Friday, September 06, 2013

Insignificant surprises in Europe

In Europe's World Cup qualifying group I the world champions of Spain took an important step by winning 0-2 against Finland, at the same time as France only managed to tie 0-0 in Georgia. France now has four points up to Spain, who will have to mess up their last home matches against Belorussia and Georgia not to qualify.
But France's 0-0 was far from the only surprise in the European qualifiers. Estonia managed a 2-2 against the Netherlands, who were in fact lucky with a late penalty to give them the tie. However, it matters little to the Dutch, who are six points ahead of Romania in group D, and will surely make it to Brazil.
In group B Italy is almost certain to go to Brazil with a 1-0 victory against Bulgaria. In the meantime, there are now four pursuers to the second spot, where Armenia are the big surprise. After defeating Denmark 0-4, the Armenians showed that they mean it seriously by defeating the Czechs 1-2 in Prague. Bulgaria has 10 points, while Armenia, the Czech Republic and Denmark all have nine points, and will be struggling for the play-off second spot. That said, all four teams are so mediocre that it would seem impossible for them all to win a play-off match against any team in Europe.
In group E Switzerland had an opportunity to take an important step to Brazil at home against Iceland. Switzerland were 4-1 up, but the usually so solid Swiss defense did not hold, and the match ended 4-4. Switzerland are still on first spot, four points ahead of Norway, with eleven points, and closely followed by Albania, Iceland and Slovenia. However, I must say that this is another of the mediocre groups that would be likely not to win a play-off (unless they draw one of the group B sides!).
Sweden managed an important 1-2 away victory to Ireland, and are now second behind Germany by five points. Germany defeated Austria 3-0, with one goal by Miroslav Klose, who with his 68th goal for Germany equaled Gerd Muller as the most scoring player on the German national team ever. Germany will be going to the World Cup, and Miroslav Klose is bound to break the legendary Muller's record.

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