Any World Cup qualifying group featuring Spain and France is guaranteed to catch the eye. Reigning world champions Spain was held to successive games against France and Finland and trailed Les Bleus by two points before Tuesday’s crucial clash at Saint-Denis Stade de France – a game which could prove decisive in this group. However, coach Vicente Del Bosque silenced his critics, proving any prediction of the slow demise of Spanish football was premature. The visitors regained top spot in Group I thanks to Barcelona winger Pedro’s winning goal.
Meanwhile, England could only manage a 1-1 draw against Montenegro in their top of the table clash in Group H – a result that leaves them two points adrift of the shock group leaders. It was a game of two halves, ending the Englishmen’s hope of leapfrogging the opponents. A Wayne Rooney goal in a first half England dominated was canceled out by Dejan Damjanovic’s goal 15 minutes from time with captain Steven Gerrard admitting the visitors “stopped playing” in the second half.
There were no surprises in other parts of Europe. Belgium beat FYR Macedonia 1-0 at home, remaining top of Group A. Mario Balotelli grabbed two against Malta as Italy strengthened their top position while San Marino, the bottom team in FIFA’s ranking, suffered a 5-0 defeat at the hands of Poland less than a week after losing by the same scoreline against England.
Two-time World Cup winners Argentina was forced to come from behind to secure a 1-1 draw with Bolivia but remain in control of the South American qualifying standings, four points clear of Ecuador. With players such as Angel Di Maria, Lionel Messi and Gonzalo Higuain, they are considered one of the favorites to challenge for the title next year in Brazil. Conversely, the free fall of Uruguay is surprising after they progressed all the way to the semi-finals at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. Even the presence of star strikers Luis Suárez and Edinson Cavani couldn’t prevent them suffering a 2-0 loss to Chile. With only 13 points in hand, La celeste are now sitting in sixth place with plenty of work to do if that are to grab a slot in the World Cup finals.