Friday, September 09, 2016

All roads to Russia

Less than 2 months after Portugal lifted Euro 2016 in Paris, as Europe became the last continent to kick off their Russia 2018 World Cup qualifiers, the Portuguese began their campaign with a 2-0 defeat away to Switzerland while new boys Kosovo picked up a 1-1 draw in Finland and England began life under Sam Allardyce with a 1-0 victory in Slovakia. After losing 2-0 at home to Spain in a friendly, a double from Lukaku helped Belgium to a 3-0 win in Cyprus while France fired blanks in Belarus as did Hungary away to the Faroe Islands. Austria were 2-1 winners in Georgia while Scotland ran out 5-1 winners in Malta with a hat-trick from Snodgrass and Germany put 3 past their Norwegian hosts without reply. Romania could only manage a 1-1 draw at home to Montenegro and in a friendly match the Dutch lost 2-1 at home to Greece.
Bolivia enjoyed the biggest leap in the rankings after winning 2-0 at home to Peru and travelling to Chile where they held the continental champions to a goalless draw. The Chileans had earlier lost 2-1 in Paraguay who went on to suffer a 4-0 spanking in Uruguay with Cavani claiming half the goals while Brazil enjoyed a 3-0 win in Ecuador and Argentina drew 2-2 away to Venezuela after having won by a single goal at home to Uruguay.
In the North, Central America and Caribbean section Haiti upset their Jamaican hosts 2-0 and Honduras returned from Mexico with a goalless draw while Guatemala enjoyed a spectacular 9-3 goal fest at home to St Kitts and Nevis.
In a friendly match Kazakhstan lost 2-0 in Kyrgyzstan while in competitive matches in Asia Japan suffered a shock 2-1 defeat at home to the UAE but picked up a 2-0 win in Thailand 5 days later while the UAE fell to a single goal in Australia. Qatar lost 1-0 at home to Uzbekistan while there were creditable goalless draws for Bhutan in Bangladesh and Syria in South Korea.
Africa took a break from the World Cup qualifiers to decide the final participants for the 2017 Africa Cup of nations. Rwanda earned a 1-1 draw away to already qualified Ghana while Congo hosted and defeated group winners Guinea Bissau 1-0 and Libya won also in vain by the same scoreline away to Cape Verde. There were 1-1 draws for Mauritania in South Africa and for Sierra Leone away to the Ivory Coast while Swaziland lost 1-0 in Malawi.