A round up of the first half of the European 2018 World Cup qualifiers including a horrific draw for Poland away to Kazakhstan; the favourites Germany off to a flyer against Norway, and much more.
Poland has started the 2018 World Cup campaign in miserable fashion with a 2-2 draw away to Kazakhstan. The country that was made famous by Borat’s rubber fist fought back from a 2-0 deficit after Bartosz Kapustka, and Robert Lewandowski had all but secured victory for the Poles in the first half.
“This was a bucket of cold water, but one which will come in handy,” said the Polish head coach Adam Nawalka after two late goals from Kazakhstan spoiled his night.
Current World Cup favourites and holders Germany started well with a comfortable away win against Norway. Thomas Muller couldn’t find the net during the Euro 2018 Finals, but the Bayern Munich star bagged a brace in a comfortable 3-0 win for the four-time world champions. Joshua Kimmich popped up to score his first goal for his country in between those two blasts from Muller.
Manuel Neuer captained the side for the first time since Manchester United outcast Bastian Schweinsteiger’s retirement, and according to press reports, the coin toss was the most exciting action the Bayern keeper was involved in during the 90-minutes.
It was good to see Northern Ireland were still buoyant after making their European Championship Finals debut in France. Ireland went into those finals having not lost in 12 games, a run that was unmatched by any other national side and they even reached the knockout stages before losing to Wales by a goal to nil.
They haven’t qualified for the World Cup Finals since 1982, but they have started in decent fashion, this campaign, with a battling goalless draw away to the much-fancied Czech Republic. Ireland will face the favourites Germany in October.
The Welsh were the revelatory team of the Euro 2016 finals losing to the eventual winners Portugal in the semi-finals, and they have continued that rich vein of form with a 4-0 home win against Moldova. Star man Gareth Bale scored his 23rd and 24th goals for his country, with Sam Vokes and Joe Allen bagging the other two. It was a dominant display for the Welsh as they search for their first appearance at the World Cup since 1958.
Sam Allardyce became the ninth successive England Manager to debut with a win after a 1-0 victory away to Slovakia. A lacklustre England side left it late with Adam Lallana scoring the winner with the last kick of the game, five minutes into injury time. Slovakia played for the final 30-minutes with 10-men after Martin Skrtel was sent off for two bookable offences.
England exited the Euro 2016 finals in disgrace after a shambolic performance against Iceland saw them fall to a 2-1 defeat. There was nothing in these 95-minutes to suggest any forward momentum for Big Sam’s side.
If there were one team that left Euro 2016 more disappointed than England, it would have been Spain. The 2012 European Championships left France with barely a whimper after being dumped out of the competition by the Italians, but they have started their World Cup campaign in style with an 8-0 thrashing of lowly Liechtenstein.
Remarkably, Spain was only leading by a goal to nil at the break and managed to smash seven into the net in a tidal wave of a second half. Diego Costa, Alvaro Morata, and David Silva all scored twice. Sergi Roberto and Vitolo grabbed the other two goals.
Giampiero Ventura’s first competitive match in charge of the Italians ended up with a convincing 3-1 win away to Israel despite having Giorgio Chiellini sent off in harsh circumstances in the 55th minute. Former Southampton star Graziano Pelle’s goal and Antonio Candreva’s penalty gave the Italians a 2-0 lead within the first half hour. Tal Ben Haim made it 2-1 just before half time with a glorious chip over Gianluigi Buffon, but Ciro Immobile sealed the win seven minutes from time.
2018 World Cup Winning Odds (Courtesy of Bodog)
The Czech Republic +8000
Northern Ireland +100000