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Pedro shines, Norway soar, centurions honoured

Published: Friday 19 October 2012, 9.02CET
Our latest pick salutes Pedro Rodríguez's understated genius, marvels at Gareth Bale's fine individual goal against Scotland and pays tribute to a trio of worthy centurions.

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Published: Friday 19 October 2012, 9.02CET

Pedro shines, Norway soar, centurions honoured

Our latest pick salutes Pedro Rodríguez's understated genius, marvels at Gareth Bale's fine individual goal against Scotland and pays tribute to a trio of worthy centurions.

Player: Pedro Rodríguez (Spain)
The diminutive forward has been overshadowed in the past but shone brightest last Friday by registering a maiden senior hat-trick in Spain's 4-0 FIFA World Cup qualifying Group I win in Belarus. Having released Jordi Alba with a nonchalant flick for Spain's opener, the FC Barcelona man proceeded to beguile Belarus, executing three exquisite finishes. Direct and exuberant, the 25-year-old Pedro is an eclectic talent and gives La Roja something different according to Vicente del Bosque. "He is fresh, dynamic and playing with the raw attacking energy that can make a change from our tendency to play the ball to feet," the coach said.

Team: Norway Under-21
Per Joar Hansen's charges overcame the weight of history and a 1-0 first-leg deficit against France to qualify for the UEFA European Under-21 Championship for the first time since 1998. Norway had their opponents in a trance and casually sauntered into a 5-1 lead inside 66 minutes of Tuesday's play-off decider. The visitors did their best to script a dramatic late twist but goals from Alexandre Lacazette, who was subsequently dismissed, and Antoine Griezmann proved insufficient as they crashed out 5-4 on aggregate. "It was a fantastic first half and then a half that was a bit surreal," said Norway assistant coach Tor Ole Skullerud. "We felt in control with ten minutes left. Then they scored twice, but in the end we felt we deserved the win and deserved to qualify."

Goal: Gareth Bale (Wales)
With Wales trailing with 11 minutes left of Friday's World Cup Group A qualifier, the mood was ominous inside the Cardiff City Stadium until the 23-year-old inspired a 2-1 comeback victory against Scotland. Tottenham Hotspur FC's ubiquitous winger lifted the gloom with a coolly dispatched penalty that he had earned, before his surging run culminated in a spectacular left-footed strike which nestled inside the top corner. "There was a bit of space in front of me, I drove into it and no one closed me down," said Bale. "Some go in and some don't."

"I feel very, very proud. And very, very strange. I've been a coach for 30 years and have never come back from being 4-0 down. Now we've done it against one of the best teams in the world."
Sweden coach Erik Hamrén after seeing his side haul back a 4-0 deficit to draw against Germany in Berlin on Tuesday

Number: 12
Only one club have entered all 12 editions of the UEFA Futsal Cup, but until this week Iberia Star Tbilisi had never contested the tournament's end-of-season showpiece. After recent near misses, the perennial Georgian champions at last made it on Sunday, delighting home fans with a thrilling 7-4 defeat of 2010 winners SL Benfica to top their elite round group and advance to the finals. Iberia captain Goga Altunashvili said: "I can't speak now; I don't know how to speak. Before the start of the tournament we thought every match would be like a final. That's how it was. Everything hinged on the last game. We have been one step from the finals twice before, and now our third attempt was successful."

World champions: France
The first two editions of the FIFA U-17 Women's World Cup were won by North Korea and South Korea but France broke that duopoly on Saturday. Having progressed to the final of the first major tournament hosted by Azerbaijan, they were held 1-1 over 90 minutes by North Korea but won an epic shoot-out 7-6. The triumph was especially sweet for Les Bleuettes, who lost the UEFA European Women's Under-17 Championship final against Germany on penalties in June, their third defeat at that stage in the competition's five-year history. "All the games we played were exciting, with suspense and emotion," said France coach Guy Ferrier. "This final could not have been better scripted, even if we would have preferred to keep our one-goal cushion."

Breakthrough: Sligo Rovers FC
After 35 years in the wilderness, Sligo were finally crowned champions of the Republic of Ireland last weekend. Their 3-2 home win against second-placed Saint Patrick's Athletic FC ensured that the Bit O'Red wrapped up the title, their third in all, with two games to spare. "It's a great achievement for the whole club," said captain Danny Ventre. "These fans have waited a long time for this and we're delighted for them."

Cristiano Ronaldo made his 100th appearance for Portugal in their 1-1 World Cup Group F draw with Northern Ireland in Porto on Tuesday. The Real Madrid CF history maker, who described his debut against Kazakhstan in August 2003 as one of the "most memorable moments of my life", became the third youngest European to reach three figures after Germany's Lukas Podolski and Estonia's Kristen Viikmäe.

Rafael van der Vaart also collected his UEFA 100-cap award ahead of the Netherlands' Group D qualifier against Andorra in Rotterdam. The Hamburger SV playmaker, who had made his debut as an 18-year-old in October 2001 – coincidentally against Andorra and under current Oranje coach Louis van Gaal – referred to the milestone as a "huge honour".

Greece midfielder Kostas Katsouranis completed a trio of centurions, featuring against Slovakia in Bratislava in Group G. He told that "the everyday moments spent with the lads, training and travelling" were among the highlights of his international career.

Home support: Romania
A landmark crowd at Bucharest's National Arena were given little cheer as the Netherlands dispatched Romania 4-1 to extend their lead at the qualifying Group D summit. The hosts could take pride in their dedicated support, though, as 53,329 fans flocked to the venue for the 2012 UEFA Europa League final, when the previous record of 52,347 was set. 

Last updated: 04/12/13 19.12CET

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