Wednesday’s Qualifiers: “Live” Blogging
We will be updating The Kartik Report throughout the day to keep people up-to-date on what’s going on around the globe. Fill up the comments with questions or updates as we will be interacting with this post throughout the day.
All times Eastern
6:59 p.m. – Uruguay will get three points. Sebastián Vázquez came on in the 81st minute and got a goal about five minutes later, putting Uruguay up 3-1. It was a critical victory for Uruguay, a tough but not devastating loss for Colombia (they would have taken three points from this week, had you asked 6 days ago), and it makes the fourth through eighth places in CONMEBOL fun:
4. Ecuador (23 pts in 8 matches)
5. Argentina (22 pts in 7 matches)
6. Uruguay (21 pts in 8 matches)
7. Colombia (20 pts in 8 matches)
8. Venezuela (18 pts in 7 matches)
Venezuela is likely to be at 21 after hosting Peru tonight, and although I kind of played down their changes this morning, today has broken beautifully for them. Because they would still have to pass two teams to even make the playoffs, I still don’t like their chances, but there are a couple of head-to-head match-ups amongst this group (specifically, Uruguay plays both Ecuador and Argentina) that Venezuela will pass somebody if they continue winning. They do, however, against Paraguay and the in Brazil.
I still haven’t decided who, besides Ecuador, I like from this group. From what we’ve seen out of Uruguay and Colombia, though, I think Argentina looks a good, if disappointing, bet for fifth place.
That’s it, folks! Let’s all enjoy CONCACAF (as well as Paraguay-Argentina, which just kicked off), and I will talk to you again soon.
6:48 p.m. – Remember those 300 words in the preceding section about how it could be good for Argentina if Colombia passed them? Moot. Uruguay’s Andrés Scotti, the defender brought on when Carlos Valdez was red carded, just scored. It is the 33-year-old’s first international goal, and it may have saved the Uruguayan’s World Cup campaign.
I would have hated to see Uruguay’s World Cup hopes crippled by this match, though I think I’m starting to develop a soft-spot in my analysis of them. And I would have also felt strange about Colombia getting six points this week thanks in part to two (deserved) red cards. There’s still seven minutes to play in Montevideo, but given how this match had been playing out prior to Martínez’s goal, this feels right (although I know how much a Colombia supporter might hate to read that).
6:33 p.m. – No sooner do I post the last message than Jackson Martínez scores for the second straight match, making it 1-1.
Colombia could still win this match and knock the Argentines (who, let’s face it, are the biggest story in this region) into sixth. On the surface, that sounds horrible. However, it could actually end up being a good thing for the Albiceleste.
In Round 17, Argentina faces Peru at home (win), but what has always made their road to South Africa seem so tough is Round 18, a trip to Montevideo to play Uruguay. However, if Uruguay loses tonight, they’re basically done. They’ll be (at least) four points behind Argentina, five behind both Colombia and Ecuador, and they’ll need to pass two of those nations. That’s a lot of observations to string together, and by Round 18, Uruguay will probably be done.
If Uruguay is no longer in the competition on that last match day, six points becomes much more likely for Maradona’s men (if he’s still around). Even if they lose tonight in Ascunción, they could get to 28. With Colombia playing Chile and Paraguay and Ecuador playing Uruguay and Chile, six points should be enough to get at least fifth. Even though a lot of those opponents are no longer going to be competing as hard, it’s a lot to ask either Colombia or Ecuador for a perfect six points from those matches.
Argentina being perfect, however, would be a lot more probable if Uruguay stumbled tonight, letting Colombia knock Argentina into sixth, and then loses in Ecuador, ending their World Cup hopes.
There is also the upshot of Maradona potentially being fired, if Argentina does sit in sixth for a month.
6:26 p.m. – Uruguay and Colombia have been back underway in Montevideo for about twenty minutes, but as I was “afk” I missed Teófilo Gutiérrez’s straight red card. Since I didn’t see it, I’m going to assume it’s karmatic retribution for him stealing Giovanni Moreno’s goal on Saturday. Regardless, things look a lot better for Uruguay now. Not only are things evened at 10-a-side, but they have a team that should play better with slightly more space. They’re at home and … I’m forgetting something … oh yeah! They’re up a goal!
Still 1-0 at the Centenario.
