A GOOD weekend for the home countries culminated with a late 1-0 win for Scotland at Hampden Park in a match manager Gordon Strachan described as must win game against Slovenia. Substitute Chris Martin slid the ball home off the post two minutes from full time helping to keep the Scots hopes of qualifying from Group F alive and in the process, probably save the under pressure Strachan’s job.
In the same qualifying group, England cruised to a routine 2-0 win over Lithuania at Wembley. Goals in each half, from Jermain Defoe and substitute Jamie Vardy ensured a comfortable, rather than crushing win against a team ranked 107th in the World. Defoe capped a good performance with a goal after returning to manager Gareth Southgate’s squad at the ripe old age of thirty five.
England,yet to concede a goal, now sit on top of the group on 13 points, four ahead of Slovakia in second, with Scotland fourth on 7 points.
In group D, Wales qualification hopes look increasingly remote despite a battling goalless draw against Republic of Ireland in Dublin on Friday. Gareth Bale twice went close in a game marred by a horrific injury to Irish Captain, Seamus Coleman, who was carried off with a broken leg, after a tackle from Wales defender Neil Taylor, which resulted in the Welsh defender’s sending off. They are third in the group on 7 points behind Ireland in second on 11 points and Serbia who lead the group on goal difference.
Northern Ireland’ hopes remain high after an impressive 2-0 win over Norway at Windsor Park, Belfast.
First half goals from Jamie Ward and Steven Davis kept them on track in second place on 10 points, two ahead of Czech Republic in third and five behind group leaders Germany.
Elsewhere, Spain cruised to a 4-1 victory over Israel to remain leaders of Group G on goal difference from Italy with 13 points. Meanwhile Netherlands sacked Head Coach Danny Blind after losing to Bulgaria 2-0 in Group A. Blind had managed Holland for two years, but this latest setback left them in fourth place on 7 points, six points behind leaders France.
With the group games now at the halfway stage there is still a lot of twists and turns to come for the countries hoping to be at the World Cup Finals in Russia next Summer.
Jermain Defoe sidefoots the ball into the net for England’s first goal in their 2-0 win over Lithuania at Wembley