Tuesday saw a ton of international football action, as European nations wrapped up the initial qualifying stages for the Euro 2012 Finals and non-Euro national teams played some high-profile friendlies. So fire up “Sweet Georgia Brown” and let’s do some globe-trotting, shall we?
Euro 2012 Qualifiers
Before we zip through the matches, here’s a brief look at how qualification for the Euros (my favorite international tournament, if we’re sharing) works. There are nine groups of five (or six) national sides. The winners of each group book a place in the tournament finals, co-hosted by Poland and Ukraine, next summer. The host countries get an automatic bid. They have been joined, already, by the group winners: Spain, Germany, Russia, Italy, France, the Netherlands, Greece, England, Denmark, and the top second-place team, Sweden.
In November, there will be a playoff between the best eight second-place teams (two legs, aggregate winner goes through) to see who the final four nations will be. See? Totally simple! Let’s check out what happened yesterday, the last day of group play qualifying.
- Apparently there is a God, and he’s a Pogues fan. Almost exactly two years ago, the Republic of Ireland was denied a trip to the World Cup in South Africa when France’s Thierry Henry hand-balled an assist to William Gallas in the closing moments of a playoff qualifying match. So maybe there was some kind of cosmic justice being served yesterday as the Republic defeated Armenia 2-1, securing a place in the playoffs with more than a little help from a questionable refereeing decision. Did the Armenian keeper really handle the ball outside of his area? Ask Ireland striker Simon Cox: “Some you get, some you don’t.” Pretty easygoing from a man whose country’s justice minister demanded a replay in ’09!
- Republic of Ireland fans shouldn’t book hostels in Kiev just yet. They still have to get through the November playoff, where they could face stiff competition from Bosnia-Herzegovina or Turkey.
- All Scotland needed was to equal
Lithuania’sthe Czech Republic’s result to advance to the playoff. Scottish manager Craig Levein then went on to raise expectations, saying the Scots could get a win against defending European and World Cup champion Spain. In Spain. They did not do that! At all! Spain won 3-1, playing, arguably, a B team of sorts. The terrifying thing for Europe (other than its cratering finances) is that Fernando Torres and Andres Iniesta could spend the rest of their lives getting fat, eating rabbit ribs at Tickets, and the Spanish national team would be just fine. Also? David Silva. And also? DAVID SILVA.
International Friendlies & 2014 World Cup Qualifiers
- The USMNT lost 1-0 to Ecuador, at Red Bull Arena in New Jersey, last night. Red Bulls defender Tim Ream was nominally at fault for the 70th-minute Ecuador goal. However, as Steve Davis points out, the real issue could be with the USMNT’s anemic attack, which has produced only two goals in five games under Juergen Klinsmann’s direction.
- Forget biggest result of the night, try biggest result in Venezuela’s history. The Vinotinto beat Argentina for the first time ever. This wasn’t some bogus Argentina side; Javier Mascherano, Gonzalo Higuain, and God’s chess piece all featured. And it meant something. Something pretty profound, evidently. According to Venezuela midfielder Cesar Gonzalez, “We made history. We brought our soul on the field. We are family. We back the coach and each other.”
- Mexico lost something of a milemarker match to a 10-man Brazil, in Mexico. El Tri, quite clearly the best side in the CONCACAF region, were looking to test themselves against one of the superpowers of South America. Despite Brazil’s losing fullback Dani Alves, Mexico came up short, losing 2-1, with Selecao getting a huge boost from a straight-outta-2006 Ronaldinho free kick:
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