Also, Spain’s won, 3-0, with Juan Mata capping the scoring. They are through to South Africa, the third team from UEFA (after the Netherlands and England) to clinch.
Editor’s Note: My (Richard) part of the live blog is going to end after the Uruguay-Colombia match, as I have to go prep for shows. I hope you all have had fun, and when we do this again in October, we’ll have fewer key matches to concentrate on, more time to talk, and given a month of opportunities for Captain Pessimism to rear his dark and stormy head, more to discuss (euphemism).
5:50 p.m. – As Uruguay try to bleed this one to halftime, it occurs to me that Croatia had a good day today. A really good day.
They lost in London 5-1, which is embarrassing given the recent history between the nations and some of the pre-match press from the match, but this wasn’t a result the Croatians should have expected to get. Capello’s England is a world better than the England that missed Euro in large part because they couldn’t handle Croatia. That’s obviously changed, and while Slavan Bilic would have wanted a closer score, consider the upshot:
Ukraine blew it.
Ukraine drew in Belarus, which is not a terrible result in the big picture, though their best chance to overtake Croatia was to beat Belarus and Andorra (Round 10) while acknowledging they would probably lose to England in Kiev in Round 9. That route would allow them to get second place based on goal differential.
Now that they’ve stumbled, they’ll need a point against England, which isn’t out of the question, given England is qualified, and their prominent club players won’t be after to come down with a nagging injury ahead of the final rounds of qualifying. That, however, is not the route Ukraine could have taken. But drawing today with Belarus, their route to a possible playoff spot got much more precarious, and in that way.
Croatia should have expected Ukraine to win. That the Ukraine did not made it a good day for the Croatians.
5:41 p.m. – While Colombia immediately starts striking fear into the Montevideo crowd, let’s get up-to-date on the implications of some of today’s results.
England is in. Spain is up on Estonia and will be in should they hold on. Paraguay and Chile and both get in with wins. Paraguay hosts Argentina while Chile hosts a weakened Brazil squad.
Sweden has moved into a playoff-eligible sport in UEFA’s Group 1, passing Hungary (who dropped to fourth). Likewise, Slovenia passed Northern Ireland in Group 3. Russia and Germany assured neither can finish below second in Group 4 (each can still win the group). Likewise, Serbia, Italy, and Slovakia can not finish worse than second in their groups.
Norway clinched second in Group 9.
Cameroon moved into first in CAF’s Group A.
And, of course, there could potentially be a shake-up in CONCACAF tonight.
5:37 p.m. – Carlos Valdez has just been red-carded for Uruguay. The defender flew into Jhon Viáfara at full speed, leaping into the man at full speed, completely missing the ball. There was no major damage, which might lend some to think this was not a red card offense. No. This challenge was brutal, and Viáfara did well to avoid injury.
Valdez is only playing because Diego Godín could not. To compensate for the lost defender, Oscar Tabarez has had to take off Edinson Cavani.
Uruguay is still up 1-0, and Diego Forlan almost made the lead two, but for the second match in a row, Colombia is going to get to play much of the match up a man. If Colombia does come back and gets even a point, it will be reasonable to cast blame on Valdez’s ridiculous challenge.
5:20 p.m. – Bahrain is through to the playoff with New Zealand after eliminating Saudi Arabia, 2-2 with an away goals tiebreaker. The two nations played to a scoreless draw this weekend, giving the Saudi’s the upper hand, but Bahrain was able to overcome the disadvantage and now face the Kiwis for the right to go to South Africa.
The match was 1-1 going into second half stoppage time, with Bahrain looking destined to move on, but then Hamad Al Montashari put the Saudis up one minute into extra time. Two minutes later, Bahrain equalized through Ismail Abdullahatif, giving them the draw in the match, allowing them to move on thanks to the away goals tiebreaker.
5:07 p.m. – Went outside to get some air after Serbia’s draw with France, but then I realized the air isn’t nearly as nice as football, so I’m back for the start of Colombia at Uruguay. With a win, Colombia temporarily vaults Argentina and (likely) Ecuador into fourth place, knocking the Albiceleste out of the playoff spot before kick off in Ascuncion. Colombia is looking to maintain momentum garnered this weekend in Medellín, where they beat Ecuador 2-0. On Saturday, they lost their best defender, Fabian Vargas, to a scary ankle injury.
