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San Marino make history, Peppa peps Italy

Published: Friday 13 September 2013, 10.13CET
Gianluigi Buffon and Robin van Persie may have inspired their nations to FIFA World Cup qualification, but they shared the European headlines with San Marino U21s and Peppa Pig.
by Paul Saffer

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Published: Friday 13 September 2013, 10.13CET

San Marino make history, Peppa peps Italy

Gianluigi Buffon and Robin van Persie may have inspired their nations to FIFA World Cup qualification, but they shared the European headlines with San Marino U21s and Peppa Pig.

Team: San Marino Under-21s
San Marino's 1-0 win against Wales is unlikely to help them to the 2015 UEFA European Under-21 Championship, but it may prove the most significant result of the 194 qualifiers on the road to the Czech Republic. The landlocked republic with a population smaller than Wales's 12th biggest town, Aberdare, swept to victory through Juri Biordi's first-half goal. Not only was that their first competitive win at this level, other than forfeits, from their 86-match history, but it was San Marino's only such success in any UEFA qualifying tournament since a 2002 U17 defeat of Andorra.

"The whole of San Marino should be proud of them," said coach Pier Angelo Manzaroli, who also oversaw a 0-0 draw with Greece in June 2012. "I have been lucky enough to coach players who wanted to fulfil their ambitions with all their hearts. If you add a bit of technique and tactics to that, you can achieve incredible results, as we did today."

Player: Gianluigi Buffon (Italy)
On the whole, a good week for Buffon. Last Friday he made an outstanding save to help Italy to a 1-0 defeat of Bulgaria, a result that meant a 2-1 victory against the Czech Republic four days later booked the Azzurri's place at the 2014 FIFA World Cup. That match was even more special for the goalkeeper as he won his 136th cap, equalling the record of his 2006 winning team-mate, Fabio Cannavaro. "Now we can celebrate everything," Buffon said. "My little personal record, but above all the qualification for the World Cup. I thank all my team-mates, as they allowed me to have a 360-degree celebration."

Goal: Anders Svensson (Sweden)
There was nothing spectacular about Svensson's winning goal in the Republic of Ireland, a neat finish inside the near post having been sent clear by Zlatan Ibrahimović. Yet not only did it seal a crucial 2-1 victory that leaves Sweden well-placed in World Cup qualifying Group C, and still able to catch leaders Germany, it was also a reward for the 37-year-old midfielder on his 143rd appearance, equalling Thomas Ravelli's national best, which he then beat four days later against Kazakhstan. "It is fun to have broken that record, but the most important thing is that we won," Svensson said after the 1-0 success in which Ibrahimović scored Sweden's fastest competitive goal, timed at 27 seconds.

Number: 19 (FC Viktoria Plzeň)
On Tuesday the Czech outfit begin only their second UEFA Champions League group campaign against Manchester City FC, having emerged from two qualifying rounds and a play-off. With FC Bayern München and PFC CSKA Moskva also due in town, season ticket holders were given the opportunity to ensure their places at each Group D fixture in advance on Sunday morning, and six eager fans turned up 19 hours early. "We brought chairs and played cards and slept in sleeping bags," 17-year old Ondřej said.

Quote: Paul Philipp (Luxembourg)
"I can't stress enough how great this day is for football in this country". The Luxembourg Football Federation (FLF) president on the 3-2 defeat of Northern Ireland, the country's first victory in 44 home World Cup ties.

Comeback: Iceland
Iceland head into October's decisive qualifiers second in Group E, having never reached a major tournament play-off. It seemed that wait would go on when they trailed Switzerland 4-1 in Berne with 33 minutes left, before Kolbeinn Sigthórsson pulled one back and Jóhann Berg Gudmundsson struck twice, completing his hat-trick with a stunning added-time equaliser.

"One of the most astonishing individual displays by an Iceland player ever," wrote national newspaper Visir. "Stupid" was right-back Stephan Lichtsteiner's assessment of Switzerland's performance, though a subsequent 2-0 win in Norway moved them five points clear, with Iceland overcoming Albania 2-1 to climb into second.

Personal sacrifice: Patrick Kluivert (Netherlands)
Robin van Persie's pair of goals in the Netherlands' 2-0 win in Andorra took his international tally to 38 from 79 caps, two short of the record held by Patrick Kluivert (from an identical number of appearances). And who has helped Van Persie to the verge of taking that honour – according to the Manchester United FC striker? Kluivert himself, the Oranje's attacking coach.

"He really is a great help for me," said Van Persie. "We talk a lot with each other, for instance if I should move to the front or back post. I then think about that and try to bring it into practice."

Tattoo: Alberto Gilardino (Italy)
Juventus goalkeeper Buffon had to share the headlines last Friday with Gilardino, who scored the winner against Bulgaria. Though it was not down to his goal, but the fact that the Genoa CFC striker unveiled a new tattoo – of porcine children's animated favourite Peppa Pig. The etching is a tribute to Gilardino's alliterative daughters, Giulia, Ginevra and Gemma, and mimics Daniele De Rossi, who sports a Teletubby on his arm for his own girl, Gaia. "I feel like a 31-year-young player," Gilardino said.

Substitute: Gareth Bale (Wales)
Bale may be the newly-minted most expensive player in the world, but he was quickly whisked away from Real Madrid CF after his reported €100m move to sit on the bench as his country suffered back-to-back defeats. Fitness rather than a selection decision was the reason Chris Coleman left Bale out of his starting lineups against the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and Serbia, but he did appear after 60 minutes in the latter of those games in Cardiff to give home fans something to cheer as they lost 3-0, a second straight defeat leaving Wales at the bottom of the group. It was an all-round bad week for Coleman, who had to fly out to Skopje a day after his squad for the FYROM match after losing his passport.

Injury: Klaus Eder (Germany physio)
More used to patching up others' injuries, the boot was on the other foot for Eder – who has been with the German Football Association (DFB) since 1988 – on Friday against Austria. Rushing from the touch line to treat Marcel Schmelzer, he slipped and fell on his back, tearing muscle fibres in his left leg and fracturing a finger. "He can hardly walk," coach Joachim Löw said. "I don't know who we are supposed to call up to replace him. We only have him."

Last updated: 04/12/13 3.28CET

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