World Cup Qualifying Reviews
World Cup Qualifying Reviews
There were mixed fortunes for the home nations in the first two rounds of World Cup qualifying. Let’s review the action:
England had two straightforward victories over San Marino and Albania. However, due to the poor quality opposition, manager Gareth Southgate will have discovered very little about his squad. The 5-0 win over San Marino was especially one-sided, the Three Lions registered 32 shots and had 85% possession in what was effectively a glorified training exercise. Everton striker Dominic Calvert-Lewin grabbed two goals, Raheem Sterling scored another, whilst James Ward-Prowse and Ollie Watkins both claimed their first international goals. Sunday’s victory over Albania was more competitive, but Harry Kane and Mason Mount ensured England did not slip up.
Scotland secured two valuable draws from their opening fixtures, despite failing behind on three occasions. In Thursday’s opener at home to Austria, Sasa Kalajdzic twice put the visitors in front, but a Grant Hanley header and a spectacular overhead kick from John McGinn gave Scotland a point. Ryan Fraser was the hero on Sunday, his second half strike cancelled out Israel’s opener and ensured Scotland remained unbeaten.
There was a disappointing loss for Northern Ireland, as their campaign began with a defeat in Italy. In truth, few people expected the Irish to gain any points from the trip and first half goals from Domenico Berardi and Ciro Immobile ensured the Itlaians had a comfortable night.
Wales also had a fruitless start to their qualifying campaign. They took the lead in Belgium when Harry Wilson finished off a glorious team move, but goals from Kevin de Bruyne, Thorgan Hazard and Romelu Lukaku gave the home side a convincing victory.
There were some fascinating results in the other World Cup qualifying games. The Republic of Ireland had a nightmare week - a 3-2 defeat in Serbia was followed by a shock 0-1 defeat at home to minnows Luxembourg. Steven Kelly is now winless in his ten games in charge of the Republic, and their World Cup hopes are already dangling by a thread. Serbia’s other game was a dramatic 2-2 draw with Portugal. The 2016 European champions appeared to have won the game with the very last kick, but despite Christiano Ronaldo’s shot clearly crossing the line, the officials failed to give the goal and the points were shared.
Elsewhere, the standout results were Turkey’s 4-2 victory over the Netherlands, Ukraine’s battling point in France and Spain’s dramatic 2-1 win in Georgia. Perennial favourites Germany had victories over Iceland and Romania, but much fancied Belgium could only draw in the Czech Republic.
With another set of fixtures taking place on Tuesday and Wednesday this week, countries will be keen to put themselves in a strong position before qualification pauses until the Autumn.
Enjoy the next round of games, and we’ll be back with a review of the action next week.