International review: Last week in Euro 2016 qualifiers

ONE OF THE key aspects that makes football so interesting is the surprise factor. In the latest week, which saw the return of international fixtures, there were a few shocking ‘David v Goliath’ moments in which Slovakia, Poland, and Iceland bagged three points against former World Cup Champions and European giants in the likes of Spain, Germany, and the Netherlands, respectively.

gareth-baleIn Group A, the Netherlands seem to struggle with a severe post-Rio hangover as they now sit six points adrift of Czech Republic and high-flying Iceland, who secured back to back wins against Latvia and the Netherlands.

Wales sit atop Group B at the end of match-day two, having beaten Cyprus and securing a point against World Cup participants Bosnia in Cardiff.

After conceding an absolute howler against group leader Slovakia, a heavily under-performing Iker Casillas were later dropped as Spain restored their pride with a decent performance against Luxembourg in which the in-form Diego Costa finally put an end to his goal woes with the national side after seven games without a goal.

Moving on to Group D, yet another World Cup participant find themselves severely struggling after this summer’s adventures in Brazil. As the current World Cup Champions, you would expect Germany to shake off Poland in the same way as they have done in the previous eighteen encounters. However, goals from Arkadiusz Milik and Sebastian Mila clinched Poland’s first competitive win against Germany at the Stadion Narodowy. At the same time, their win also put an end to Germany’s competitive unbeaten run that stretched back to Euro 2012. Against Ireland, who had spent their Saturday evening demolishing Gibraltar 7-0, Germany’s Euro 2016 qualifying campaign suffered yet another blow with John O’Shea’s late equaliser in his 100th cap. Meanwhile, Poland held Scotland to a draw, leaving Group D wide open and increasingly interesting before next month’s fixtures.

In Group E, Jack Wilshere was the stand-out performer over the weekend as England secured six points having beaten San Marino and Estonia 5-0 and 1-0, respectively. In rather traditional fashion, San Marino have yet to find the net, an achievement matched by Gibraltar, Liechtenstein, and Malta.

UEFA_Euro_2016_qualifyingMeanwhile in Group F, Northern Ireland have arguably been the best team of the qualifying rounds so far. After earning their third win out of three possible with a solid 2-0 win at Windsor Park, Michael O’Neill’s team has sealed their best start to a qualifying campaign for 46 years.

Russia could not keep up with Austria as they were held to a disappointing 1-1 draw by Moldova. Austria sit atop Group G after two marginal wins against Moldova and Montenegro. With Zlatan Ibrahimovic struggling to fully recover from an injury, Sweden now sit two points adrift of Austria following a 1-1 draw with Russia and 2-0 win against Liechtenstein.

After being brought on as a substitute in Norway’s 2-1 win at home to Bulgaria, 15 year old Martin Odegaard became the youngest player to play an official international match. That aside, Croatia and Italy remain at the top of the group with three consecutive wins each.

If you find Aberystwyth nightlife a little boring these days, Group I can provide you with an interesting mixture of drone chaos, nerves, and surprising results. Albania got off to a flying start with a 0-1 shock triumph in Portugal in the opening match in September. On Saturday, Gianni De Biasi’s side were held to a draw by Denmark. Their rivalry with Serbia, on the other hand, reached new heights as a drone carrying the Kosovar flag resulting in a brawl between supporters, security staff, and players from both camps which eventually left the referee with no choice but to call it off on match-day three.