As I typed, Ajax’s Luis Suarez has put Uruguay up 1-0, a beautiful finish off a great set-up by Christían Rodríguez.
Uruguay famously lost at Peru this weekend but really didn’t play horribly. They didn’t play well, but they are not dead yet. Early in this match, they’ve started very convincingly, having the better of play since kick-off.
If Uruguay does not get three points here, they’re likely done. They’d have only two rounds to jump two of Argentina, Colombia and Ecuador. But they were favored in this match, off to a good start, and look to have shaken off this weekend’s disappointment.
They’re ten minutes in at the Centenario.
4:42 p.m. – Cesc Fabregas has gotten Spain on the board. They’re up 1-0 over Estonia. With a win, Spain qualifies, thanks to Bosnia and Herzegovina’s draw with Turkey …Italy has just gone final with their 2-0 win over Bulgaria. They’re four points up on the Republic of Ireland (off today) and clinch their group with a draw next month in Dublin. The Azzurri remain unbeaten in qualifying … Bolivia’s gotten on the board against Ecuador, and although it’s Ecuador leads 3-1 in La Paz, goal differential is becoming much more important in what could be a log-jam at the bottom of CONMEBOL’s qualifying group … Gone final: Portugal, Russia, Germany, Slovenia, Slovakia, England (all winners).
France is holding on for the draw. Gourcuff has just been replaced by Alou Diarra. Domenech is playing with deep-sitting three midfielders, ceding the group to Serbia.
Time for me to find another match.
4:42 p.m. – With fifteen minutes left in regulation time, Raymond Domenech is finally bringing on Franck Ribery. Remarkably, it’s Thierry Henry – the most dangerous player for France throughout the match, that gets pulled. This begs the question: What does Nicolas Anelka have to do to get pulled? Domenech remarkably took out Andre-Pierre Gignac when he had to bring a goalie on. Now, he takes off Henry, the goal scorer, when he brings on Ribery.
Why not take off Anelka? Or one of Toulalan or Diarra? Or even Gourcuff in a like-for-like?
Henry may have been tired. I don’t know. It’s a bit remarkable.
4:39 p.m. – Some updates, as I wonder if the Serbian’s were shocked by Henry’s goal (a common reaction to giving up a goal – let alone a tying goal – while up a man):
Russia now has a two goal lead in Cardiff over Wales as Pavlyuchenko’s scored in the closing minutes. Let the hype for October 10 begin … Portugal’s minutes away from closing out Hungary and getting the first of their two, needed wins over the Hungarians … It’s over in Belfast. Slovakia’s won 2-0 and likely ended Northern Ireland’s World Cup hopes … From the same group, Slovenia is up 3-0 on Poland and assumes the inside track on second place … This is also about the best result the Czech Republic could have hoped for, short of a series of draws … Wayne Rooney’s made it 5-1 at Wembley … Saudi Arabia-Bahrain are still locked at one.
4:35 p.m. – Valeriu Andronic has scored a stoppage time goal for Moldova against Greece to make it 1-1. Greece had a chance to gain two points on group leaders Switzerland, but with the draw they will stay three points back and seemingly destined for the playoff (though Switzerland still has a home match against Israel who, winning 7-0 today, could be a bit scary).
Elsewhere: It’s now 4-1 at Wembley. Lampard and Gerrard each have a brace. Eduardo is the goal scorer for Slavan Bilic … France is still holding their own while down a man at Serbia. Serbia’s trying to run them down – switching the ball often. We’ll see how Domenech’s men, who had to burn a substitute to replace the dismissed Hugo Lloris early in the match.
4:21 p.m. – Scotland and Macedonia are out, while Norway stays alive.
Scotland came into the day in second place in UEFA’s group nine, three points up on both Norway and Macedonia. Their goal differential was far inferior to the Norwegians, meaning a loss in Glasgow coupled with a Norway win in Oslo would put them out.
That’s exactly what happened.
Scotland held on with the Netherlands (who played a full side) for 82 minutes before substitute Eljero Elia scoring his first international goal to eliminate the hosts. Norway had a scare with an 79th minute goal from Boban Grncarov, but first half goals from Thorstein Helstad and John Arne Riise held up. With their 2-1 win Norway is eligible for the UEFA playoff.
