Breaking News: International football can be exciting! This week was all about seeing what our countries could muster in the World Cup qualifiers. And all four home nations came through the week with each picking up two wins out of two. The past international break must have come as a welcome relief if you’re a supporter of a club with vital assets sold during the transfer window, or sit in the bottom three. That is, if you’re not English.
If there was an international equivalent of the LMA’s performance of the week, that award will be Luxembourg’s. After the goalless draw in France, Antoine Griezmann heaped some worthy praise on Luxembourg with this quote circling on social media “We had 11 warriors in front of us and it was beautiful to see because it reminds me a bit of my club.” Nobody saw that result coming. Though who’s to say they weren’t inspired by Billericay Town’s rendition of R. Kelly’s classic ‘The World’s Greatest’ in their pre-match team talk?
The Welsh are back- After a campaign seemingly destined to be thwarted by draws, the Welsh have started to pick up a winning momentum. Even after grinding out a 1-1 draw in Serbia, the seemingly inexorable ability to finish off teams looked like it was showing again during both the Austria and Moldova matches. Cometh the hour, cometh the man. I mean kid. I am not talking about superstar Gareth Bale. Arise forward, Ben Woodburn. Twice the seventeen-year old came off the bench, twice he rescued his country. When I was that age, I had just failed my driving theory test for the third time.
Such as his newly found popularity in Wales, he has now been rewarded with a new contract at Liverpool. But more importantly, Welsh supporters have now inscribed his name into the tune of Starman, by David Bowie. I’ll admit to being perplexed as to why Chris Coleman brought him on over the perpetual Crystal Palace loanee Jonathan Williams. However, I was happily proved wrong. And not for the first time.
Across the bridge- England still cannot find the answers they need to dispense the sheer apathy that has followed the national team since 1996, when they last came close to winning something. We all expect the squad the national team possesses to safely qualify for the World Cup, it appears it’s a matter of how. The consensus from the English public is that the players do not show enough passion when they pull on the England shirt is merited, and are boring. To be fair to them, the Gareth Southgate is about as inspiring as a bowl of lentil soup. It was a foregone conclusion they would win, so who wants to talk about that? It was Dele Alli who stole the headlines for gesturing to Kyle Walker *the referee* (You’re not fooling anyone, Dele). The Scots down but not out-
Elsewhere in their group- And Scotland are now only a point off Slovakia in second place. Winning 2 qualifiers in a row for Scotland is rare, so beating two sides ranked 99 ((Lithuania) and 190 (Malta) isn’t to be sniggered at (maybe a little).
Mixed bag for the Irish- Northern Ireland did what they had to do to solidify their spot in second behind Germany, with qualifying for the play off’s looking increasingly likely. Calls for Martin O’Neil to be sacked as Republic of Ireland manager intensify in response to their 1-1 result in Georgia and losing to Serbia. Blowing a 4-point lead with 2 games left because the manager is content or confident of avoiding finishing a certain position is very TonyPulisesque.
With Seamus Coleman still out, their best player is Wes Hoolahan. And he’s 34 years old! Serbia will most likely take up top spot, leaving Wales and the ROI to battle it out for the runner up spot in October. As things stand, both sides are just out of the top 8 best second placed teams in the qualifiers, trailing behind Bosnia.
Long live international football.