Posted: 11/12/2017


         If there is one thing we have learned so far in these World Cup play offs. both intra continental and inter that maybe 24 instead of 32 teams will do us just fine!!

         Apart from Croatia's 4-1 win in Maksimir Stadium in Zagreb over Greece with an away game in Athens to rubber stamp their World Cup entry ticket, there has been nothing outstanding to set the world of football on fire.  Both inter continental contests are 0-0 going into the return leg. The Socceroos did very well indeed to come away from San Pedro Sula's Estadio Olimpico 'The Tomb' without major injury. Many years ago I was at a CONCACAF tournament in both Tegulcigalpa and then San Pedro. Both are among the world's most violent and dangerous cities with rampant gang cultures. 'Los Catrachos' were evidently outplayed and were lucky when the Aussies were denied a penalty in front of 40,000 locals. Referee Daniele Orsato pointed to the spot before his assistant signaled for offside.

       Evidently the pitch was unkempt and like a potato field and of course the locals rocked the stands to intimidate the visiting Aussies. For the return in Sydney NSW on Tuesday the home team will be very confident. Peru went to play New Zealand at the Westpac stadium in Wellington, North Island and striker Chris Wood of Burnley was a missing starter due to injury but came on as a late substitute. He is hoping to be fully fit for the return in Lima. Peru are ranked 10th in the world to The All White's 122nd ranking.  Peru have only reached the finals twice, the last time in Spain 36 years ago. On 22nd June 1982 I watched them outplayed 5-1 in La Coruna by Poland.

        You can watch the replay of the first leg at Windsor Park, Belfast many times but the 58th minute given by the Romanian referee should NEVER have been awarded for hand ball. The use of VAR (Video Assistant Referee) would have changed a yellow to a red card early on for a foul, and nullyfied the penalty.  Rodrigues scored for the Swiss, who would have quailfied automatically except for being in the same group as European champions Portugal. The return at St.Jacob Stadium in Basle was a cracker.  I just watched the Swiss hang on at home 0-0 and reach their fourth finals in a row.  My only visit there was way back in May 1963 when me and my mate Dave hitch hiked from Leeds to Basle after college exams and watched England beat Switzerland  8-1 with a Bobby Charlton hat-trick.

        A 1-0 victory at Friends Arena gave Ibra-less Sweden a great advantage before the 2nd leg in Milan. Four time World Champions Italy are in danger of missing out for the first time since Sweden 1958. Denmark were held to yet another goalless draw at Parken, Copenhagen with Republic of Ireland relishing the return leg at Aviva Stadium, Dublin on Tuesday. First stop for the Danes should be to a barbers shop. Many looked as if they had been living at nearby Christiana hippy haven,

      Meanwhile in Africa, Senegal won 2-0 in South Africa and qualified for Russia 2018.