After Arsenal lost to the Red devils at Old Trafford, the international break came to their rescue and offered a breather to the November fixtures. Nations were vying for the remaining tickets to the worldcup while others were using the break as a preparation for the Brazil. I watched a number of games and would pick my best 5 moments.
Africa’s Quintet to Brazil.
Nigeria, Cameroon, Cote D’Ivoire, Ghana and Algeria qualified for Brazil 2014 representing the continent of Africa. Nigeria defeated Ethiopia 2-0 to emerge winners with a 4-1 aggregate while Cameroon hammered Tunisia 4-1 to progress with a 4-1 aggregate. CIV held Senegal to a 1-1 draw following the 1st leg that ended 3-1 to progress with a 4-2 Aggregate. Ghana lost 2-1 to Egypt but their 6-1 win in the 1st leg was enough to see them through. Algeria made up the final 5 with a 1-0 win over Burkina Faso. The Desert Foxes progressed on away goal rule following their 3-2 defeat to Burkina Faso in West Africa.
So, 3 West African Nations, one Central African and a North African Nation would bear Africa’s flag. I hope they put up a superb performance because Africa is on the brink of losing a slot in the Worldcup.
Europe’s Last 4: Ronaldo Edges out Zlatan
Greece, Croatia, Portugal and former world champions France made up the European team to Brazil. Christiano Ronaldo had the last laugh over Zlatan Ibrahimovic as Portugal came from behind to defeat Sweden 3-2. The Real Madrid striker scored a hattrick to stack a claim for the 2013 Ballon D’or. On aggregate, Portugal progressed with a 4-2 win. Zlatan would be pissed. I would miss the PSG forward.
In other games, France beat Ukraine 3-0 to progress on a 3-2 aggregate win. Croatia joined the Brazil party with a 2-0 win (2-0 on aggregate) over Iceland. The fairy tale of the North Pole country ended but they would want to bank on these qualifiers to forge further ahead. Greece held Romania to a 1-1 draw and thus won 4-2 on aggregate.
England 0 Arsenal 1
England continued their below par performance as they lost their second game in a row in over 20 years. The Three shy lions were outdone by a Metersacker header. The Arsenal man lost his marker to the boos of Wembley. England would need to forget their media hype and borrow some drawing board from Nigeria’s Football Federation to get result. If they can’t beat Chile and a German team with only 4 players sure of Brazil, who would they beat? Chile had silenced Wembley some days ago and Hogson would scratch his head to infinity trying to resolve the England palaver.
It was not all rosy for the North London Army as Oliver Giroud fired blanks at Ukraine and got a yellow card for his troubles. His compatriot Koscienly went one further: conceded a late penalty, got a useless red card. The defender has apologized for the red. I hope he doesn’t do that in an Arsenal game. Carzola scored for Spain.
Italy 2 Nigeria 2
As a Nigerian, I wouldn’t deny my country an attention as they faced the Euro 2012 Finalist, Italy. They gave a good account of themselves but would use that match as a learning curve for them. a win would have covered the lapses in the team but a lose would have killed a lot of confidence in the team and belief from the fans to the Super Eagles.
Balotelli had a mixed game in my own light. He assisted the 1st goal and caused a lot of havoc for the Nigerian defence but would rue the chances he missed. Pirlo is always Legendary. Pace is important for counter attacks.
In other friendly games, Spain were shocked by South Africa, the World and European champions lost by a lone goal.
Welcome Gibraltar to UEFA
Gibraltar became the 54th Nation to join UEFA. They played out a goalless draw with Slovakia to mark their debut on UEFA. The British colony was accepted by European football’s governing body in May, becoming its 54th and smallest member. Spain had contested against their inclusion to UEFA and even threatened to withdraw Real Madrid and Barcelona from the UEFA Champions League.
The draw for the Euro 2016 qualifiers will be held in February and Gibraltar plan to continue their preparations by hosting friendlies against the Faroe Islands and Estonia in March at the 5000 capacity home ground, Victoria Stadium. They would play their official matches in Portugal till they get a UEFA grade A stadium.
They would also feature in next season’s Champions league. They have a certain Manchester United in their league. we may have two Manchester United in the UCL next year. Congratulations to Gibraltar.