania New Zealand were held to a 2-2 draw to the Solomon Islands but progressed to the play-offs.
In Europe, group E leaders, Poland were taken apart 4-0 in Denmark and there were 3-2 home wins for Bulgaria against Sweden and Cyprus who fought back from 2 down against Bosnia & Herzegovina while Estonia held their Greek hosts to a goalless draw and Scotland put 3 past Lithuania without reply in Vilnius. France were held to a goalless draw at home to Luxembourg while Iceland were frozen 1-0 in Finland and there was a 1-0 win for Macedonia in Israel.