Saturday, November 21, 2015

Paris ready as world eyes Russia

The European qualifiers were completed while many countries across the globe were battling for places in the 2018 Russia World Cup. Hungary who had narrowly missed out on automatic qualification became the first team to claim a spot in the 2016 European Championships in Paris through the play-offs after a stunning 1-0 win in Norway which they followed up with a 2-1 victory on home soil. Sweden took a 2-1 lead to Denmark where an Ibrahimovic double gave them a 2-2 draw taking to Paris together with Ukraine and the Irish Republic who got the better of Slovenia and Bosnia & Herzegovina respectively in other play-off matches.
Meanwhile in World Cup qualifiers South American champions Chile moved down in the rankings after drawing 1-1 at home to Colombia and suffering a 3-0 loss in Uruguay while the Colombians were upset 1-0 at home to Argentina and Bolivia enjoyed a 4-2 home win over Venezuela.  
In Asia, Saudi Arabia could only manage a 0-0 draw against Palestine in Jordan but annihilated East Timor 10-0 in Dili while Jordan were stunned 1-0 in Kyrgyzstan and Oman fell 2-1 in Turkmenistan. In Africa, Rwanda suffered a shocking exit at the hands of Libya losing 1-0 in Tunisia before being swept away 3-1 on home soil while Egypt were stunned 1-0 in Chad but bounced back with 4 goals in their home match. Cape Verde lost 1-0 in Kenya but struck twice in their return match while Cameroon cruised to a 3-0 win in Niger but were held to a goalless draw at home and Algeria who drew 2-2 in Tanzania hit their visitors for 7 without reply to progress into the next round. Gabon were shocked 1-0 in Mozambique but scraped through on penalties while Ghana who were held to a goalless draw in Comoros also made it to the group stage as expected. Burundi earned a 2-2 draw in DR Congo but were eliminated having lost 3-2 at home while South Africa eased past Angola on the strength of their 3-1 away win and Tunisia defeated Mauritania 2-1 home and away. A 1-0 home victory for Equatorial Guinea against Morocco was not enough but a 2-0 home win for Burkina Faso saw them scrape through against Benin while Mali lost 2-1 in Botswana but struck twice without reply in their return match. There were 1-0 away wins for Zambia, Guinea and Uganda against Sudan, Namibia and Togo respectively with all 3 making sure of progress in their home matches while Senegal who were held to a 2-2 draw in Madagascar also sailed through after a home win.   
In the CONCOCAF section Panama won 2-0 in Jamaica but lost 2-1 at home to Costa Rica while the Jamaicans enjoyed a 1-0 victory in Haiti in group B and Guatemala travelled to St Vincent and the Grenadines to thump their hosts 4-0 in group C.
Among friendly matches Estonia defeated Georgia 3-0 in Tallinn and Russia lost 3-1 at home to Croatia while Austria fell 2-1 at home to neighbours Switzerland and Lebanon won 1-0 in Macedonia who had earlier battered Montenegro 4-1 on the same ground. A single goal gave New Zealand a win in Oman and Greece lost 1-0 in Luxembourg while Albania drew 2-2 in Kosovo.       