4:17 p.m. – Switzerland has pulled even with Latvia and now looks to hang on to the lead in UEFA Group 2; Slovakia has a goal from Filip Holosko to make it 2-0 in Belfast, a result that likely eliminates Northern Ireland; the venerable Sergei Ignashevich has put Russia back in the lead at Cardiff; Germany’s up 4-0 at home to Azerbaijan; Spain’s started; England’s scored again; Ecuador has goals from Antonio Valencia and Christian Benítez to go up 3-0 at Bolivia (and move ahead of Argentina, temporarily); Bahrain drew even with Saudi Arabia right before halftime. Now, let me check on UEFA Group 9.
4:12 p.m. – Group 9 in UEFA is coming to a close. Scotland would have secured second place with a draw or a win in Glasgow against the Dutch (a team that had already secured qualification), but an 82nd minute goal from Hamburg’s Eljero Elia (at close range, left foot from the six, according to play-by-play) means only a miracle saves the Tartan Army. Norway, if they hold on in Oslo, finishes with ten points, tying Scotland but getting second place on goal differential. It’s currently 2-1, and Macedonia’s putting on a late charge, but it looks good for the Norweigans.
4:07 p.m. – I’m going to do a round-up in between matches. If anybody has suggestions on good ones, let me know. Else, I’ll probably go back to Belgrade. Until then, let’s update everybody on what’s going on:
Denmark is still tied with Albania late in the second half, 1-1. Portugal is hanging on against Hungary, 1-0; Romania and Austria ended drawn at one, a disappointing result for the Austrians (opportunity wasted); Macedonia’s pulled one back against Norway, though a draw does neither nation any good – it’s 2-1 Norway in Oslo; Latvia is stunning Switzerland, thanks to goals from Aleksandrs Cauna and Vitalijs Astafjevs; Greece’s lead makes Group 2 on a path to a three-way tie; Scotland’s 8 minutes from a draw and second place in Group 9 – no, they’re not, the Dutch just scored and Scotland is gutted (Norway would be in as of now).
I’m going to look into that Dutch goal.
3:53 p.m. – While I was zoned in on Boznia and Herzegovina-Turkey, a lot of interesting developments, particularly in UEFA Group 4. Germany scored their second goal (up 2-0 on Azerbaijan) while Russia has given up a goal to a Wales side that has been relatively inept in attack. It’s 1-1 in Cardiff, and if these scores hold, Russia will be subject to a goal differential loss in this group. Newest Aston Villa man James Collins was the Welshman responsible for the tally.
It’s almost time for another wrap-up.
3:53 p.m. – Three minutes before the end of regulation time, and Turkey has put on a strong finish. It’s not that they’re controlling the match; rather, compared to how the previous twenty minutes were played, it seems as if they were saving themselves for one final push. And they need it. If Turkey draws here, it will be almost impossible to catch Bosnia and Herzegovina for second place in Group 5. They’ll be four back with two rounds left. B&H have had a couple of runs at the Turks as the game’s opened up, but Turkey’s done a good job holding-up, even if the match has gotten a bit choppier. As a result, there are not a ton of chances being generated despite the more open play. Now in stoppage time (I’ve been typing/watching), Bosnia looks fortified to hold on for the point.
3:43 p.m. – Let’s see what’s changed around the globe, because we have three confederations active right now: Saudi Arabia is up 1-0 on Bahrain in the ACF playoff; There’s still no change in UEFA Group 9, where is things ended now, Scotland gets second place by one point over Norway; Iaquinta scored just before halftime for Italy, it’s 2-0 there; France has miraculously scored in Belgrade – who saw the Henry goal?; Austria has equalized late against Romania and is now praying Serbia pulls back in front; Albania continues the day-of-the-minnow theme by drawing even with Denmark.
3:32 p.m. – This Bosnia and Herzegovina against Turkey match is turning into the best of the day, thus far. Now in the seventieth minute, it seems the match has settled down after a hectic first half. Turkey is playing very deliberately – potentially more cautious after how the match was played at the end of the first half. They did make two half time substitutions and are now playing two more traditional strikes up front. As a result, they’re playing more direct, trying to go over the advantage their opponents have through the midfield. B&H has just responded with their first substitution, bringing on Lyon star Miralem Pjanic in an effort to get another attacking/creating player on the pitch. Of any match taking place in UEFA, this is one where both sides would be good representatives in South Africa (funny that neither may make it).
