Lost a post yesterday, so here is a quick recap of Euro 2008 qualifiers from Wednesday. Northern Ireland shocked Sweden 2-1 behind goal-scoring phenom David Healy to propel N. Ireland to the top of Group F. Healy has scored 9 goals in 6 qualifying games including a hat trick in the victory over Spain. N. Ireland has qualified for 3 World Cups but never for a European Championship. They will have to continue to punch above their weight to beat out Sweden and Spain but what a glorious week for the oft-troubled country.
England beat the part-timers from Andorra 3-0 behind two 2nd half goals from Steven Gerrard. English manager Steve McClaren was unmercifully taunted by the 12,000 “fans” who traveled to Barcelona to hurl abuse at the underwhelming English side. Only the English can enjoy chanting phrases like “You’re a wanker” at the top of their lungs. To all those “supporters,” TTL simply replies Pot. Kettle. Black.
Keeping with the British theme, Wales beat San Marino (tiny republic in Italy) 3-0 to give their qualifying campaign a faint pulse. Scotland fell 2-0 in Italy as Luca Toni netted 2 goals for the fired-up Italians. Scotland is in 2nd place in Group B, but the heavy breathing behind them belongs to France and Italy. The Scots have given themselves a chance at qualification with some impressive performances but they probably don’t have enough to emerge from this tough group.
Congrats to Azerbaijan who achieved their first competitive victory in 4 years with a 1-0 over Finland. And the party will continue well into the weekend in tiny Liechtenstein as they defeated Latvia 1-0 with Mario Frick providing the winner. It was only the 2nd win in UEFA European Championship football for the tiny country who just survived an invasion by those “neutral” Swiss. All hail Liechtenstein.
Here are the tables at roughly the halfway point. And just for fun here are TTL’s predictions.
Group A: Poland & Portugal Sorry to Serbia who’ll finish agonizily close 3rd.
Group B: France & Italy Sorry to the Scots who’ll fight to the finish.
Group C: Turkey & Greece Sorry to Norway. Just doesn’t have enough quality overall.
Group D: Germany & Czech Republic Sorry to Ireland but did lose 5-2 to Cyprus
Group E: Croatia & Russia Sorry (but not really) to England
Group F: Sweden & Spain Sorry to upstart N. Ireland
Group G: Netherlands & Romania (sleeper TEAM) Sorry to Bulgaria
Have to check back on those predictions after the next round of qualifiers which take place during the 1st week of June.
Now to start a new Friday feature with the Best of Sports. These are clips or stories or comments or anything that highlight what is great about sports. The first in this series comes from the Cricket World Cup in the Caribbean. The catch is great in itself, but the commentary is priceless. Enjoy.