Eeesh, Ireland are hard work, aren’t they? Anyone settling in to watch their qualifier against Switzerland last night must have taken one look at the pitch and reached for another glass of something strong: heavy rain in Geneva meant the surface was…sticky, so even if you did hold out any hope of some slick, attacking football, then the conditions scuppered that one.
In the end the Swiss won 2-0, thanks to a first-half goal by Haris Seferovic and an injury-time own-goal from Shane Duffy, while Seamus Coleman was sent off for the second time in three games after being dismissed while playing for Everton the other week.
Those are the bare facts of a grim old business for the Irish, on a tightrope night when they could have secured qualification for Euro 2020 with a win, but also one when they knew any other result would leave them having to beat Denmark in November. The last time they managed that in a competitive game was in 1979, and when they had a crunch game against the Danes in the World Cup qualifiers a couple of years ago, they were emphatically pumped 5-1.
So unless they pull off something slightly implausible, the plan has failed. The point of giving Mick McCarthy the job for these two years, ahead of appointing Stephen Kenny and planning for the future, was that he would get the best from a limited set of players and almost force qualification to the Euros and the games being held in Dublin.
“We were beaten by the better team,” said McCarthy afterwards. “Considerably the better team actually.” He was only talking about this one game, but it could have been something much wider.
De Gea goes off as Spain qualify
Image credit: Getty Images
The line between comedy and tragedy is often a thin one, but Manchester United aren’t laughing that hard at the moment. It’s a few days before they face Liverpool in a game which could see their rivals equal the record for consecutive Premier League wins, they could have lost David de Gea, after he went off injured in Spain’s Euro 2020 qualifier against Sweden on Tuesday.
De Gea seemed to suffer an abductor muscle injury and, while it’s too early to definitively say whether he’ll be out for the Liverpool game, if it was serious enough for him to go off here, it seems unlikely that he’ll make a speedy recovery before Sunday.
“He had pain in the abductor muscle but he received treatment at half-time and wanted to keep playing,” said Spain coach Robert Moreno. “He gave us his word, but in the end he couldn’t continue.”
In his absence, Spain qualified for next summer’s tournament after Rodrigo scored a late equaliser, levelling the opener from Marcus Berg, the 1-1 draw enough for Spain to seal their place in the finals.
England’s young colts get everyone excited again
Eddie Nketiah of England during the UEFA Under 21 Championship Qualifier between England and Austria at Stadium mk on October 15, 2019 in Milton Keynes
Image credit: Getty Images
Sure, lots of things can go wrong in the development of young players, but given the English talent both coming through and already at the elite level, you wonder how it would be possible for them not to do something of note in the next few years.
The obvious answer to that is most of this talent is attacking, and as long as they defend like haywire SatNavs, they won’t ever win a bean. But for the moment let’s just revel in the likes of Callum Hudson-Odoi, Eddie Nketiah and Phil Foden, who were central to the England Under-21’s absolute shoeing of Austria on Tuesday, the Chelsea winger grabbing two and Arsenal’s forward helping himself to a hat-trick.
Nketiah could’ve got four, but he had a penalty saved in the second half. “I usually put them away but the goalkeeper made a good save,” he said. “I am delighted with the hat-trick and get to keep the match ball. Hopefully there will be more to come for England.”
IN OTHER NEWS
Kevin de Bruyne looks happy.
HEROES AND ZEROS
For a country so wonderful, Canada take a lot of abuse from their rather brash neighbours to the south. Like bullies and dweebs, the USA brashly mock Canada, so it’s always enjoyable to see the ‘little’ guys win for once, which they did last night in a 2-0 victory, the first time they have beaten the good ol’ boys from the south in 34 years.
Still, they took it well.
On this day in 2002, Wales produced a famous win by beating Italy – the Italy of Buffon, Del Piero, Cannavaro and Pirlo – 2-1 in a Euro 2004 qualifier at the Millenium Stadium. As was so often the case with that Welsh team, it was a brief moment of glory that ultimately didn’t lead to much: two defeats to Serbia & Montenegro and a hosing back in Milan sent them to the playoffs, where they were narrowly edged out by Russia.
Football is a weathervane for the spirit of the country. It is a good gauge of the national psyche. Eight years ago a series of events began that indicated the mood in Britain was turning ugly. They foreshadowed Brexit and the divisive, Trumpesque politics of Boris Johnson and his ilk. On 15 October 2011, Manchester United went to Anfield for a Premier League match against Liverpool. The relationship between the clubs was typically frosty. The two sets of fans despise each other. Luis Suarez, the Liverpool striker, became embroiled in a running battle with Patrice Evra. During and after the match the United defender claimed the Uruguayan had hurled racial abuse in his direction. There was uproar.
You’ll want to read this piece by Tony Evans for the Independent on Luis Suarez racially abusing Patrice Evra, and what we haven’t learned about racism in the last eight years.