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.