Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Europe clear


As the 2022 World Cup qualifiers in South America and the Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers continued, Euro 2020 played out the play-off matches to put its final pieces together and the European Nations League concluded its group matches to produce its 4 semi-finalists.

In World Cup qualifiers, Colombia had a disastrous week losing 3-0 at home to Uruguay before being humiliated 6-1 in Ecuador. The Uruguayans returned home to lose 2-0 to Brazil while Bolivia drew 2-2 in Paraguay and Argentina were 2-0 winners in Peru.

In the Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers, Alex Iwobi scored twice for Nigeria who took a 4 goal lead at home to Sierra Leone but the visitors hit back with a brace from Alhaji Kamara to earn a 4-4 draw while Equatorial Guinea struck twice in stoppage time to win 3-2 in Libya and Burundi drew 1-1 in Mauritania before winning the reverse fixture 3-1 with a double from Saidi Ntibazonkiza. South Sudan upset Uganda 1-0 in Kenya while Ghana were stunned 1-0 in Sudan and DR Congo were 1-0 winners in Angola. Niger lost 3-0 in Ethiopia and Egypt won 3-1 in Togo while Cameroon scored twice without reply in Mozambique, but Algeria could not hold on to their 2-goal lead and were pegged back to 2-2 in Zimbabwe.

North Macedonia qualified for Euro 2020 with a 1-0 victory in Georgia and Slovakia celebrated a 2-1 extra-time win in Northern Ireland while Scotland needed a penalty shootout to get past their Serbian hosts and join Hungary in the finals as play-off winners.

In the European Nations League Armenia defeated their Georgian hosts 2-1 before celebrating promotion to league B with a 1-0 win over North Macedonia in Cyprus while Hungary, who are one of the highest movers of the year in the football rankings, celebrated promotion to the top league after Russia were humiliated 5-0 in Serbia for whom Luka Jovic netted twice.

In friendly matches Nepal lost 2-0 in Bangladesh and Jamaica were 2-1 winners in Saudi Arabia, but the biggest shock was Finland’s 2-0 win away to world champions France.     

Friday, October 16, 2020

Football catching up


The 2022 World Cup qualifiers in South America finally kicked off, as did the play-off matches for the postponed 2020 Euros, while the European League of Nations continued.

Venezuela got off to a poor start losing their first home matches 3-0 to Colombia, with 2 goals from Luis Muriel, and 1-0 to Paraguay while 2 late Luis Suaraz penalties were not enough for Uruguay as Ecuador had already taken a 4-goal lead with Michael Estrada netting twice for the hosts. Neymar claimed a hat-trick in Brazil’s 4-2 win in Peru who finished the match with 9 players on the field.

In the Euro 2020 qualifier play-offs, Serbia eliminated their Norwegian hosts 2-1 in extra time while Hungary triumphed 3-1 in Bulgaria. A few days later the Hungarians  continued their rise in the football rankings with a 1-0 win away to Serbia in the European League of Nations while 10-man England lost 1-0 at home to Denmark and Gibraltar enjoyed a 1-0 win in Liechtenstein.

Three days after a 3-0 defeat to Mali,  Andre Ayew scored twice to help Ghana demolish Asian champions Qatar 5-1 in another friendly match played in Turkey while Burkina Faso beat DR Congo 3-0 in Morocco and South Africa lost 2-1 at home to Zambia. Belgium were held to a goalless draw at home to Ivory Coast while Costa Rica lost 1-0 at home to Panama and Nicaragua drew 1-1 in Honduras. In other friendly matches, Mozambique lost 1-0 to Guinea Bissau and 3-0 to Angola in Portugal while Tanzania suffered a 1-0 loss at home to Burundi.

Friday, September 11, 2020

A quiet return


After an absence of six months, international football returned to empty stadiums across Europe in the European League of Nations. Turkey suffered the lack of atmosphere and went down 1-0 to Hungary while Italy could only draw 1-1 at home to Bosnia and Herzegovina, but bounced back with a 1-0 victory in the Netherlands.  Norway came out of hibernation with a 2-1 home loss to Austria but thumped their Northern Irish hosts 5-1 with Alexander Sorloth and Erling Haaland both netting a brace while the Austrians, who took a 2 goal lead to the break, lost 3-2 to their Romanian visitors. The Czech Republic enjoyed a 3-1 win in Slovakia, but were without some of their key players due to health and safety reason when they lost 2-1 at home to Scotland while Finland upset the Republic of Ireland 1-0 in Dublin. Albania triumphed 2-0 in Belarus but were stunned 1-0 at home to Lithuania days later while Montenegro were 2-0 winners in Cyprus and picked up 3 more points with a single goal in Luxembourg moving up 17 places in the rankings.