There were mixed emotions for the Tottenham players involved in the World Cup qualifying matches this week – joy for Belgium having secured their passage to Brazil, hope for England as they maintained their place at the top of Group H but frustration for Denmark in their battle to finish above Bulgaria to claim runners-up spot in Group B.
Jan Vertonghen was the only Tottenham player to start for Belgium in the 2 – 1 win in Croatia. They have now secured their place in the Finals in Brazil as winners of Group A. Nacer Chadli and Mousa Dembele who had recovered from his ankle injury were second half substitutes in the game where Belgium took a two goal advantage in the first half against a team which contained all four of the former Tottenham players – goalkeeper Stipe Pletikosa, Vedran Corluka, Luka Modric and substitute Nico Kranjcar who scored a late consolation goal for the home side. Belgium became the 11th team to qualify for the World Cup Finals.
England continue in hope that they can secure their place in the Finals by winning their final game at home to Poland on Tuesday evening. They did all that was required of them with a comprehensive 4 – 1 victory over Montenegro inspired by Andros Townsend. Making his debut the Spurs winger had an impressive night, troubling the visitors’ defenders with his direct running and pace. He was involved in the build-up to the first goal early in the second half and scored the third to restore England’s two goal advantage with 12 minutes to play. A Man of the Match performance, he made the most of the opportunity to impress the England manager. England defeating Montenegro and Ukraine’s defeat of Poland took both countries out of the equation for qualification with it now being a straight fight between England and Ukraine for top spot. With Ukraine to play San Marino in their final match it means that England must beat Poland.
FrustrationThere was frustration for many countries looking to finish second in their group to secure a play-off place. This was particularly true in the case of Christian Eriksen and Denmark who were at home to Italy who had already qualified. Denmark recovered from being a goal down to lead 2 – 1 in the final minutes, having hit the woodwork twice including an Eriksen free-kick. A 90th minute equaliser denied them the two points which would have put them ahead of Bulgaria who lost in Armenia. Bulgaria who had two players sent off remain second on goal difference from Denmark.
Vlad Chiriches’ Romania team had a comfortable 4 – 0 win in Andorra but remain third behind Turkey who won 2 – 0 in Estonia. The Netherlands have already qualified as runaway winners of Group D.
Iceland defeated Cyprus 2 – 0 with Gylfi Sigurdsson scoring their second goal to keep them in second place behind Switzerland who have won Group E.
Spain have all but secured top spot in Group I with a 2 – 1 home win over Belarus. France are guaranteed second place in the group and in preparation for their final match against Finland they defeated Australia 6 – 0 in a friendly, another clean sheet for Hugo Lloris.
In Argentina, Erik Lamela played the last ten minutes in his country’s 3 – 1 win over Peru. Argentina have already qualified and finish their programme with a match in Uruguay on Tuesday evening.
Brazil defeated South Korea 2 – 0 in a friendly as their build up the the Finals continues. Paulinho played and created the second goal for Oscar with an excellent pass to set him up behind the defence four minutes after the interval.
In the final round of matches there is the added problem for those teams hoping for a place in the play-offs – only the best 8 teams will make into that round – there will be one unlucky team who will miss out,