Monday, October 19, 2015

Last push for Europe

While most of the world was focusing on the 2018 World Cup qualifiers, European teams were battling to stay in contention for the 2016 European finals on the last days of the group matches. Turkey rose in the football rankings after celebrating a 2-0 win away to the Czech Republic and later qualified as best 3rd team when Latvia who had drawn 2-2 in Iceland were stunned at home by a single goal from Kazakhstan to change the shape of group A where the Dutch who had picked up an encouraging 2-1 win in Kazakhstan crashed out of the Euros after a 3-2 loss at home to a 10-man Czech Republic. Bosnia and Herzegovina enjoyed a 2-0 home win over Wales and qualified for the play-offs with a 3-2 win in Cyprus who had earlier shocked their Israeli hosts 2-1 while in group C Slovakia who were humiliated 1-0 at home to Belarus bounced back to win 4-2 in Luxembourg and finish 2nd, ahead of Ukraine who lost 1-0 at home to group winners Spain with the Belarusians being held to a goalless draw at home to bottom side Macedonia. The Republic of Ireland defeated world champions Germany 1-0 in Dublin but missed out on automatic qualification after losing 2-1 in Poland while in group F Romania, who had been held to a 1-1 draw at home to Finland, finished off with a 3-0 win away to the Faroe Islands to qualify for the finals ahead of Hungary who lost 4-3 in Greece and will have to rely on the play-offs as will Slovenia from group E who drew 1-1 at home to Lithuania. Azerbaijan ended their campaign with a 3-1 defeat at home to Italy and a 2-0 loss in Bulgaria in group H while Albania, who suffered a 2-0 shock at home to Serbia in group I with both goals coming in stoppage time, qualified for the finals after a 3-0 victory in Armenia, behind clear group winners Portugal who won 2-1 away to 9-man Serbia.
In South America the 2018 World Cup qualifiers got underway with Argentina suffering a shocking 2-0 defeat at home to Ecuador while Uruguay began with a 2-0 win in Bolivia and continued with a 3-0 victory at home to Colombia who had already beaten Peru 2-0 on home soil while Paraguay were victorious 1-0 in Venezuela.
The World Cup qualifiers in Asia continued with Asian champions Australia suffering 2-0 in Jordan while Palestine were held 1-1 in East Timor who lost their next home match 1-0 to Malaysia and Saudi Arabia who were awarded their abandoned match against Malaysia 3-0 defeated the UAE 2-1 at home. North Korea fired blanks at home to the Philippines but managed a goal in their next home match against Yemen while Uzbekistan put 4 past their Bahraini hosts who narrowly defeated the Philippines 2-0 in their next home match. Bhutan came from 4 down to lose a respectable 4-3 with goals in the last 5 minutes at home to the Maldives and also lost by a single goal to nil at home to Hong Kong while Singapore struggled to beat Afghanistan 1-0 and Cambodia 2-1 in their home matches. Japan cruised past Syria 3-0 in Oman where Iran could only manage a 1-1 draw as did Iraq away to Vietnam who lost their next home match 3-0 to Thailand. Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan drew 2-2 and Lebanon drew 0-0 in Kuwait.
In Africa Madagascar buried the Central African Republic 3-0 but could only manage a 2-2 draw in their return match while Comoros eliminated Lesotho with a goalless draw at home and a 1-1 draw in Lesotho. Liberia were held to a 1-1 draw at home to Guinea Bissau but triumphed 3-1 away from home while Kenya who did the damage 5-2 in Mauritius could only manage a goalless draw in their home match. Malawi were eliminated after losing 2-0 in Tanzania and only overturning one goal at home while Chad lost 2-1 to Sierra Leone in Nigeria but progressed to the next round after a 1-0 home win. Mauritania used home advantage to put 4 past South Sudan while Ethiopia were stunned 1-0 at Sao Tome and Principe but went through after their home win and Swaziland could only manage a 2-1 win at home to Djibouti having smashed 6 past them away from home.
Among friendly matches Costa Rica lost 1-0 at home to South Africa before beating their American hosts by the same scoreline while Trinidad and Tobago won 2-1 in Panama but drew 0-0 at home to Nicaragua. Guinea won 2-1 in Algeria while Nigeria thumped Cameroon 3-0 in Belgium having lost 2-0 to DR Congo in the same country. Earlier Botswana lost 3-2 at home to Ethiopia while Syria lost 2-1 in Oman and Iraq were thrashed 3-0 in Jordan.        

