Five lessons learned: international football special
What we found out from the results
So, perhaps England are not the all-conquering side many fans had them down as before kick-off. The Three Lions, boasting a star-studded line-up, went to Glasgow as hot-favourites, but were matched in every department by their plucky hosts, including the final score.
There’s plenty of talking points on Monday, as football fans run over the weekend’s results. Here at Coral HQ we give our opinions on what punters can take going forward. Here’s some lessons learned…..
Griffiths to answer Scotland’s SOS
Scotland boss Gordon Strachan has been crying out for a man to lead the line and take this World Cup qualifying campaign by the scruff of the neck, but it looks like the answer to his problems was right under his nose the whole time. Leigh Griffiths hasn’t been a regular starter for Brendan Rodgers at Celtic, but he stepped up to deliver for his country, scoring two spectacular goals less than three minutes apart. He’s sure to be trusted in Scotland’s remaining fixtures, with all to play for.
Scots aren’t out of it yet
Sticking with the Tartan Army, and it was all doom and gloom back in March, with Scotland looking set to miss out on qualification for yet another major tournament. They were last on the big stage under Craig Brown at France ’98, and there’s a generation of supporters who have missed the thrill of watching their nation march on a main stage. Fast-forward three months and they’re right back in the mix, with just four points the difference between the Scots in fourth and second place Slovakia. Group leaders England are six in front. They now meet Lithuania and Malta in September. Don’t write Russia off just yet.
Southgate fails to inspire
England followers were far from convinced about Gareth Southgate as leader before that slip-up in Glasgow, and there’s now serious question marks hanging over his future. Ok, the boss is undefeated is six, and top of Group F, but fans just love a knee-jerk reaction. They can book their tickets to Russia, without worry, but it’s how the team perform when they get there that’ll make or break Southgate’s reputation. There’s no doubt England have a supremely talented squad on paper, but they must make it work as a team. Fans don’t take too kindly to points dropped vs the auld enemy.
Norn Iron looking solid
Michael O’Neill’s Northern Ireland scored a late winner against Azerbaijan on Saturday to take control of the race for second behind Germany in Group C. Stuart Dallas rifled home a stoppage-time winner to stun their hosts, and pick up a vital three points. There’s a real confidence flowing through the team at the minute, and there was always a feeling they’d get the goal needed. Norn Iron are now five points off leaders Germany but, more importantly, four better than the Czech Republic in third. A tight group is now taking shape, and supporters love what they’re seeing.
Draw saves the Wales
Wales kept their hopes of qualification alive with another draw on Sunday, their fifth level finish on the bounce at this level. Ireland failed to see off Austria, which would’ve done The Dragons a massive favour, but there’s still all to play for here, with just four points between Serbia in first place and Austria in fourth, Ireland and Wales between the two. Ramsey chipped home a cheeky first half penalty, before Mitrovic pegged them back on 73 minutes. It was another battling performance from Chris Coleman’s side.