Alright mucker? All eyes were on the deciding leg of the World Cup qualifiers this week.
There was to be only one nation’s rendition of ‘God Save The Queen’ at this summer’s World Cup, and it was not to be Northern Ireland’s. As a Welshman, i don’t particularly enjoy the anthem. Not because it is England’s national anthem, but because it is extremely mundane (Let’s be honest).
Switzerland stood in NI’s way. And the awful call from the referee in the first leg to award a penalty for ‘handball’ was the difference between qualifying, and staying home to feed the dogs. They say a dog is a man’s best friend, not all bad news? After the defeat at home and not registering a shot on target, the gaffer Michael O’Neill rallied his team to put the Swiss under pressure from the off.
It took the Swiss by surprise. Xherdan Shaqiri, Stephan Liechsteiner and Grant Xhaka never knew what hit them, when the likes of Connor Washington were causing them problems. For us watching on television, we had the pleasure of listening to Sky co-commentator’s biased commentary. On Liechsteiner going down easily, he said “That’s the Latin temperament right there”. Where’s Switzerland again?
Spurs play making king Christian Eriksen broke Irish dreams on Tuesday. The World Cup looked in the bag only six minutes in thanks to Shane Duffy, producing his best moment as a footballer since the two goals for Cardiff while playing for Blackburn just under a year ago. Then Eriksen savagely went on and scored a hat trick, capped off by Nicklas Bendtner’s (of all people) penalty to seal a 5-1 win and qualification.
I was off to Panama’s World Cup warm up at Wales (As social media were keen on calling it) on Tuesday night. In the squad there were neither Bale or Ramsey, not even our most important player Joe Allen (Believe it or not, he really is) made it off the bench. All this talk about Ben Woodburn being our next big thing and the game was dominated by seventeen-year-old Ethan Ampadu. The kid was going back in defence to demand the ball, playing some outstanding passes, and orchestrating players nearly twice his age. What a future he has. Shame about the odd moustache mind.
The game was still pretty interesting, because it offered fans to see the future of Welsh football (As the FAW advertised to promote it) and to see those who don’t usually get a look in. Tom Lawrence thought he got the only goal when he cut inside to score late on. Then Panama equalised in stoppage time, much to the joy of the small pocket of the ebullient Panama supporters.
England’s next friendly against a top team saw another 0-0. Yawn. Brazil brought the noise and colour at Wembley fielding a strong team containing Neymar. In contrast Gareth Southgate opted for a more experimental side, and they did well in keeping out the free scoring Brazilians. But what does the FA hope to achieve by playing so many friendlies against the best teams? As Brazil are one of the favourites for the World Cup, you’d think they’d want to be levelling up their established players.
Final word on Italy and Gianluigi Buffon. Devastated.