Friday, September 13, 2019

Back to business


After the summer break, competitive international football returned with European qualifiers and World Cup qualifiers in Africa and Asia. In Africa the qualifiers began with a shock in the first round as Djibouti celebrated a 2-1 victory over Eswatini and held them to a goalless draw in the away match to progress to the next round while a 3-1 win for Sudan in Chad was enough to take them through after a 0-0 home draw. Zimbabwe also made it to the next round despite being stunned 1-0 in Somalia, as did Equatorial Guinea who could only draw 1-1 at home to South Sudan in their first match. Angola paved their path to the next round with a 1-0 win in Gambia.
The Asian World Cup qualifiers entered the group stage where Palestine enjoyed a 2-0 win at home to Uzbekistan but were embarrassed 2-1 in Singapore the following week. The shock of the round was produced by Nepal who won 2-0 in Taiwan while Mongolia stunned their visitors from Myanmar 1-0 and Asian champions Qatar where held to a goalless draw at home to India. Lebanon lost 2-0 in North Korea and Kyrgyzstan fell to a single goal in Tajikistan while Australia were 3-0 winners in Kuwait and Malaysia defeated Indonesia 3-2 on their travels.
In the Euro 2020 qualifiers Croatia slaughtered Slovakia 4-0 on the road, but the Slovaks salvaged some pride days later with a 2-1 win away to Hungary while Croatia were held to a 1-1 draw in Azerbaijan. The Netherlands returned from Germany with a 4-2 victory that took them to the top of the Ziaian rankings and Greece were held 1-1 at home to little Liechtenstein while Bosnia & Herzegovina were beaten 4-2 in Armenia for whom Henrikh Mikhitaryan scored twice. Poland lost 2-0 in Slovenia while Portugal triumphed 4-2 in Serbia and Estonia were 2-1 losers at home to Belarus. The Czech Republic picked up a 3-0 win in Montenegro while Albania enjoyed a 4-2 home win against Iceland.
In the Concacaf Nations League Panama suffered a shock 2-0 defeat at home to Bermuda.    

Friday, July 19, 2019

Algeria shine in Africa


A summer of action ended with Algeria lifting the Africa Cup of Nations in Egypt. The hosts topped group A ahead of Uganda who had defeated DR Congo 2-0 and the Congolese themselves who progressed as one of the best 3rd placed teams after their 4-0 trashing of Zimbabwe. It was another 3rd placed team, South Africa, who in the round of 16 stunned the Egyptians 1-0 ending their run of clean sheets and participation in the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations. Group B saw the rise of Madagascar who after a 1-0 win over Burundi, who lost 2-0 to Guinea, shocked the continent with a 2-0 victory against Nigeria. The Malagasy beat DR Congo on penalties in the next round but were stopped 3-0 by Tunisia in the quarter finals. The Tunisians had struggled to get out of their group drawing all 3 matches including a goalless match against Mauritania but finished 4th in the competition after losing 1-0 to Nigeria who had ended South African hopes 2-1 in the quarter finals before losing by the same result to Algeria. Benin eliminated Morocco on penalties but lost 1-0 to Senegal in the quarter finals where the Ivorians, who had defeated Namibia 4-1 in their last group match, were knocked out by Algeria in a penalty shootout. The Algerian began their campaign with a 2-0 win over Kenya, who defeated Tanzania 3-2, and having got the better of Senegal 1-0 moved into the next round as group winners. An early goal in the final gave Algeria a repeat result against Senegal and the coveted African title.  
Earlier in the summer, the 2022 World Cup qualifiers got underway in Asia with a shock 1-0 defeat for Guam in Bhutan, though they made amends scoring 5 goals without reply in the return match. Bangladesh drew 0-0 at home to Laos making the solitary goal they had scored in Laos enough to take them into the 2nd round where they will be joined by among others, Cambodia who beat Pakistan home and away. Macau were disqualified after refusing to travel to Sri Lanka having won their home match by a single goal to nil.
In the Euro qualifiers world champions France were humiliated 2-0 in Turkey but the Turkish delight was short lived as they lost 2-1 in Iceland a few days later while Greece were beaten 3-0 at home to Italy and suffered an embarrassing 3-2 loss to their visitors from Armenia shortly after. Latvia also had a week to forget losing 3-0 to Israel thanks to an Eran Zahavi hat-trick and 5-0 to Slovenia with Domen Crnigoj and Josip Ilicic scoring twice each, both matches on home soil, while Serbia were hammered 5-0 in Ukraine with Viktor Tsygankov and Yevhen Konoplyanka netting a brace each. Kosovo scored late to win 3-2 in Bulgaria while 2 goals from Marko Arnautivic helped Austria to a 4-1 victory in North Macedonia and the Republic of Ireland drew 1-1 in Denmark.
In South America Brazil hosted and won the Copa America. The Brazilians won their group despite being held to a goalless draw by Venezuela and needed a penalty shootout to get past Paraguay for a semi-final meeting with Argentina who had defeated the Venezuelans 2-0 in the quarter finals. Chile and Peru met in the other semi final having come through penalty shootouts against Colombia and Uruguay respectively. With Brazil winning 2-0 against Argentina, Peru shocked Chile 3-0 to set up a final with the hosts which ended in a 3-1 victory for Brazil.
The Concacaf Gold Cup was hosted mostly by the USA, but also Costa Rica and Jamaica. CuraƧao made it out of group C having enjoyed a 1-0 win over Honduras who later thrashed El Salvador 4-0 while Haiti won group B with a 2-1 victory against Costa Rica and Nicaragua lost 2-0 to Bermuda to finish bottom of the group. The Haitians knocked Canada out 3-2 in the next round where Jamaica were 1-0 winners over Panama. Trinidad & Tobago drew 1-1 with Guyana to finish bottom of group D which was won by the Americans who made it all the way to the final where they lost 1-0 to Mexico.
In the Indian Ocean Island Games the most notable result was the 2-0 defeat of Comoros by Mayotte in Mauritius.
The Summer matches saw a lot of movement in the Ziaian rankings.