Friday, September 11, 2015

French doors open

England became the first team to qualify for France 2016 and were followed by the Czech Republic, Iceland and Austria a day later with several teams teetering on the brink of qualification after 6 days of European matches. The Netherlands were left in the cold after losing 1-0 at home to Iceland and being humiliated 3-0 in Turkey and now face an uphill battle to reach the playoffs ahead of the Turks who will rue their 1-1 home draw against Latvia if the Dutch prevail. The Czechs earned narrow 2-1 wins at home to Kazakhstan and away to Latvia while Iceland celebrated their first ever qualification to a major tournament after a disappointing goalless home draw with Kazakhstan. Wales kept their fans waiting after drawing blanks at home to Israel while Northern Ireland, who won 3-1 away to the Faroe Islands, endured the same outcome in group F after drawing 1-1 at home to Hungary. Romania are only 3 points ahead of Hungary after a disheartening 0-0 draw at home to bottom team Greece who had earlier lost 1-0 at home to Finland. Scotland suffered a huge blow losing to a single goal in Georgia while in group G, after picking up 3 points in a weak 1-0 home win over Moldova, Austria travelled to Sweden who were reeling from a 1-0 loss in Russia to hammer their hosts 4-1 and qualify for the Euros. In the same group Montenegro won 2-0 in Moldova and Russia slaughtered Liechtenstein 7-0 in Vaduz. In group H Norway were victorious 1-0 in Bulgaria before celebrating a 2-0 win at home to Croatia who had earlier drawn 0-0 in Azerbaijan while Italy could only manage a 1-0 home win over Malta. Albania held their Danish hosts to a goalless draw before returning home and losing to a stoppage-time goal against Portugal who had earlier lost a home friendly 1-0 to France. Slovakia lost their unbeaten record 2-0 in Spain and Macedonia lost 1-0 in Luxembourg while little San Marino came close to picking up an unlikely point but lost 2-1 to a stoppage-time goal in Lithuania.
In World Cup qualifiers in Tonga, American Samoa who had been seemingly permanently rooted to the bottom of the football rankings, defeated their hosts 2-1 before turning overt he Cook Islands 2-0 and narrowly missed out on qualifying for the next round of the Oceania section having been edged out 3-2 by Samoa in their first match, but relinquished their unenvied bottom spot in the process. Hosts Tonga completed a miserable campaign also losing 3-0 to the Cook Islands and Samoa. In Asia China and Jordan fired blanks at home to Hong Kong and Kyrgyzstan respectively while the United Arab Emirates mauled Malaysia 10-0 in Abu Dhabi and Kuwait spanked Myanmar 9-0 in Qatar. Japan could only manage a 3-0 home win over Cambodia and Uzbekistan scraped 1-0 past Yemen, but enjoyed a 5-1 win in the Philippines five days later while the Yemenis lost 4-0 to Bahrain in Qatar. Guam continued to impress with a goalless draw against their visitors from Oman while there were 4-0 and 3-0 wins for Jordan in Bangladesh and South Korea in Lebanon respectively and Iraq could only draw 2-2 in Thailand. In the CONCACAF section Jamaica were stunned 3-2 at home to Nicaragua, but prevailed 2-0 in the return match while Guatemala continued their dismal form with a 1-0 defeat at Antigua & Barbuda but turned the tie around with 2 goals in their home match. El Salvador could only manage a 1-0 home win over Curacao but progressed to the next round as did Canada who drew 1-1 in Belize and St Vincent & the Grenadines who lost 2-1 in Aruba.
In the Africa Cup of nations qualifiers Tunisia were humiliated 1-0 in Liberia and Equatorial Guinea suffered the same outcome in South Sudan while South Africa were embarrassed 3-1 in Mauritania and Niger lost 2-0 in Burundi. The Central African Republic shocked their visitors from DR Congo 2-0 and the Ivory Coast were held to a goalless draw at home to Sierra Leone while Mozambique fell 1-0 away to Mauritius and Zambia won 2-1 in Kenya.
Congo triumphed 4-2 in Guinea Bissau and Burkina Faso lost 1-0 in Botswana while Nigeria fired blanks in Tanzania and Ethiopia drew 1-1 in the Seychelles. Senegal won 2-0 in Namibia while a single goal gave Cameroon victory in Gambia and Egypt enjoyed a 5-1 win in Chad. Angola drew 0-0 in Madagascar while Guinea drew 1-1 in Zimbabwe and Malawi shared 4 goals with their hosts Swaziland.
In the Indian Ocean Island Games hosted and won by Reunion, Madagascar failed to show up against the Seychelles, but finished fourth after losing 3-1 to Mauritius who had been awarded a 3-0 win against the absent Comoros in group B. The Maldives finished bottom of group A despite a 2-1 win over Seychelles having lost 3-1 to Mayotte. In the East Asian Cup North Korea beat Japan 2-1 in China.
In friendly matches Honduras were 3-0 victors in Venezuela while Peru suffered a 2-1 loss in the USA. The American later hosted Brazil and were thumped 4-1 while there were 1-0 defeats for Uruguay away to Costa Rica and Senegal in South Africa.
Earlier in the summer the United States and Canada hosted the God Cup. The Americans  won their group but were less than convincing, having began with a 2-1 win over Honduras and ended their group matches with a 1-1 draw against 3rd in the group Panama who also progressed to the knockout stage having drawn 1-1 with Haiti in the opening match. The Haitians finished 2nd in the group with a 1-0 win over Honduras. Jamaica and Costa Rica advanced from group B having drawn their opening match 2-2 with the Jamaicans finishing above Costa Rica who drew 1-1 with El Salvador. Guatemala finished bottom of group C losing 3-1 to group winners Trinidad & Tobago and 1-0 to Cuba, but earning a shock 0-0 draw against Mexico who finished 2nd in the group after sharing an 8-goal thriller with Trinidad & Tobago. In the quarter finals Jamaica put Haiti out with a single goal while Mexico needed extra time to achieve the same against Costa Rica and Panama needed a penalty shootout to get past Trinidad & Tobago. The Americans lost their semi-final match 2-1 to Jamaica and finished 4th after losing to Panama on penalties while Mexico Defeated Jamaica 3-1 in the final to lift the cup.

