- Notes from the international break
With club football taking a break for international play, much of the “news” from the weekend involves baseless or retread transfer rumors. Still, there were a few notable performances that bear mentioning for Atlético Madrid players with their international squads.
Antoine Griezmann played a vital role for France in their 1-0 victory over Bulgaria, as he set up Blaise Matuidi for the game winner. That win keeps France at the top of the table in Group A, one point clear of a charging Sweden squad who have outscored its opponents 12-0 over the past two matches. France will need a victory against Belarus later today to ensure automatic qualification — anything less opens the door for Sweden and its huge goal difference advantage (+19 to +11 for les Bleus).
Spain, meanwhile, punched their ticket to Moscow with a 3-0 win over Albania. Koke and Saúl both started in Julen Lopetegui’s midfield as la Furia Roja continued its unbeaten through Group G — the 2010 World Cup winners have rung up eight wins from nine with a stunning +32 goal difference.
In a much less competitive Group H, Yannick Carrasco scored an 84th minute winner to push Belgium over the top in a wild 4-3 game against Bosnia and Herzegovina. The match mattered little though, as Belgium have already qualified with a healthy nine-point lead over second-place Greece.
It was not all good news for the red and white internationals, though. Over in Group F, Jan Oblak’s Slovenia were eliminated from World Cup contention following a dramatic stoppage-time winner from England’s Harry Kane. Montenegro and Stefan Savić also saw their qualification hopes disappear following a 1-0 less to Christian Eriksen and Denmark.
(Oh, Tottenham Hotspur, whyyyyy?)
Lastly, controversy in Uganda saw Thomas Partey’s Ghana all but eliminated from the World Cup hunt. The disputed call came when Raphael Dwamena’s 90th minute winner was disallowed due to a clearly erroneous offside call. Dwamena cleaned up the rebound when an absolute laser from Partey was parried away by the Uganda keeper. The Ghanaian Football Association has formally petitioned FIFA to allow the match to be replayed in light of the officiating error.
What do you think? With the final round of qualification matches in Europe coming up later today, are there any particular matches you are looking forward to?