September 5, 2006
The Weekend Recap
European Pub Teams?
The talk after the weekend of Euro 2008 qualifiers is including a qualifying round for the weaker teams in the confederation. Talk of Andorra, 5-0 losers to England, and the Faroe Islands, 6-0 losers to Scotland, struggling against pub teams is probably overstated.
The argument ranges from giving the poor little countries a chance to win some matches. The counterargument being that it gives them a chance to improve even if they might never qualify for a major tournament.
Estonia is a good argument for the latter. In their first 20 competitive matches, the managed a single point with a -58 goal difference in 1994 World Cup and Euro 96 qualification. Ten years later, Estonia finished off a World Cup qualifying effort with 17 points and a -1 goal difference in 12 matches. Of course they may be the exception to the rule.
The Rest of the Qualifiers
In a week in which 20% of the matches had any interest in the eyes of Arsene Wenger, the results went the way of the favorites for the most part. There were a couple of surprises, though.
A Jari Litmanen brace and a third from Mika Vayrynen gave Finland a shock 3-1 win in Poland. Iceland cruised to a 3-0 win in Northern Ireland. Most shocking of all was Italy’s 1-1 draw against Lithuania.
The World Champions continue to suffer from a World Cup hangover, and it doesn’t get easier with France as the next opponents.
Asian Cup Qualifying
With Australia having been qualified for over a month, Asian Cup qualifiers continued for the 11 other spots up for grabs. Saudi Arabia went top in Group A after beating Japan 1-0 on a Saleh Bashir goal. In South Korea, Vahid Hashemian grabbed a late equalizer to keep Iran in contact with the Koreans at the top of the group.
South American League Action
Boca Juniors continued their 100 percent start to the Apertura with a 2-0 win over eight-man Estudiantes . And just to show that things are returning to normal in Argentina, River Plate now sit third.
In Brazil, a Martos Mattos goal moved Corinthians out of the relegation zone in Serie A. While Rogerio Ceni scored yet another goal to move Sao Paulo even further clear at the top in a 3-1 win over Santa Cruz.
And in Paraguay, Nacional successfully defended the Unofficial World Club Championship to the tune of 4-0 over Sportivo Luqueño. Their next defense will be against Tacuary on Sunday.