3:26 p.m. – Russia’s gone up at Wales through Igor Semshov. Both they and Germany lead, keeping that mega-match for October 10 in Moscow alive and well. Arshavin is playing. Pavlyuchenko was sacrificed to make room.
I’m done with the Serbia-France match. Not that I wouldn’t love to watch, but I have to pick and choose my battles, and with France playing down a man and a goal, it’s time to go back to Boznia and Herzegovina against Turkey.
3:21 p.m. – Round-up: All of Denmark, Greece, and Switzerland have gone up a goal. Liechtenstein and Finland have exchanged goals. England got early goals from Gerrard and Lampard (pk) and are up two and practically into South Africa. Fabio Grosso’s scored for Italy. Edison Méndez has put Ecuador up 1-0 in a match that can get them back into CONMEBOL’s top five.
3:15 p.m. – Serbia has gone up 1-0. France goaltender Hugo Lloris took down Nikola Zigic and was red carded. Serbia was awarded a penalty, and Wolverhampton’s Nenad Milijas executed the kick perfectly. It’s a big step towards winning the group, which Serbia does with a win. A man and a goal up, things are looking bad for the French, and amazingly, Raymond Domenech has taken off Pierre-Andre Gignac to get backup goaltender Steve Mandanda on. Apparently, Domenech is upset that we’ve been giving Diego Maradona so much attention.
Related: Austria has gone down in Bucharest after a Gheorghe Bucur goal. Austria had the most to gain with a France loss, potentially regaining control of their own destiny.
3:01 p.m. – We’ve reached that point: Almost all of UEFA is active. I’m going to start with Serbia hosting France, but if you’re watching another match, use the comments to keep us updated. For France, they’ve replaced Escudé (the own goal scorer from Saturday) with Eric Abidal.
Elsewhere: Pepe scored in the 10th minute to put Portugal up 1-0 at Hungary – big goal for a team that’s had trouble scoring; Slovakia with a crushing first goal in Belfast against Northern Ireland, through Stanislav Sestak; Germany’s up on Azerbaijan; England’s started; so has Italy; Norway’s up 2-0; and in CONMEBOL, Bolivia and Ecuador have started.
2:47 p.m. – Bosnia and Herzegonvina’s match with Turkey approaches half-time with the score still tied at one. For Turkey, the break can’t come soon enough, as after a strong start that saw them register a fourth minute goal, the Bosnians and Herzegovinians have been the better side. It is what you’d expect from a team that’s four points up coming into the match, but if Turkey can’t find a way to regain some control of play (Bosnia has controlled the ball, and as such has been the only side that has been able to show ambition), the hosts could have second place clinched within an hour.
Elsewhere: Romania and Austria at scoreless at halftime. Denmark’s yet to score at Albania. Israel’s scored again, Latvia and Switzerland is underway in a match that could see Group 2 in a three-way tie afterwards. Likewise, Greece at Moldova’s kicked off. Northern Ireland and Slovakia have started, for the lead in Group 3. Wales has kicked off in Cardiff against Russia.
All but a couple of matches (most notably, England-Croatia) have started in UEFA.
2:41 p.m. – I have not seen highlights of it, but an own goal by Malta has saved Sweden, who won 1-0 to keep the pressure on Hungary in Group 1. From what I saw in the first 75 minutes, a completely uninspired performance from the Swedes, but they get three points. The Faroe Islands finished off their upset of Lithuania, ending any hope the visitors had of making the playoff. Two-one was the final there. The final Round of Group 9 has started, with Norway getting an early goal on Macedonia in Oslo. Norway needs to win and have Scotland lose in Glasgow against the Netherlands to get second place.
2:26 p.m. If this is truly turning into a coming of age match for Bosnia and Herzegonvina, they are maturing before my eyes. They have controlled the last five minutes of play, generating a couple of good chances and rarely letting Turkey see the ball. They have not scored, but it’s starting to look like a matter of time. We’ll see if …. GOAL! Bosnia and Herzegonvina! Emre Belozoglu (yellow card) gives B&H a DK from about 24 meters and it’s in! Hoffenhiem’s Sejad Salihovic evens it up to cap a great run of play from B&H. Beautiful ball into the upper right hand corner of goal. It’s 1-1, and the Bosnia and Herzegovina I’ve come to know has shown up.