Sunday, July 05, 2015

Chile champions

The 2015 Copa America was hosted and won by Chile who moved to the top of the football rankings in the process. The Chileans began their campaign with a 2-0 win over Ecuador while Bolivia held Mexico to a goalless draw. After a 3-2 win for Bolivia over Ecuador and a 3-3 draw between Chile and Mexico, the top two met with Chile battering Bolivia 5-0 to win group A while Mexico finished bottom of the group with a 2-1 loss to Ecuador who were also eliminated.
In group B top teams Argentina and Paraguay drew 2-2 and were followed into the next round by Uruguay as one of the best of the third placed teams.
Venezuela stunned Colombia 1-0 but failed to progress from group C after losing 1-0 to Peru while Colombia bounced back to beat Brazil 1-0 and make it into the next round behind Brazil and Peru. Brazil were knocked out on penalties by Paraguay who were shattered 6-1 by Argentina and finished fourth after losing the third place play off 2-0 to Peru while Argentina lost the final to Chile in a penalty shootout.    

Sunday, June 21, 2015

The heat is on

With the arrival of summer there were plenty of shocks in the world of football. In May, Namibia who had thumped Zimbabwe 4-1 in a group match won the COSAFA Cup in South Africa by beating Mozambique 2-0 in the final while in the Windward Islands Championships Grenada who lost 2-1 to Dominica bounced back to defeat hosts St Lucia 2-0 and avoid the wooden spoon. Curacao who got the better of Suriname 3-2 in a friendly in the Netherlands returned home to defeat Trinidad and Tobago 1-0 in another friendly before knocking Cuba out of the World Cup with a goalless draw at home and a 1-1 draw in Cuba.
In friendly matches in June Chad defeated Guinea 2-1 in France and world champions Germany lost 2-1 at home to the USA while Finland lost 2-0 at home to Estonia before losing by a single goal at home to Hungary in a Euro qualifier. In other Euro qualifiers Azerbaijan held hosts Norway to a goalless draw and Italy picked up a 1-1 draw in Croatia while Portugal got the better of Armenia 3-2 with a Ronaldo hat-trick in Yerevan. The Netherlands enjoyed a 2-0 win in Latvia and Slovakia won 2-1 at home to Macedonia while Austria were victorious by a goal to nil in Russia, but there were much bigger shocks in the Asian World Cup qualifiers where Guam rose in the football rankings after stunning Turkmenistan 1-0 and India 2-1 in their first home matches. Malaysia had an abysmal start in their first 2 home matches, drawing 1-1 with East Timor and being blown to pieces 6-0 by Palestine. Kyrgyzstan won 3-1 in Bangladesh and lost narrowly 2-1 to Asian champions Australia while Tajikistan, who lost 3-1 at home to Jordan, could only manage a 1-1 draw in Bangladesh. Japan fired blanks at home to Singapore who had earlier sailed past Cambodia 4-0 while Iran were held to a 1-1 draw in Turkmenistan and the UAE could only manage a single goal in East Timor. The Philippines earned 2 impressive home wins beating Bahrain 2-1 and Yemen 2-0 while Kuwait won 1-0 in Lebanon and Uzbekistan thumped 4-2 in North Korea.
In the Caribbean World Cup qualifiers St Lucia picked up an astonishing 3-1 win away to Antigua and Barbuda, but crashed down to earth 4-1 in their return leg which was also played in Antigua & Barbuda while Belize dazzled the Dominican Republic 2-1 in Santo Domingo and Bermuda earned an amazing goalless draw in Guatemala. El Salvador could only manage a 2-2 draw at St Kitts & Nevis and Guyana earned the same result at St Vincent & the Grenadines while Barbados won 2-0 away to Aruba. Grenada progressed to the next round with a 2-0 home win over Puerto Rico and Nicaragua sealed their passage with a 3-1 Victory in Suriname.  
