This week, the GBU peeked out of its Premier League bubble and decided to take a look at the irritating disruption called ‘International Football’. With the 2018 World Cup qualifiers underway, we felt it was the perfect opportunity to try something new instead of going ‘Bah! Humbug’ every time the players flew off to faraway lands to play for their national teams. So, what did we find? Quite a lot, actually.
Iceland: The nation who gave us the booming Viking clap and started a chain of events that led to Sam Allardyce ordering a pint of white wine, proved they were no flash in the pan by qualifying for their first ever World Cup finals. Underestimate them at your own peril. That means you, England.
Republic of Ireland: This time, there was no hand of fraud to keep them out. This time, the Republic huffed and puffed and blew the door down, gaining entry to the play-offs. There’s still room for glorious failure and it’s almost that time of the year when ‘The Poppy-gate of James McClean’ rears its ugly head again. But we’ll let them enjoy the moment. For now.
Egypt and Mohamed Salah: The Pharaohs made it to the finals for the first time since 1990, which makes me feel old. So old. Anyway, Mo Salah showed his brass cojones (not literally) by taking the last minute penalty that won the game, sending a country into a state of jubilation not seen since the pyramids were completed and the workers were finally set free.
Australia and Tim Cahill: Oh, Tim Cahill. He may be 37 now, but his vertical leap and heading ability remain as potent as ever. The Socceroos made hard work of a dogged Syria side but eventually made it to the play-offs. Getting past the play-offs should be easier than cooking shrimp on the barbie.
Robert Lewandowski: The best out-and-out striker in the world, period. Now also the scorer of most goals in two consecutive tournament qualifying campaigns. Blackburn Rovers really got shafted by that volcano almost a decade ago, didn’t they?
Lionel Messi: Can we now call Argentina ‘That Leo Messi Team’?
Netherlands: The Dutch used to have a reputation of infighting whenever they were in the finals of the Euros or in the World Cup. These days they’re more inclined towards skipping those tournaments altogether. After missing out on the Euros a couple of years ago, the Oranje failed to qualify for the World Cup when they somehow managed to find themselves needing a 7-0 victory to progress. Time to load that clip of De Jong karate-kicking Alonso in the chest and play it on loop.
Arjen Robben: The balding genius hung up his boots after yet another underachievement with the national side. Who’ll cut inside and score, now that the master has retired?
Wales: Just like the Night King’s superbly aimed spear in Game of Thrones, James McClean’s strike sent the Welsh dragon crashing down to earth and left fans in tears.
Gareth Southgate: Turning more and more England fans towards the exhilarating spectacles of watching paint dry and grass grow.
Dick Advocaat: Famous last words of the Dutch national team coach – “They won’t win 8-0, what a stupid question that is”. Final score: Sweden 8-0 Luxembourg. Oops.
Chile: It just keeps getting worse for Alexis Sanchez. His dogs will need to work overtime to improve his mood this week.
Gordon Strachan: The Scotland manager found a refreshingly new excuse which, he believes, is rooted in science and hard facts. “Genetically we are behind. In the last campaign, we were the second smallest, apart from Spain”. Of course, Spain don’t seem to be affected by this ‘disadvantage’, but let’s allow the man to finish. Strachan stroked his chin and continued, “Genetically we have to work at things, maybe we get big women and men together and see what we can do”. Eek! Hopefully, the Scottish football federation won’t indulge in a perverted game of dolls using real people and try to create humongous hybrids just to squeak into a football tournament.