2:17 p.m. Israel is making up for their surprise weekend loss to Latvia with two early goals against Luxembourg. Elyaniv Barda and Aviram Baruchian scored within fifteen minutes of kick-off. Other matches just started: Cyprus-Montenegro, Andorra-Kazakhstan (Kazakhstan has already scored). Liechentenstein-Finland has gone to halftime scoreless. In Malta, Marcus Berg is one, with the Swedes going to three strikers. It has not helped, and the match is still scoreless. The BH-Turkey match has settled down after that early goal, but the hosts haven’t been able to generate chances on goal or room to create in midfield. Turkey has been well organized at the back, quickly challenging any foray into B&H’s attacking third.
2:06 p.m. I’ve switched to Bosnia and Herzegovina and Turkey, and not a moment too soon. In the fourth minute Emre Belozoglu has put the visitors up 1-0 in a match that could save the Turks’ campaign. Turkey is 4 points behind B&H coming in, with B&H still having a match with group leader Spain. A win here would be a slight upset, but it would not be the first time Turkey, a country that seems to continuously performed in big matches, pulled an upset in a must-win match. B&H is one of the up-and-coming Eastern European “powers” but this match, against this country, has quickly turned into a coming-of-age test.
1:59 p.m.Romania and Austria are underway in Bucharest in what is a critical match for the Austrians. They’re four points back of France for second place, but the French play at Serbia later. The Austrians close qualifying at Saint-Denis. Reminder: Mutu is not playing for the Romanians, who got one point this weekend in France. Elsewhere: Sweden has still been unable to break down Malta, and the tension is growing in the stadium. Johan Elmander had a half-chance, but it’s only half-certain he should be playing ahead of Marcus Berg (though Berg is about to come in). Zlatan’s nowhere to be found, yet. Israel has kicked off in Ramat Gan against Luxembourg. (Ibrahimovic just laid it off for another good chance for Elmander).
1:54 p.m.München’s Daniel Van Buyten has scored late at Armenia, but Belgium is minutes away from a bad road loss. Congratulations to the Armenians. We’re still scoreless in Malta (versus Sweden), Belarus (Ukraine), and Liechtenstein (Finland). The Faroe Islands are trying to hold on for their first win of qualification, up 2-1 over Lithuania … and they just went final in Armenia. Belgium loses.
1:40 p.m. – They’re back playing in Malta, and Sweden looks slightly more determined. A relatively weak shot from outside the area from Kim Kallstrom almost found goal after a deflection sent the ball toward post opposite the goalie’s dive. The Swedes now have a cross bar and one post. Elsewhere, Liechtenstein and Finland have started, while there are not changes in Belarus, the Faroe Islands, or Armenia. Two minnows are in place for their first wins of qualifying, while another is holding its own with Sweden.
1:21 p.m. – Sweden just went to halftime tied at Malta, having looked no better than their hosts. Meanwhile, the Czech Republic ends with a 7-0 victory over San Marino in an advertisement as to why having these minnows competing at this stage of qualifying is problematic. Granted, Malta and the Faroes are competing well today, but very often these teams are neither close to qualification nor capable or being anything but fodder for padding goal differential. In addition to Milan Baros’s hat-trick, Vaclav Sverkos had a brace. Elsewhere, they’ve kicked off in Belarus, and the score is unchanged in the Faroes (2-1 Faroes over Lithuania).
1:11 p.m. – Armenia has gone up two on Belgium in what is turning into a truly embarrassing result for the guests. As Kartik mentioned in the comments, the Belgians are at a low point, and if this result holds, it will certainly be a trough. That match is in the second half. Elsewhere, Ukraine has Shevchenko and Milevskiy up top. Voronin, who started Saturday, is on the bench to start.
1:03 p.m. – The Faroes have taken a 2-1 lead over Lithuania. In 35 minutes, they doubled the goal total they’d amassed through the preceding seven matches. As is the case with Sweden, “And this is a team that’s trying to get into the playoff.” Incidentally with Sweden, right after I posted the last update they put a ball off the cross bar.
