This week’s football review (The Good, the Bad and the Ugly): England, Holland and Montenegro vs Russia
Congratulations should go to European minnow Gibraltar for their first ever competitive international goal – though they did concede six to Scotland. Well done also to Iceland, Wales, Portugal, Northern Ireland, Belgium and Croatia for important victories against direct rivals that saw them move into contention for the top spots in their respective groups. However, the plaudits this week go to England who crushed Lithuania 4-0 at home to maintain their 100% record during the qualification process. The ‘Three Lions’ are one of only two sides (Slovakia is the other) to have won all of their qualifying matches which has gone some way to soften the disappointment of their World Cup 2014 performances in Brazil.
It was not a good weekend for Serbia as they fell to a 1-2 defeat away in Portugal and they now find themselves 6 points behind Denmark and Albania who are in joint second place in Group I. Not too good either for Norway who were thrashed 1-5 by Croatia in Group H or for Greece whose 0-0 draw with Hungary ensured they remained bottom of Group F, ten points adrift of Northern Ireland in second place. However, it was a bad weekend for the Netherlands who were held to a draw by visiting Turkey in Group A which leaves Guus Hiddink’s side a lot to do to make it to the finals in France. They needed a last-gasp equaliser to stay two points clear of Turkey but are still five behind surprise package Iceland.
The Group G game between Montenegro and Russia was abandoned after 67 minutes when first the Russian keeper, Igor Akinfeev, was hit by a flare in the opening minute of the game and then when a brawl broke out midway through the second half between players and staff of both teams the referee halted the game again. UEFA have yet to decide on the punishment but they could award the victory to Russia which would almost certainly affect Montenegro’s chances of making it to the finals in the summer of 2016.
minnow: Team with little or no chance of winning; low-ranked side
concede six: They let 6 goals in (lost 1-6)
into contention: To have a strong chance
the plaudits: The congratulations
‘Three Lions’: Nickname for the England football team
they fell to a 1-2 defeat: They lost 1-2
in joint second place: Two teams are together in second place
were thrashed: Heavily defeated
ten points adrift of: Ten points behind
a flare: Similar to a firework
a brawl broke out: A fight started
making it: Progressing