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Monday, 20 October 2008

Squarefootball Diary - Wednesday October 15 2008

England walk their well trodden path from also-rans to world-beaters with a 3-1 victory in Belarus in World Cup qualifying Group 6.

The win marks the first time that an England side has won it's first four opening World Cup qualifiers and gives Fabio Capello's side a five-point cushion at the top of the group.  Steven Gerrard joins the debate on himself and Frank Lampard by piling in a 30-yarder to open the scoring and laying on the third for Wayne Rooney before somehow contriving to hit the post with the goal at his mercy late on.  In between times, Emile Heskey briefly morphs into Jairzinho, jinking down the left to lay on Rooney's first before Pavel Sitko netted a well-worked equaliser;

"In the first half Belarus played very well, but in the second half we played better and the result is fantastic." pronounces Capello.

Croatia beat Andorra 4-0 to revive their hopes, but it is the Ukraine who remain England's closest challengers despite not playing this evening.

For more home success we look towards Ireland, where the Republic and Northern Ireland both earn wins.  A Robbie Keane goal helps the Republic past an old foe in Cyprus, while Nigel Worthington's side are rather more dominant in disposing of San Marino 4-0;

"I want to congratulate the players because they played the final minutes with so much heart." claims Giovanni Trapattoni, while Worthington remarks;

"Yes, it's San Marino and we'll not get carried away, but it's really great to get three points."

Ireland are now second in Group 8, three points behind Italy who win 2-1 at home to Montenegro.  Bulgaria have work to do after drawing goallessly in Georgia. 

Northern Ireland are fourth in Group 3, still five points off the pace being set by Slovakia after their 2-1 success over Poland.  The Czech Republic beat Slovenia 1-0 to keep alive their realistic chances of heading to South Africa.

Wales' chances of making the World Cup finals are as slim as ever they were following a not unsurprising 1-0 defeat by Germany in Monchengladbach.  Piotr Trochowski rattles in the only goal of the game 18 minutes from time to break Welsh hearts and leave Germany in total control of Group 4;

"I could not have asked for any more from the lads. They gave everything, but just came up short again." is John Toshack's probably memorised post-game statement.

Russia climb above the Welsh after beating Finland 3-0. 

With Scotland not in action we move swiftly to the round-up, and Group 1.  Portugal are making hard work of their qualification campaign, yet a 0-0 draw at home to Albania somehow keeps them just two points off the pace.  The group is led by Denmark but only on goal difference from Hungary who win 1-0 in Malta.

Greece have the edge in Group 2 despite going down 2-1 at home to Switzerland.  The Swiss' victory moves them within two of the Greeks, with the pair separated by Israel following their 1-1 draw in Latvia.  Also-rans Luxembourg and Moldova cannot manage a goal between them.

Spain have a four-point cushion in Group 5 thanks to their 2-1 triumph in Belgium.  The Belgians are leap-frogged into second by Turkey who nevertheless will be disappointed that they could only draw 0-0 in Estonia.  Don't discount Bosnia-Herzegovina just yet after a 4-1 flaying of Armenia.

Serbia and Lithuania look all set to fight out Group 7.  The pair lead the way by five points after victories in Austria (3-1) and at home to the Faroe Island's (1-0) respectively.  More worryingly for the Lithuanians they needed to wait until the 88th minute to break the deadlock against the northern European minnows.

Holland are the target for Scotland to chase when they resume competetive action.  The Dutch lead Group 9 by five points from the Scots and Iceland after winning 1-0 in Norway.  Iceland beat Macedonia by the same score but have played a game more than the two sides above them.

By Stephen Orford

20 October 2008



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