Last Saturday at Estandio Nacional in Andorra la Vella,about 1,000 local fans in the mountain kingdom had something to cheer. After 58 consecutive defeats going back 11 years, The Tricolor had finally gained a point in a competitive match. Koldo Alvarez's team had lost every competitive match stretching back to another goalless 0-0 tie with Finland in September 2005. However, they did beat San Marino in a friendly not long ago.
One win, 3 draws and 96 defeats, with a minus goal difference of 285. www.faf.ad. Joan Edmundsson had been sent off for the Faroese visitors and in stoppage time Hallor Hansson had been close to scoring with a header. The fairly new stadium had been inaugurated with a loss to Wales in 2014 with a still record crowd of 3,150 and has a FIFA approved 3G artificial pitch.
No joy either in Belfast for the visitors at the recently redeveloped Windsor Park as Northern Ireland dismissed a woeful Norwegian team 2-0. Norways only points are a victory over San Marino. Wales survived a red card and the loss of Gareth Bale for their next match in Serbia in June. A 0-0 draw with Ireland at the Aviva Stadium was overshadowed by the horrendous double broken leg to Seamus Coleman in a tackle by Neil Taylor who awaits his fate from FIFA. From third place at the EUROS in France to very doubtful for the finals in Russia is a big let down in The Principality.
Trouble in the House of Oranje as the KNVB finally lost patience with manager Danny Blind after a loss in Sofia to Bulgaria. They find themselves in fourth place in Group A, 6 points behind France and the likelyhood of not making it to Russia 2018. "What can you say, this is a nightmare", said Arjen Robben. Beaten finalists at Soccer City in FIFA World Cup 2010 they came third four years later in Brazil but failed to even qualify for the expanded 4 team European Finals in France last summer.. After 20 months Blind departs and there is even talk of appointing a foreign coach, for the first time since Austrian Ernst Happel guided them to the World Cup Final in Buenos Aires in 1978.
The KNVB has implemented a WINNERS OF TOMORROW plan to revolutionise Dutch voetball which has considerable opposition from amateur clubs who claim that its joylessness will lose young players to the game in large numbers. One domestic coach who might be considered is Utrecht coach Erik ten Hag, age 47 who coached Bayern Munich's reserves under Pep Guardiola.
The qualifications for the European places at the finals continues in June.