12:58 p.m. – Belarus-Ukraine is about to start, so I am going to shift my focus to it, but before I go, Sweden has been incredibly unimpressive against Malta. I was a few minutes late switching to this match, but now just over 25 minutes in Malta has had the better opportunities (I really shouldn’t use that word in the plural) and has had just as much of play. And this is a team that’s trying to get into the playoff. The Swedes look completely uninspired, as if they’re just waiting for Zlatan to save them.
12:45 p.m. – I may have cursed the Faroes, because Lithuania answered quick. Tomas Danilevicius scored in the 23rd minute to pull the visitors back even. Meanwhile, Sweden is just going through the motions against Malta, who just had a shot on goal (albeit a weak one).
12:40 p.m. – Is this the day of the minnow, because the Faroe Islands just went up on Lithuania. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not implying Lithuania is a power, but they are a decent team that should not be losing to the Faroes, a team who was able to draw at home with Austria but otherwise have been outscored 10-1 in qualifying (and getting no other points). Suni Olsen’s 15th minute goal has them up early.
12:37 p.m. – Cameroon and Gabon have done final, but not before some mild drama. Daniel Cousin, a familiar name, scored near the whistle to make it 2-1, though the visitors were not able to find the equalizer. Cameroon now sits atop Group A and is firmly on track for qualification. Elsewhere, Sweden has kicked off at Malta in a match that could help vault them into Group 1’s playoff spot by the end of the day. And the Czech Republic scored again.
12:25 p.m. – Armenia just scored against Belgium. It is only their fourth goal in eight qualifiers for a team that has only one point and has led for all of five match minutes through their tournament. Ultimately, this is more a comment on Belgium, who lost 5-0 at Spain on the weekend, than Armenia, though it would be nice to see minnows get three points somewhere.
12:19 p.m. – They’ve kicked off in the Faroe Islands, where Lithuania should win. Lithuania can still get into the playoff spot, but they need to win out. They have matches against both Austria and France remaining, which means they can make up points on the two nations they’re chasing. They only help they need is for France to lose today in Serbia.
12:13 p.m. – I said I’d stop updating this match, but Baros got a hat-trick before the half with a converted penalty kick. What non-USMNT matches are people looking forward to (we’re all looking forward to Port of Spain)? I’m keen on Paraguay-Argentina and Northern Ireland-Slovakia.
12:08 p.m. – Milan Baros has a brace at Sparta, and this match is now beyond regular updates. Elsewhere, Armenia and Belgium just started, and Cameroon remains 2-0 up on Gabon. Matches will start in Malta and the Faroes within the next twenty minutes. Yay über-inclusive European format!
11:59 a.m. – Milan Baros has just put the Czechs up 1-0. I’m still not sure whether this match is with the electrons, but let me note something of significance beyond this match. Tomas Necid, that only player under 23 (that I noted in a previous article) is starting today in Jan Koller’s spot. Koller retired after Saturday’s draw with Slovakia.
11:56 a.m. – Cameroon is going to South Africa. They won’t have clinched after today’s win against Ghana, but with another goal from Samuel Eto’o, the Lions just took a 2-0 lead and guaranteed themselves the group’s lead after today’s match. They will also be done with Gabon, having taken six points from them in the last five days.
11:38 a.m. Update: Consider this a not-so-subtle critique: I’ve had a much easier time finding a way to watch the Czech Republic-San Marino – and insignificant match which is unlikely to be competitive – than Cameroon-Gabon, a match that will likely decide a Wold Cup participant. And the biggest name player amongst those teams? Cameroon’s Samuel Eto’o. Silver lining: Czech Republic-San Marino is better than nothing.
11:30 a.m. Update: Matches have started in Europe with the Czech Republic hosting San Marino. Those are the two bottom teams in Group 3, so there is not a lot to this one, though the Czechs are still mathematically alive. One match that does matter is the only African qualifier, which (at halftime) has Cameroon up 1-0. Lyon’s Jean Makoun scored halfway through the first half to put the Indomitable Lions in temporary control of Group A. And tangentially, Ghana lost to Japan in a friendly this morning, 4-3 in the Netherlands, four days after becoming the seventh team to qualify for South Africa.