Podcast: Week 10: European World Cup Qualifiers

South Africa is just around the corner and the World Cup qualifiers are in full swing. On this week’s show Damian reviews the European groups after watching his beloved Irish team in action last Wednesday We also:

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The nine European World Cup qualifying groups have started to take shape with most teams now having played four rounds of matches. Europe will have 13 representatives in South Africa made up from the nine group winners and four play-off winners from the best eight second-placed teams, which means that this qualifying section is more competitive than ever.

Group 1 sees Denmark and Hungary topping the table on seven points two ahead of Sweden and a rather surprisingly poor Portugal side that only drew 0-0 at home to 10-man Albania on Wednesday. Group two is widely regarded as the weakest of the European section with Greece leading on nine points one ahead of unbeaten Israel. Now, how weak is this group? Well, Luxembourg already have four points. In group three Slovakia have nine points after their win over second place Poland on Wednesday. The surprise here is that the Czech Republic languish in fifth place four points behind their neighbours. Germany are riding high in group 4 after beating Russia and Wales this week. The Russians are four points behind but should pip the inexperienced Welsh side to that second spot. Group five has the current European champions in it and the Spanish continue to do well with an impressive away win at resurgent Belgium – this time thanks to a late David Villa winner – now they have maximum points from three games while Turkey are second one point behind. In group six England already look assured of qualification after their fourth win in a row – and three of those games were away – to lead Croatia and Ukraine by five points. Group seven is lead by Serbia and they are surprisingly five points clear of fancied Romania and France. The Dutch are leading group nine after their third win in three games with Scotland, Norway and Iceland all battling for that second spot.

In group eight, which is arguably the toughest in the European section, world champions Italy lead with ten points from 4 matches with the Republic of Ireland in second on seven points from three games. This is a much-improved Ireland side and with Bulgaria only drawing their last two matches, there is a sense of optimism around the country that the team can make it to South Africa. Last night 55.000 fans turned out to witness the 1-0 defeat of Cyprus – a bogey side for the Irish in recent times – and after the game I asked three of the supporters what they thought of the Irish performance.

Brendan: Yes, I think it was a case of the ends justifies the means because we were cautious and a bit nervous in the second half but three points is absolutely terrific at this stage of the tournament. It gives us seven after three games and if you compare that with how we did in the European Championship qualifiers we only had one point at the same stage. So… so, very pleased, er, we are still a bit shaky in parts but good performances by Doyle up front, Duff, of course, on the wing and Richard Dunne at the back, they were our best performers.

DF: Shane, Trapattoni got it right, yes?

Shane: Yes, he did. As Brendan was saying the end justifies the means but it’s only sinking in now that I’m becoming more happy with the result. It was very nervy in the second half, I didn’t think it had to be, I thought he could have made a few subs but as we … as Brendan was saying beforehand the three points is all that counts and we got the three points and we’re … after three games seven points we gotta’ be happy with that. We’re doing better than Bulgaria are at the moment and if we keep that up we can at least finish second, you never know.

DF: Patrick, er, who played well for Ireland?

Patrick: I think … I think Kevin Doyle had a great game and Damian Duff played really well, I was a bit worried about McShane all through the game but I think he just about hung in there so…

DF: Still in with a chance … to qualify for South Africa?

Brendan: Absolutely, I mean Bulgaria only drew today away to Georgia and we’ve already beaten Georgia away so that’s advantage us. Most people are thinking it’s a fight for second place that”s probably fair with Italy winning again tonight. But… you know, Cyprus, Georgia, Bulgaria and ourselves I think why not? Why not Republic of Ireland in second?

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I was born and brought up near Chester in the north west of England. I have always loved playing and talking about sport, especially football!
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