Friday, December 01, 2023

Final kicks of the year


The World Cup qualifiers took a winter break after a busy end-of-the-year period in three continents. Uruguay moved up the football rankings having celebrated a 2-0 victory at world champions Argentina and Peru lost 2-0 in Bolivia, while in Asia after stunning Kuwait 1-0 on their own pitch, India returned home to be swept away 3-0 by Qatar and there were 2-0 away wins for UAE in Bahran, Yemen in Nepal and for Saudi Arabia in Jordan. Jong Il-gwan scored a hat-trick as North Korea battered Myanmar 6-1 on their travels and Oman were defeated 1-0 in Kyrgyzstan while in African qualifiers for the World Cup, Rwanda put 2 past their visitors from South Africa without reply and Zambia lost 2-1 to Niger in Morocco. Nigeria could only draw 1-1 at home to Lesotho while Mozambique were 3-2 winners in Botswana who defeated Guinea five days later on the same ground. Comoros enjoyed home success beating Central African Republic, who later drew 1-1 in Mali, 4-2 and Ghana 1-0 while Mozambique lost 2-0 at home to Algeria.

In the qualifiers for Euro 2024, Northern Ireland ended on a high with a 2-0 win over Denmark in Belfast while Sweden were humiliated 3-0 in Azerbaijan and Albania were held to a goalless draw by the visiting Faroese while Bulgaria earned a 2-2 draw in Serbia. Belarus shocked their Kosovan hosts 1-0 while in the CONCACAF Nations League Sint Maarten came from behind to win 2-1 in St Lucia and in the Pacific games hosted by the Solomon Islands, Tonga came from a goal down to thrash America Samoa 6-2 with Hemaloto Polovili and Amoni Fifita scoring 2 apiece while Paolo Vailine and Matti Ualesi scored twice each in Tuvalu’s 4-1 win over Northern Mariana Islands.   

Friday, October 20, 2023

Early European arrivals


Belgium, France, Portugal, Spain, Scotland, Turkey, Austria and England became the first teams to join hosts Germany in next year’s Euros while in South American and Asia the World Cup qualifiers were being played.

Croatia were stunned 1-0 at home to Turkey before going down 2-1 to a Harry Wilson brace in Wales while Armenia were upset 2-0 by 10 men in Latvia and Lithuania’s Pijus Sirvys shocked 10 Bulgarians with a double in Sofia. Benjamin Sesko scored twice in Slovenia’s 3-0 win over Finland who took the lead on their return home but lost 2-1 to Kazakhstan for whom Bakhtiyor Zaynutdinov netted both goals while Taulant Seferi scored twice as 10 Czechs were taken apart 3-0 in Albania, who leapt up the rankings, and 2 goals from Milot Rashica helped Kosovo to a 3-0 win in Andorra. Greece celebrated a 2-0 win in Ireland as did Azerbaijan in Estonia while Dodi Lukebakio scored twice for 10-man Belgium who secured qualification with a 3-2 victory in Austria and Switzerland needed 2 last-minute goals to salvage a 3-3 draw at home to Belarus.

In World Cup qualifiers Brazil had a shaky week, drawing 1-1 at home to Venezuela before losing 2-0 in Uruguay while Peru lost 2-0 in Chile. In the Asia section Laos earned a 1-1 draw in Nepal while Pakistan held their Cambodian hosts to a goalless draw and Macau achieved the same against their visitors from Myanmar, but the most amazing result was Bhutan’s 2-0 home victory over Hong Kong.

In a CONCACAF Nations League match, Sint Maarten returned from St Kitts & Nevis with a 1-0 triumph.  

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.