Hello again, it’s a brief one this evening but we’ll have another couple of posts before the weekend with more news from the final round of qualifiers and a Premiership preview.
Our unbeaten run went out of the window at the weekend, but we’re not reading too much into it: if Rio Ferdinand is having a ‘blip’ we’d rather he had it now than next June and imagine how disappointing it would have been if we’d been unbeaten until the first game of the tournament proper.
Saturday was an exciting day, we watched bits of several games and saw both Italy and Argentina snatch last minute goals. It was heartbreak for Ireland who blew their chances of automatic qualification about a minute after the same chances looked so good against the World Champions; Argentina almost made a complete mess of things by letting a terrible Peru side back into their game (played in the middle ofÂ rainstorm in a windlashed Buenos Aires)Â in injury time and then won it the death. Mr. Maradona’s celebration of Martin Palermo’s winner is worth watching if you can find it on Youtube. Next time Manchester United score a ‘late’ winner in a rainstorm I’d love to see Fergie do what Diego did.
Anyway, we now have several more confirmed qualifiers but tomorrow night we’ll have an even more complete picture. Things to look out for in the UEFA region:
* After all the hysteria about Portugal not qualifying, they will probably make the playoffs. Their last game is against Malta. At home. Sweden play Albania, which is no longer a guaranteed three points.
* In Group 2, everything is still wide open and Greece may end up qualifying automatically. Switzerland have fellow contendersÂ Israel at home andÂ the GreeksÂ have to beat Luxembourg.
* Northern Ireland have a very tough task in the Czech Republic, especially as the Czechs also have to win to stand a chance of qualification. It doesn’t help either of them that Slovenia and Slovakia have home games, against Poland and San Marino respectively; look out for the commentators on Northern Ireland’s game using the
* Croatia should probably reach the playoffs with a win over Kazakhstan, but Ukraine faceÂ Andorra in arguably the easier game.
Argentina’s win over Peru has made life a lot easier for them, but with Chile qualifying on Saturday night with a winÂ in Colombia, the game between Uruguay and Argentina tomorrow is still absolutely crucial.
So there’s still a lot to look forward to and a lot to play for as the qualifiers sort themselves out: we’ll be issuing updates to the site via our Twitter account until about 11:00pm GMT on Wednesday.
Thanks for reading!