Friday, October 26, 2018

Welcome to Africa

Madagascar, Senegal, Tunisia and Egypt joined hosts Cameroon by qualifying for the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations, but Morocco failed to seal their fate and will have to wait as they could only draw 2-2 in Comoros with Ben Nabouhane completing his brace for the hosts with a minute to go. In other matches Angola gave themselves a lifeline by coming back from an early setback to thump their table-topping visitors from Mauritania 4-1 and Zimbabwe enhanced their chances of qualification with a 2-1 win away to DR Congo while Namibia scored in the last minute to win 2-1 in Mozambique. In group L Cape Verde enjoyed a 3-0 win over Tanzania with a double from Ricardo Gomez but lost the return match 2-0 to leave Uganda on the brink of qualification after Emmanuel Okwi scored twice in their 3-0 home victory and Farouk Miya netted both goals in their away win against Lesotho. Gambia lost 1-0 at home to Togo and South Africa were held to a goalless draw at Seychelles.
In the UEFA Nations League Gibraltar recorded their first ever win by beating Armenia 1-0 in Yerevan but the Armenians bounced back a few days later to put 4 past their visitors from Macedonia without reply and in a friendly match world champions France needed a late own goal and penalty to draw 2-2 at home to Iceland. In the CONCACAF Nations League qualifiers Belize lost 1-0 at Montserrat while St Vincent and the Grenadines were 1-0 winners away to French Guiana while in a friendly match Mongolia triumphed 4-1 in Laos.   

Friday, September 21, 2018

A new era

With the World Cup behind us, a new competition called the UEFA Nations League kicked off to replace meaningless friendly matches. The most notable results in the first 2 round of matches were Turkey’s remarkable comeback from 2 goals down in Sweden to win 3-2 with a last-gasp brace from Emre Akbaba and Spain’s 6-0 crushing of World Cup finalists Croatia in Elche. A similar competition began in the CONCACAF region where St Lucia soundly defeated Antigua and Barbuda 3-0 on their travels and Aruba embarrassed Bermuda 3-1 in Curacao. These competitions will be counted as friendly tournaments in the Ziaian rankings, but it was business as usual in Africa as Ghana were stunned 1-0 in Kenya and Sierra Leone suffered the same outcome in Ethiopia while Burkina Faso were beaten 2-0 in Mauritania in Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers. There were also 1-1 draws for Cameroon in Comoros and for Burundi in Gabon.
Having lost 4-1 at home to the Solomon Islands in a friendly, Macau took part in the East Asian Cup qualifiers in Mongolia where they lost by the same scoreline to their host before bouncing back to register a 2-0 win over Guam but could only draw 1-1 with the Northern Mariana Islands. Suriname returned from French Guiana 4-0 victorious in August.   

Friday, July 27, 2018

France dance on top of the world

The 2018 World Cup came to an end in Moscow with the French celebrating their 2nd championship in 20 years after beating Croatia 4-2 in the final and going to the top of the football rankings. France just about won their group but came to life in the knockout stage where they sent South America teams Argentina and Uruguay home before a single goal against Belgium took them to the final where they met Croatia who won their group in a more convincing fashion having crushed Argentina 3-0, but needed penalty shootouts to get past Denmark and host Russia before ending England’s hopes in extra time. Germany had a World Cup to forget, losing 1-0 to Mexico and being sent packing 2-0 by South Korea in the biggest shock of the tournament with Sweden winning the group and being accompanied by Mexico whom they stepped over 3-0 in their final group match, while Poland had an embarrassing World Cup, losing 2-1 to Senegal and being brushed aside 3-0 by Colombia before picking up a worthless 1-0 win against a motiveless Japan who had defeated Colombia 2-1 but went out in the next round. Russia began the World Cup by slaughtering Saudi Arabia 5-1 and continued to entertain and excite their fans by exceeding expectations and getting to the next round where they disposed of Spain on penalties. Having lost 1-0 to Serbia and 2-0 to Brazil, Costa Rica sent their supporters home with a satisfying 2-2 draw against the Swiss. Iceland began their first ever World Cup finals with a historic 1-1 draw against Argentina but melted 2-0 against Nigeria before going out 2-1 to Croatia. Despite once again failing to negotiate their way out of their group, Iran had a successful World Cup with a 1-0 victory over Morocco and were a goal away from winning the group in their 1-1 draw against Portugal.