Sunday, 18 November 2007

Euro 2008 qualifying round-up

Yesterday saw the penultimate round of qualifying fixtures for next summer's football extravaganza in Austria and Switzerland. The picture as to who will be competing for the title became a little clearer.

Harold Wilson once remarked that a week is a long time in politics. I will now completely bastardise his famous quote by saying that 24 hours is a long time in football!

On Friday evening, following another typically laclustre England performance in the friendly against Austria, the mood of the nation was understandably downbeat. Hopes of qualification from Group E rested on the very slim chance of a mediocre Isreal outfit with nothing to play for AND missing their best player beating a Russia side high on confidence.

Conversely, North of the border in Group B, the Scots were buzzing. A win at home, where they had been so far unbeaten this campaign, would see them in a tournament for the first time since France 98. All they had to do was beat the current world Champions. Scotland and NOT England in a tournament? What is the world coming to?

Fast forward to Saturday night and the complexion changes completely. A last minute goal in each game sees Scotland eliminated and England back in control of thier own destiny.

Arise, SIR Omer Golan!

Let's just hope they dont balls it up on Wednesday night now.

Much was said about the decision to award the Italy free-kick in the last minute but truth be told, had the officials not got major offside decisions wrong earlier in the game, Scotland might have been fighting up until those dying momments when Panucci's header floated in.

Italy, the current World Champions go through ahead of Scotland to end what has been a traumatic week of football for the Azzuri. Say what you want about corruption scandels, percieved gamesmanship and the like. Many 90s kids grew up with a weekly dose of Gazzetta on Saturday mornings and for that reason Italian football will retain a soft spot in most of our hearts. It would have devalued the competition sightly had the World Cup holders not been there.

Elsewhere, despite another heroic victory in Group F and another wondergoal from David Healy - this time over 1992 winners Denmark, Northern Ireland need to first beat Spain who booked their place last night and then rely on the unlikely scenrio of Latvia beating Sweden this week if they are to have any chance of qualifying.

In Group A, 2004 finalists Portugal will join Poland provided they avoid defeat against Finland. A win for Turkey against Boznia-Herzegovina will put them through with current champions Greece in Group C and fend off Norway who they beat 2-1 last night.

The Czech Republic and Germany, and Romania and Holland have all qualified from Groups D and G respectively. Holland doing so last night after an unconvincing dislay against Luxembourg.

So, the wives and girlfriends of England fans and players alike will be cursing the name Omer Golan. For some time, next year was shaping up to be football-lite. Holidays were not going be planned around fixtures and Ford Escort's would not be whizzing round with St George's flags flailing in the wind. All that has changed and now, once again, 2008 could see a mid-summers festival of beer, BBQs and the inevetable penalty shoot-out exit.* I for one cannot wait.

Confirmed qualifiers for Euro 2008:
Austria (Co-hosts)
Switzerland (Co-hosts)
Czech Republic

Still to Qualify
Group A: Portugal OR Finland
Group C: Turkey OR Norway
Group E: ENGLAND OR Russia
Group F: Sweden OR Northern Ireland

*Provided the job is done on Wednesday.

1 comment:

Amy Downes said...

All hail Golan!! England really dont deserve to be in and I think the future would have been better for us if they hadn't because the FA wud have had to do something to sort out our lack of results, passiona nd organisation. Mc Claren out Still!!