High Stakes 1

Satish Sekar
By Satish Sekar October 22, 2015 10:12

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High Stakes 1

By Satish Sekar © Satish Sekar (October 8th 2015)

Penultimate Success – Part One

Georgia’s 4-0 defeat of Gibraltar meant little – ultimately beating Scotland affected Group D. Gordon Strachan’s team held Poland 2-2, inspired by the red hot Robert Lewandowski, but the Republic of Ireland stunned World Champions Germany 1-0 in Dublin to eliminate Scotland. Along with Poland and Germany, the Irish would go into the last round of matches knowing that if results went their way they could top the group, or they could finish third and have to play-off for the chance to go to France. A very interesting group.

Group F threw up interesting connotations too. Michael O’Neill had endured a disastrous start to his spell in charge of Northern Ireland, but their FA stood by him and now he stood on the brink of history – qualification, perhaps as winners of the group. This round of matches ended Finland’s hopes. A 1-1 draw in Bucharest meant that the top three were decided – only the final order was yet to be decided thanks to Hungary’s come from behind 2-1 win in Budapest against the Faroe Islands and Northern Ireland’s historic 3-1 defeat of Greece in Belfast. That meant that O’Neill’s team had qualified and needed only a draw against Finland to guarantee that they would top Group F.

There was nothing at stake for Portugal, Cristiano Ronaldo’s team had already qualified, yet they had João Moutinho to thank for the lone goal which beat Denmark in Braga – the one moment of quality in a dire match. The Danes could still seize a play-off spot or better as Albania lost 2-0 to Serbia at home – both Serbian goals came very late. However that depended on bottom of Group I, Armenia also thwarting Albania.

The top story of the night was undoubtedly the achievement of Northern Ireland earning their trip to France next summer.

Satish Sekar
By Satish Sekar October 22, 2015 10:12
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