Friday, September 15, 2023

Mixed cups


The 2026 World Cup qualifiers kicked off in South America, producing no real surprises in the first matches, while in Europe and Africa the focus was on the qualifiers for their respective continental championships and around the Caribbeans the CONCACAF Nations League matches took centre stage.

Alvaro Morata scored 3 times as Spain put Georgia to the sword 7-1 in Tbilisi and Portugal rattled 9 past their visitors from Luxembourg while the other high scorers, Sweden, who scored 5 times in Estonia, came unstuck on their return to Stockholm where they lost 3-1 to Austria. Hungary were 2-1 winners in Serbia while Armenia earned a 1-1 draw in Turkey and Albania achieved the same feat in the Czech Republic.  Finland lost to a late Danish strike in Helsinki while there were 2-0 wins for North Macedonia in Malta and for Wales in Latvia.

Rwanda enjoyed a 1-1 draw with a last-minute goal at champions Senegal and Kevin Denkey scored twice as Togo came from 2 down to beat Cape Verde 3-2 with a late goal in Lomé while Madagascar and Tanzania held their hosts Angola and Algeria respectively to goalless draws.

Among matches played in the CONCACAF Nations League, Alex Rigobert scored 4 times as St Martin took their hosts Anguilla apart 6-0 and Belize were 2-0 winners at French Guiana who ended the match with 10 players.

Monday, July 17, 2023

Restless in Europe


Shortly after the conclusion of the European leagues, that had been extended due to the winter World Cup, the battle for places in Euro 2024 continued. Armenia hit back from a goal down, with a double from Grant-Leon Mamedova to record an impressive 4-2 victory in Wales, while Poland took a 2-goal lead in Moldova but were humiliated 3-2 with a brace from Ion Nicolaescu and Luxembourg triumphed 2-0 in Bosnia & Herzegovina. Kazakhstan struck a late stunner in Northern Ireland while Kosovo lost 2-1 in Belarus and Austria picked up a 1-1 draw in Belgium. Valentin Mihaila scored twice at the death to give Romania a 2-2 draw in Switzerland after Zeki Amdouni’s double had given the hosts a 2-goal advantage while Slovakia were 2-1 winners in Iceland and Albania did one better away to the Faroe Islands. Meanwhile Spain defeated Croatia in a penalty shootout in Spain to win the European League of Nations.  

In the African qualifiers for the Cup of Nations, Moroccan World Cup heroes lost 2-1 in South Africa while Ivory Coast were brushed aside 3-0 in Zambia and Tunisia were beaten 1-0 in Equatorial Guinea. DR Congo won 2-0 in Gabon while Mozambique enjoyed the same result with goals at the end of each half in Rwanda and there was a 2-0 win for Togo over Eswatini in South Africa. Burundi defeated Namibia 3-2 with an early flurry in Tanzania while Mauritania eased past Sudan 3-0 in Morocco and Ghana were held to a goalless draw away to Madagascar while African champions Senegal could only draw 1-1 in Benin.

Guadeloupe hammered Antigua and Barbuda 5-0 in America on route to qualifying for the Gold Cup were they drew 2-2 with co-hosts Canada before battering Cuba 4-1 with a double from Matthias Phaeton in Houston to continue their rise in the football rankings while St Kitts & Nevis also qualified for the finals having overcome Curacao on penalties in America where they did not fair well. Puerto Rico enjoyed a penalty shootout success against Suriname in Fort Lauderdale but failed to qualify for the finals where the USA opened with a 1-1 draw against Jamaica in Chicago and ended with a defeat to Panama in a semi-final shootout in San Diego. Tha Panamanians opened with a 2-1 victory over Costa Rica and topped their group despite a 2-2 draw against bottom-of-the-table El Salvador who had been shocked 2-1 by Martinique before playing a goalless match against Costa Rica. In the final Mexico scored late to lift the cup for the ninth time. 

Friday, March 31, 2023

First steps after Qatar


The winning penalty in the 2022 World Cup was probably a distant memory for all but Argentinians when England recorded a 2-1 victory away to European champions Italy as the campaign for the 2024 Euros kicked off and France picked themselves up from their final defeat in Qatar to give the Netherlands a 4-0 pummelling in Paris with a double from Kylian Mbappe while Romelu Lukaku shocked his Swedish hosts with a hat-trick for Belgium who began to move up in the rankings. Rade Krunic scored twice as Bosnia and Herzegovina sent Iceland away 3-0 losers, but the Icelanders bounced back to belittle Liechtenstein 7-0 in Vaduz with a hat-trick from Aron Gunnarsson a few days later while Bosnia and Herzegovina lost 2-0 in Slovakia.  Bulgaria were stunned 1-0 by Montenegro who returned home to lose 2-0 to Serbia while Wales earned a last-gasp 1-1 draw in Croatia, who went on to win 2-0 in Turkey with a double from Mateo Kovacic, and Cristiano Ronaldo helped himself to 2 goals as Portugal scored 6 in Luxembourg while Spain lost to a Scott McTominay brace in Scotland. Rasmus Højlund gave Denmark a 2 goal lead but Kazakhstan hit back with late goals to celebrate a 3-2 victory in Astana while the Czechs, who had disposed of Poland 3-1 in Prague, drew blanks in Moldova and Kosovo could only manage a 1-1 draw against Andorra in front of their home crowd.

In the Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers, Nigeria were stunned 1-0 at home to Guinea Bissau but reversed the result in the return match 3 days later while Cameroon, who could drew 1-1 at home to Namibia, lost the return fixture 2-1 in South Africa and Madagascar were defeated 3-0 by Central African republic with Louis Mafouta scoring twice for the visitors. Congo suffered a 2-1 home loss to 10-man South Sudan but defeated the South Sudanese 1-0 with a last-minute goal in Tanzania a few days later while the Tanzanians themselves, who had beaten Uganda 1-0 in Egypt, lost the return match by the same scoreline on home soil. Guinea scored twice against Ethiopia in Casablanca while DR Congo defeated Mauritania 3-1 and Egypt put 4 past their Malawian hosts. Liberia levelled late in South Africa to cancel out a Lyle Foster double and Sierra Leone salvaged a 2-2 draw after Luis Leal had scored twice for São Tomé & Príncipe in Morocco where Mali were stunned 1-0 by Gambia. Eswatini held hosts Cape Verde to a goalless draw. Jamaica lost a friendly match 1-0 at home to Trinidad & Tobago while in the CONCACAF Nations League Sint Maarten battered Bonaire 6-1 in the US Virgin Islands.