Euro 2012 Qualifiers: A Round-up
International football returned on Friday and Saturday with plenty of action and drama as the bid to book places at next summer’s European Championships in Poland and the Ukraine began to heat up steadily.
With the likes of Spain, Holland, France and Italy securing contrasting victories on Friday night, the stage was set for the rest of the continental giants to take significant leaps in their bids to qualify for Euro 2012.
England sweep aside a lacklustre Wales
A lot of hype was generated for this British ‘derby’ but Fabio Capello’s England produced a clinical performance to subdue a young and inexperienced looking Welsh side at Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium. Two very early goals, a Frank Lampard penalty and a Darren Bent opportunistic strike, in the seventh and the fifteenth minutes respectively put the Three Lions on top of Group G along with Montenegro and help condemn Gary Speed’s side to the bottom of the ladder without a single point from four games.
John Terry returned as the captain of England with an assured performance but to be fair to the Chelsea captain and his defensive partners, the Welsh never really meant to threaten the well-marshalled English defence with Craig Bellamy, Aaron Ramsey and the rest of the midfield pack rendered ineffective by the pace of the English midfield. Arsenal’s Jack Wilshere, Scott Parker and Ashley Young were particularly out of reach of the Welsh defensive set up with their pace and agility and in the second half the scores stayed the same due to the English taking the foot off the pedal. The only negative side from this game came when Wayne Rooney picked up a yellow card for a hot headed challenge on Joe Ledley which means the Manchester United star would be suspended for the home game against Switzerland in June.
Fabio Capello must be happy with his 4-3-3 formation but Wayne Rooney’s quiet game would be a concern for many English fans as they head to Poland and the Ukraine next summer for bigger challenges.
Bulgaria and Switzerland stare at elimination
Bulgaria and Switzerland, managed by German coaches Lothar Matthaeus and Ottmar Hitzfeld respectively, played out a goalless draw in Sofia with both teams certain to miss out on qualification after England’s win over Wales earlier put the Three Lions joint top with surprise package Montenegro on ten points.
Bulgarian captain Stylian Petrov became only the second player from his country to reach hundred caps last night but the Aston Villa midfielder failed to inspire his country to a first home win of the current campaign.
Switzerland lie third in the group followed by Bulgaria with both the teams collecting four points in as many matches, a distant cry from what England and Montenegro have achieved.
Ireland joint top in Group B
A hard fought 2-1 win over an impressive Macedonian outfit has put Giovanni Trapattoni’s Republic of Ireland joint top with Russia and Slovakia in a tight looking Group B. Aiden McGeady and Robbie Keane capitalized on a couple of goalkeeping errors from the visiting keeper Edin Nuredinoski early on in the game to secure a tricky three pointer at the majestic Aviva Stadium in Dublin.
Ivan Trickovski reduced the margin just before the break to set up a lively second half that saw Inter star Goran Pandev calling all the shots up front for Mirsad Jonuz’s brave Macedonia. It took a remarkable stop from the Irish stand-in keeper Keiren Westwood to secure all three points when he prevented Trickovski from scoring a deserved equalizer.
The victory – combined with Russia’s surprise 0-0 draw in Armenia and Slovakia’s 1-0 win over Andorra leaves Giovanni Trapattoni’s side in a three-way tie atop their group, although the final standings will be defined by head-to-head first and, in the event of a three-way tie, an eliminator.
Klose on song as Germany brush aside Kazakhstan
2010 World Cup heroes Miroslav Klose and Thomas Muller scored a brace each as EURO 2008 runners-up Germany consolidated their commanding grip in Group A with a convincing 4-0 triumph over Kazakhstan at the Fritz Walter Stadion in Kaiserslautern. Joachim Loew fielded a strong line-up comprising of nine German World Cuppers and thus Die Mannschaft were always going to be the overwhelming favourites against a Kazakh side missing six key players and ranked 129 places below the Germans in FIFA world rankings. Germany now have 15 points from five games, ahead of Belgium and Austria can close the gap to five points with a win against Turkey on Tuesday.
Miroslav Klose underlined his credentials for the national team with his two typically opportunistic goals that brought the 32-year old closer to Gerd Muller’s all time national record of 68 goals. The Bayern Munich forward is now on 61 goals from 107 internationals and Joachim Loew believes the soft spoken Polish born Klose would surely be playing for the national team for a few more years to come given the form he is in.
“As long as he keeps scoring, he will be playing for us,”
Germany coach Joachim Loew said.
The striker has justified Loew’s faith and has now scored in six consecutive internationals.
“There are younger players now coming up and I am just happy to keep up with them.
“Now that I have reached this stage I want to break that (Mueller) record. I have talked to Gerd and he said he will not get angry.”
Gerd Muller holds the record for the most number of goals for the national team with 68 goals from from 62 appearances and Klose is closing in on it with 61 goals to his name already. Klose, who has scored just once in the Bundesliga this season after falling out of favour with outgoing Bayern coach Louis van Gaal, already has six goals in Germany’s qualifying games.
He will also become the country’s second most capped player alongside Juergen Klinsmann if he plays in their friendly against Australia on Tuesday.
“I am happy that Mario Gomez is scoring goals. But Miroslav Klose has been outstanding in the past years. Miro wants to continue at this level,” said Loew.
OTHER QUALIFYING RESULTS
Malta 0-1 Greece (Vasilis Torosidis)
Albania 1-0 Belarus (Hamdi Salihi)
Bosnia 2(Ibisevic, Dzeko)-1 Romania (Ciprian Marica)
Georgia 1(Kobiashvili)- 0 Croatia
Israel 2(Elyaniv Barda, Beram Kayal)- 1 Latvia(Kaspars Gorkss)
Norway 1(Eric Huseklepp)- 1 Denmark(Dennis Rommedahl)
Cyprus 0-0 Iceland