In the Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers Malawi suffered a 2-1 home loss to Zimbabwe and Guinea were embarrassed by the same result in their away match against Swaziland played in Morocco while Zambia fired blanks at home to Guinea Bissau as did South Africa against Gambia. There 1-0 wins for Niger at home to Namibia and Rwanda away to Mozambique while Benin and Kenya earned 1-1 draws away to Equatorial Guinea and Congo respectively. 

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Bumpy road to Russia

The 2018 World Cup fired its starting pistol with huge shocks in the Asia and Caribbean qualifiers right from the start, while the quest to France continued in Europe.
A rare win for Bhutan shocked the world of football as the Bhutanese not only stunned Sri Lanka with a single away goal but went on to celebrate a 2-1 victory in the return match and progress from the preliminary round while little Brunei, who silenced their Taiwanese hosts 1-0, came unstuck 2-0 on their return home. East Timor did enough in their home match as they mangled Mongolia 4-1 while Cambodia who were held to a 1-1 draw in Macau also progressed on the strength of their home win and Yemen who played both their matches against Pakistan on neutral grounds went through despite the Pakistanis holding them to a goalless draw in Bahrain.
In the Caribbean zone Barbados were dumbfounded 1-0 at home by the US Virgin Islands, but hit back with 4 in their away fixture while the Cayman Islands, who blanked out Belize in Belmopan, went out on the away goals rule after a heroic 1-1 home draw. The British Virgin Islands, who lost narrowly 1-0 away to Antigua and Barbuda in a friendly, made life difficult for Dominica who were playing both legs of their qualifiers at home losing only 3-2 and drawing 0-0 in their second match. Montserrat also showed improvement losing only 2-1 in Curacao and drawing their home match 2-2 to move up in the football rankings. Honduras were shocked 3-1 away to French Guiana in a Gold Cup playoff match but overturned the outcome with a 3-0 win in the return fixture.
Wales struck 3 times in Israel in the Euro qualifier and Belgium put 5 past their Cypriot visitors while Austria enjoyed a 5-0 win in Liechtenstein and Iceland hit 3 in Kazakhstan.
Both the Czech Republic and the Netherlands scored last-minute goals on home soil to earn 1-1 draws denying Latvia and Turkey respectively was would have been famous victories while Greece were held to a goalless draw in Hungary and Italy drew 2-2 in Bulgaria. Belarus won 2-1 in Macedonia and Sweden struck twice in Moldova without reply while Romania could only manage a single goal at home to the Faroe Islands and Azerbaijan put 2 past their Maltese visitors.  
Among friendly matches Cape Verde celebrated a 2-0 victory over their Portuguese hosts while Iran enjoyed the same result against Chile in Austria and Uganda won 1-0 away to Nigeria. Brazil beat France 3-1 in Paris and Ghana lost 2-1 in Senegal while Equatorial Guinea drew 1-1 away to African champions Ivory Coast and Guam shared 4 goals with hosts Singapore. Gabon got the better of Mali 4-3 in France and Algeria romped to a 4-1 win in Oman while Niger lost 2-0 in Mauritania and Kazakhstan drew 0-0 in Russia.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Elephants reign in Africa

