Pick of the Week of Football
Wednesday, September 10, 2014
UEFA.com reviews the opening qualifiers with Danny Welbeck, Aiden McGeady, Albania, Northern Ireland, Robert Lewandowski and Paper, Scissors, Stones in the limelight.
Article top media content
UEFA.com reviews the opening set of UEFA EURO 2016 qualifiers with Albania, Danny Welbeck, Aiden McGeady, Northern Ireland, Robert Lewandowski and, er, Paper, Scissors, Stones all in the limelight. Click on the video players to watch the best of the action.
Even with Cristiano Ronaldo absent, few foresaw Portugal having any problems in their Group I opener at home to Albania. Yet they could not force an opening and Bekim Balaj's volley on 52 minutes gave Albania a sensational victory.
Both Lorik Cana and coach Giovanni De Biasi called the win "historic" and Albania can now dream of a first-ever final tournament qualification. Portugal's Paulo Bento was more sombre, saying: "People have a right to be upset. I'm not making excuses."
The result set the tone for a week of surprises, as Northern Ireland came from behind for a 2-1 victory in Hungary, Estonia upset Slovenia 1-0, Slovakia won 1-0 in Ukraine, Cyprus prevailed 2-1 in Bosnia and Herzegovina while Iceland defeated Turkey 3-0.
Player: Danny Welbeck (England)
After the disappointment of an early FIFA World Cup exit, England were under pressure to produce in the toughest of Group E openers, against Switzerland in Basle. When Welbeck missed a first-half chance, the sharpening of his critics' knives could just be heard above the St. Jakob-Park din.
But then the new Arsenal FC signing came good in the second period, pouncing on a deflected Raheem Sterling shot to open the scoring and then sealing a 2-0 win at the death with the coolest of finishes. "Once we got the first goal I think we were in control," said Welbeck.
Holders Spain's 5-1 defeat of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia may not have raised many eyebrows despite the European champions' FIFA World Cup demise, but the other results in the section suggest thrills to come. Luxembourg led Belarus from late in the first half until Stanislav Dragun earned the visitors a point with 12 minutes to go. Meanwhile Slovakia won 1-0 in Ukraine, home goalkeeper Andriy Pyatov having a late equaliser chalked out for a foul. Slovakia now must take that form into their next game: the visit of Spain.
Goal: Aiden McGeady (Republic of Ireland)
McGeady had a memorable day in Ireland's 2-1 victory in Georgia on Sunday. On 24 minutes he scored the first goal in UEFA EURO 2016 qualifying, and then after a superb Tornike Okriashvili equaliser, McGeady more than trumped that effort as regulation time ran out.
The Everton FC man produced a brilliant piece of control, a sharp turn and fizzing shot that may yet prove the key to a second straight EURO qualification for Ireland. "I feel I played well but still not what I am capable of," McGeady warned.
Without a goal since February 2013, Cyprus ended a 929-minute wait in all matches just before half-time in Bosnia and Herzegovina when Dimitris Christofi headed them level. Then for good measure the FC Sion forward struck a solo winner, ending a long 28-minute goal drought. "We surprised everyone and got a huge result," Christofi said.
Tweets: Niall McGinn (@nmcginn10, Northern Ireland)
May we assure you that the glum-looking man above did tweet the following having scored Northern Ireland's equaliser and made their winner in the 2-1 victory in Hungary...
Match: Czech Republic 2-1 Netherlands
This match always stood out among the opening UEFA EURO 2016 qualifiers but few could have predicted the stunning ending. In a tight fixture in Prague, Bořek Dočkal volleyed the Czech Republic into a half-time lead but Stefan de Vrij levelled and a draw looked inevitable.
But with two minutes of added time being played,Daryl Janmaat attempted to head back to Netherlands goalkeeper Jasper Cillessen, only to hit the post. Czech substitute Václav Pilař was on hand to tap into an empty net.
"At the end we were luckier," said Czech coach Pavel Vrba. "In previous games our opponents were always luckier." Meanwhile, Guus Hiddink fumed: "We gave it away so stupidly. When I talk about it now I get extremely angry again." Janmaat added: "I cannot say anything to justify it."
Quote: "The fact we won doesn't mean we played better than Slovenia. We just won, and that is what football is about."
Estonia coach Magnus Pehrsson is honest after their 1-0 win against Slovenia
Fantasy top scorer: Robert Lewandowski (Poland, 21 points)
Poland were always going to be tough first competitive opponents for Gibraltar but at half-time in Faro-Loule they were only one down. It was as good as it got. The lead was doubled just after the break and then Lewandowski got going, scoring on 50 and 53 minutes, and twice more late on to seal a 7-0 win that pleased both Poland fans and anyone that had him in theirEuropean Qualifiers Fantasy Footballteam (29.1% of the competitors aiming for some great prizes from Konami).
On-pitch contest: James Morrison (Scotland) v Christoph Kramer (Germany)
Germany were leading Scotland 2-1 in Dortmund on Sunday when, with Marco Reus receiving treatment, Morrison and Kramer started playing Paper, Scissors, Stone (or Rock, Paper, Scissors for our Stateside readers – Howdy!). German reports suggest that they were playing for who got possession when play restarted, but both went for scissors. We're now checking the regulations to see if away scissors count double.
Next time: First Full Week of Football
The first of three double-header, six-day Weeks of Football in UEFA EURO 2016 qualifying is played between 9-11 and 12-14 October.
Thursday 9 October: Sweden v Russia
Friday 10 October: Turkey v Czech Republic
Saturday 11 October: Poland v Germany
Sunday 12 October: Luxembourg v Spain
Monday 13 October: Bosnia and Herzegovina v Belgium
Tuesday 14 October: Denmark v Portugal