Well, we have one thing to be grateful for- MESSI and Argentina will be in the draw at the Kremlin on December 01 after an incredible performance in Quito at Estadio Olimpico Atahualta. After Ibarra took the lead in the first minute Lionel Messi answered with a hat trick to send his team to Russia 2018.
They join Brazil, Uruguay and Colombia with Peru having to face New Zealand in a home and away play-off in mid November. Pure Tiki-Taki football to delight the fans of The Beautiful Game. Contrast that with a VERY TACKY and boring performance by The Three Lions of England that puts the fans to sleep. Undefeated in 10 group matches they failed to set Wembley alight and once again are expected to fail at the main event next summer, as they did in Brazil in 2014, being the first team to be eliminated.
Depending on who you support we have seen triumphs and disappointments the last days all over the world. For the second time in a row The Netherlands will not be present at the Greatest Show on Earth. They had to beat visitors Sweden by seven goals at The Amsterdam Arena to get into the eight team play-offs. In an earlier campaign they had defeated Iceland 8-1, but it was not to be. Despite a brace from Arjen Robben, the 2-0 win was not nearly enough.
What about every bodies favourites..ICELAND. Following their heroics in knocking out England two years ago at FRANCE 2016 they have made it to the bigger stage. With a population of only 330,000 they are by far the smallest nation to qualify, one million less than previous smallest,Trinidad & Tobago. India, at FIFA 112th place with 1.4 billion population, do you realize that India adds that amount of people EVERY FIVE WEEKS !!!
A year ago I was in the Laugardalsvollor Stadium in Reykjavic in the VIP section doing the VIKING THUNDER CLAPP with the Prime Minister and others. What an experience in this friendy country. They beat Kosovo in their final group match and their captain Aaron Einar Malmquist Gunnarsson led his team mates and support staff to face the fans in the main stand and perform this awesome ceremony. HUH !! He is a proud native of Akureyri in Northern Iceland and has played 232 teams for Cardiff City in Wales.
A sad night in his home Cardiff City Stadium saw a surprising result as Wales, without the injured Gareth Bale, lost 1-0 to visitors Repubic of Ireland and will not repeat their heroics of 2016 when they reached the semi finals in France. However, if you want to hear a national anthem sung by fans that is the place to be. 33,000 capacity, less than half the nearby Millenium Stadium , which they could have easily sold out. LAND OF MY FATHERS-- HEN WLAD FY NHADAU was sung acapella.
Over in Lisbon at The Stadium of Light Ronaldo and Portugal beat Switzerland 2-0.while in the Stade de France the home team has also made it, like Napoleon, to Mother Russia...at least it won't be freezing.!!
It took two goals from Tim Cahill to come from behind over visiting Syria for a 2-1 win in the second leg in Sydney NSW and end the war torn country's football dream after having to play 'home' matches thosands of miles away in Malacca outside Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia in front of empty seats. The Aussies will play home and away with Honduras.
For USA, it wlll be their first time to stay at home since the 1986 tournament in Mexico, after seven straight trips to the finals. A reminder that the mens team has also missed out on THE LAST TWO Olympic tournaments. Where did it all go wrong for the wealthiest country on the planet with over 300 million people?. PAY TO PLAY and individual training in wealthy suburbs is one factor. How many kids get together in those quiet streets to play amongst themselves after school? Don't blame Sunil Gulatoi, Bruce Arena and Jurgen Klinsmann for this lack of passion. Where else in the world do players and their families fork out $10,000 to $12,000 a year for elite programmes to drive up and down the interstates and fly cross coutry multiple times and overpay in selected hotels that host tournament organizers make them stay in in order to be allowed to play. In Europe youth players are asked to play naybe ONE TWENTIETH that amount or less.
Not to EASILY DEFEAT bottom team in the Hexagonal, T & T was aweful. while Panama, who gave away everything but the canal in a 4-0 loss in Orlanda, managed to win at home to already qualified Costa Rica 2-1, with their first goal not crossing the line and should not have been given. Torres scored his second goal in the 88th minute, while Honduras also won at home to Mexico 3-2. and gained the third automatic spot.
Egypt has qualified for the first time since ITALIA '90 when they only scored one goal. A late penalty by Al Salah in added time for The Pharaohs in Alexandria gave them a 2-1 win over Congo with one match to spare. Nigeria have also qualified, with three other places still to be decided.