Friday, October 15, 2021

Qatar opens its doors


Germany thumped North Macedonia 4-0 in Skopje with 2 goals from Kai Havertz to become the first nation to qualify for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar and were followed by Denmark a day later. Slovenia, who enjoyed the same scoreline in Malta with a Josip Ilicic double, returned home to lose 2-1 to Russia three days later while Croatia were held to a 2-2 draw at home to Slovakia. Hungary lost 1-0 at home to Albania but picked up a 1-1 draw against England at Wembley while the Irish Republic were 3-0 winners in Azerbaijan with a brace from Callum Robinson, and 2 late goals from Fiodor Cernych gave Lithuania a shock 3-1 win over Bulgaria in Vilnius. Finland lost 2-1 at home to Ukraine and Smail Prevljak scored both goals for Bosnia and Herzegovina in Kazakhstan who suffered their second 2-0 home defeat three days later when Teemu Pukki netted twice for the Finns while Kosovo were shocked 2-1 by their visitors from Georgia. France won the European League of Nations with a 2-1 victory over Spain in Turin.

In South America Paraguay were pummelled 4-0 in Bolivia, who a few days earlier had overcome Peru 1-0 on the same ground despite being reduced to ten players while the Paraguayans themselves went down 2-0 in Chile with both teams ending the match with ten players. Venezuela were 2-1 winners at home to Ecuador.

In Africa Nigeria were stunned 1-0 by a last-minute Central African Republic goal in Lagos while Ibrahima Kone scored a hat-trick as Mali mauled Kenya 5-0 in Morocco and South Africa were 3-1 winners in Ethiopia. Tanzania lost 1-0 at home to Benin but reversed the result in the return match while Togo triumphed 2-1 in Congo and Egypt put 3 past their Libyan hosts without reply. Guinea Bissau were beaten 5-0 away to Morocco and 10-man Zambia lost 2-0 in Equatorial Guinea while Uganda won with a single goal in Rwanda. DR Congo lost to a first-minute goal in Madagascar and Angola were defeated 2-0 in Gabon.

In North America the USA lost 1-0 in Panama and Jamaica were 2-0 winners in Honduras.

In the Asian section, South Korea dew 1-1 in Iran.


Friday, September 10, 2021

Focus on Qatar


The World Cup qualifiers continued after a summer break with newly crowned European champions, Italy, only managing a 1-1 draw at home to Bulgaria while 10 Frenchmen suffered the same ignominy at home to Bosnia & Herzegovina. Iceland fell 2-0 at home to Romania while England humiliated Hungary 4-0 in Budapest and Israel enjoyed the same result against the Faroe Islands with Eran Zahavi netting a hat-trick for the visitors who returned home to hammer Austria 5-2 with Zahavi adding another 2 goals to his international tally. The Austrians went on to lose 1-0 at home to Scotland while Armenia also had a bad week, losing 6-0 in Germany with an early double from Serge Gnabry putting the Germans on their way, before returning to Yerevan where they could only draw 1-1 with Liechtenstein. Cain Attard scored twice in Malta’s 3-0 home victory over 10-man Cyprus while Montenegro came from 2 down to draw 2-2 in Turkey and Kosovo upset their Georgian hosts 1-0 in Batumi. Sweden suffered a 2-1 defeat in Greece while Wales were held to a goalless draw by their Estonian guests.

In Asia, Oman stunned their Japanese hosts with a late goal in Suita while the United Arab Emirates fired blanks at home to Lebanon while in South America Ecuador enjoyed a 2-0 home win with 2 late goals against Paraguay. In the CONCACAF section Jamaica were shocked 3-0 by the visiting Panamanians while Honduras earned a 1-1 draw in Canada but returned home to get thumped 4-1 by the USA having taken a first-half lead.

In Africa Libya went a goal down but scored a last-minute winner at home to Gabon before upsetting Angola 1-0 on their travels while Tunisia were 2-0 winners in Zambia and Burkina Faso held Algeria to a 1-1 draw in Morocco. Mohammed Abdel-Rahman scored both goals for Sudan but Piqueti Silva’s double was among 4 for the visiting Guinea Bissau, who continued their rise in the football rankings while Malawi beat Mozambique 1-0 in South Africa.           

Friday, July 16, 2021

Hosts’ final heartbreak


While Euro 2020 and Copa America 2021 were taking place across Europe and in Brazil respectively, several World Cup qualifiers were also played out. In the North American section, Davis Rugamas scored twice as El Salvador blew St Kitts & Nevis away 4-0 on their travels, while in Asia , Kyrgyzstan pummelled 10-man Myanmar 8-1 with a hat-trick from Mirlan Murzaev in Japan while China overcame Syria 3-1 in the UAE where Maldives earned a 1-1 draw against Philippines and Thailand lost 1-0 to Malaysia. An Oday Dabbagh double helped Palestine to a 3-0 victory over Yemen in Saudi Arabia.

The Euros kicked off in Rome with the biggest shock of the tournament coming a day later when Christian Eriksen suffered a heart attack on the pitch in Copenhagen and Denmark lost 1-0 to minnows Finland. North Macedonia fell 3-1 to Austria in Bucharest and Patrik Schick completed his double for the Czech Republic with a 50- yarder against his Scottish hosts while Slovakia upset 10 Poles 2-1 in Sain Petersburg. Portugal humbled their Hungarian hosts 3-0 with a late brace from Cristiano Ronaldo and Wales missed a penalty but put 2 past Turkey in Baku while Scotland held England to a goalless draw at Wembley. Poland salvaged a 1-1 draw away to Spain while Portugal were defeated 4-2 in Germany and Scotland lost 3-1 at home to Croatia. Hungary twice took the lead in Germany, but a 2-2 draw sent them out of the competition. In the round of 16, Wales were dumped out by the Danes 4-0 with a Kasper Dolberg double in Amsterdam while 10 Dutchmen lost 2-0 to the Czechs in Budapest and Sweden ended up with 10 players and out of the competition after losing 2-1 to Ukraine with the Hampden Park decider coming in stoppage time of extra time. Italy, who defeated Belgium 2-1 in the quarter finals in Munich, went all the way to the final where they defeated hosts England on penalties at Wembley to go to the top of the world rankings.

In the Copa America, played mostly without spectators, Paraguay came from a goal down to beat 10 Bolivians 3-1 with 2 goals from Angel Romero in Brazil where Peru got the better of Colombia 2-1 and Paraguay beat Chile 2-0 before losing 1-0 to Uruguay. Brazil, who had stumbled 1-1 against Ecuador in a group match, reached the final where they lost 1-0 to Argentina at the Maracana.