Russia 2, England 1
England’s Euro 2008 fate is now firmly out of their control. McLaren’s squad need help from other teams now to secure a spot in next summer’s tournament. Russia looked on the up and up with Roman Pavluchenko scoring the goals that Alexandr Kerzakhov wanted to. The La Liga striker called for an upset and they got it, without much of a contest. Rooney scored early, but it was the Russians who set the tone – putting 10 on frame and scoring a double salvo at the 70 minute mark to dent England’s qualification chances. The English FA is still saying they back McLaren but you can bet that if they don’t book a ticket to Austria/Switzerland this summer, he’ll be gone…and Mourinho in???? Let’s not get ahead of ourselves. The match wasn’t without its controversy as the penalty call was questionable but shit happens, and although the PK swayed the momentum and equalized the game, England had their fair share of chances. Is this another example of Guus Hiddink’s mastery or are the Russians starting to put together the pieces to consistently compete with the best?
Georgia 2, Scotland 0
If this was last year, I probably wouldn’t call this an upset – but with Scotland’s form as of late, this should have been a Scotland win. The Scots dominated the game – possession, shots, all things statistical-ish but it wasn’t to be. A goal from 17-year old Levan McHedlidze (Scottish-Georgian maybe?) in the 16th minute put the Scots in the hole from the get-go. That was enough to throw them off their game as the three M’s (Miller, McFadden, and Maloney) were effectively dealt with by Georgia’s backline. A six game win streak allows Italy to move ahead of them as the Italians have one game in tow. All it takes is one let down and this might have been it for the Scots.
Liechtenstein 3, Iceland 0
What?!!? I understand that Iceland is somewhat small and that half of Leichtenstein’s population was at the game, but a 3-0 drubbing at the hands of perennial door-mats? No one expected this – especially with Eidur Gudjohnsen in the mix and the Reading boys – Gunnarsson and Ingimarsson in the heart of the line-up. It was Mario Frick and Thomas Beck who led the team – Frick with the early 27th minute goal and Beck with the blow of a brace in the waning moments. Not that Iceland was in contention anyway…but Liechtenstein has had one of their best showings ever in Euro Qualifying registering two wins (Latvia, Iceland).
Guatemala 3, Mexico 2
Yea, it was a young squad with crap-loads of potential but El Tri overcame an early 5th minute Guatamalan goal to score two and go up before giving way to Marvin Avila and a resounding second half brace. At that point in the game, things were getting out of hand. The head ref had already ejected two players from each team as well as Guatemala’s coach and assistant. Would you be surprised if I said one of those ejected was Carlos Ruiz? I doubt it. For Mexico, gone was one of the goalscorers and upcoming stars Cesar Villaluz and Gonzalo Pineda. It was only Guatemala’s 4th win in 29 attempts against Mexico and along with the recent tie to Nigeria, Hugo Sanchez can’t be too happy about the “depth” of his national team pool so far.