Friday, November 23, 2007

The best in Europe

The European qualifying round reached its conclusion in November with the top 14 joining hosts Austria and Switzerland for next year’s European championships. In the last 2 fixture days Croatia who had qualified by virtue of Israel’s win over Russia despite losing 2-0 away to neighbours Macedonia, ended the hopes of England with a 3-2 win at Wembley making England the highest team in the rankings not to qualify for the finals. Turkey who came from a goal down in Norway to register a vital 2-1 victory and turn the table in their favour also qualified with an expected win over Bosnia on Wednesday. Portugal reached the finals despite being held 0-0 at home by Finland. Among teams not to reach the finals, Belarus ended on a high with a 4-2 win in Albania followed by a historic 2-1 home triumph over the Dutch. Lithuania also showed promise winning 2-0 at home to Ukraine and away to Georgia. Germany failed to claim top spot in their group after being held to a goalless home draw against Wales, while Armenia ended their campaign losing 1-0 at home to Kazakhstan. Moldova enjoyed a 3-0 win against Hungary and Bulgaria returned from Slovenia with a 2-0 win.
While Europe was focused on Euro 2008, the 2010 World Cup qualifying matches had already begun in other parts of the globe with New Caledonia enjoying a 4-0 win over Fiji in the Oceania section. In South America Peru gained a creditable 1-1 draw at home to Brazil, but let their guards down and were thrashed 5-1 in Ecuador. Paraguay moved to the top of the table with a powerful 3-0 win in Chile as Argentina lost their 100% record with a 2-1 defeat in Colombia.
The 2010 World Cup qualifying draw for the rest of the world will take place this weekend, with the Euro 2008 draw following a week later.