 Ivory Coast won the 2015 Africa Cup of Nations hosted hastily by Equatorial Guinea after the withdrawal of Morocco. The Ivorians had been drawn in group D, dubbed the group of draws, and were the only team to win a match, beating Cameroon 1-0 in their final group-match with all other matches finishing 1-1 necessitating the drawing of lots to give Guinea second spot and passage to the next round ahead of Mali.
In group A Gabon opened with a 2-0 victory over Burkina Faso but were then defeated 1-0 by Congo and 2-0 by Equatorial Guinea in a decider that saw the hosts follow group winners Congo into the next round.
In group B Tunisia began with a 1-1 draw against Cape Verde but won the group having secured the only win of the group beating Zambia 2-1 and were followed by DR Congo who succeeded ahead of Cape Verde on goals scored.
In group C Algeria came from behind to derail South Africa 3-1 before losing 1-0 to eventual group winners Ghana and eliminating Senegal (who had drawn 1-1 with South Africa) 2-0 in their final group-match.
In the quarter-final matches DR Congo rallied from 2 down with 25 minutes remaining to oust their Congolese neighbours 4-2 while in a controversial match hosts Equatorial Guinea sent Tunisia home 2-1 in extra time and Ghana cruised 3-0 past Guinea to reach the semi final where they inflicted the same result on their hosts in a match that was marred by crowd trouble. Algeria's hopes were dashed 3-1 by Ivory Coast who enjoyed the same result against DR Congo in the semi final to set up a final with Ghana whom they defeated on penalties after a goalless draw to lift the Africa Cup of Nations and excel themselves to 5th in the world footballrankings.

Monday, February 02, 2015

Aussies rule Asia

Australia hosted and won the Asian Cup for the first time since joining the Asian Football Confederation in 2006. The Socceroos came from a goal down to ease 4-1 past Kuwait in their opener and hit 4 without reply against Oman in their next match, but were stunned by a single South Korean goal in their final group match to finish below the team they would meet in the final.
In group B North Korea suffered a 4-1 lashing by Saudi Arabia who were eliminated 3-1 by Uzbekistan, but It was China who topped the group, finishing above Uzbekistan whom they defeated 2-1 after falling behind in the first half. The Chinese fell 2-0 to the hosts at the next hurdle.
Palestine made their finals debut in group D where they were outclassed 4-0 by Japan and 5-1 by Jordan who were beaten to second place 1-0m by Iraq.  
In group C the United Arab Emirates hammered Qatar 4-1 and were moments away from winning the group when Iran, who had begun their campaign with a 2-0 win over Bahrain, broke the deadlock in stoppage time to win the group and send the Emiratis into a meeting with group D winners and reigning Asian champions Japan in the quarter finals. Qatar finished bottom of the group after losing 2-1 to Bahrain. The Emiratis led for most of their quarter-final match and after a 1-1 draw in extra time upset the Japanese on penalties while Iran, who were reduced to 10 men in the first half, battled Iraq to a 3-3 draw in extra time before suffering a shock exit on penalties.
In the semi finals Iraq ran out of steam and were beaten 2-0 by South Korea while Australia put 2 early goals past the UAE who overcame Iraq 3-2 to finish third. In the final Australia were on their way to a 1-0 victory when a South Korean goal in stoppage time took the match to extra time where the hosts struck the winner to lift the Asian Cup and rise to the dizzy heights of 7th place in the world football rankings.