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FIFA World Cup Round-Up
by Craig Houston
2009-09-13 08:38:36
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Scotland fail while England march on

A round-up of the home countries world cup progress (or lack of it)

Wednesday night conjured up mixed fortunes for the British teams as qualifying for the 2010 World Cup reaches its final – and crucial – throes. England continued their superb 100% record as they gained revenge on Croatia by thumping them 5-1 at a packed Wembley. It was the croats who had unceremoniusly dumped them out of the European Championship qualifiers in 2007, with a 3-2 victory at the same venue. The resounding win means the South African police force will be cancelling all leave next summer, as Fabio Capello's men confirmed their place at the tournament. An accomplished performance saw Lampard and Gerrard both scoring twice, with Wayne 'I'm not a diver, honest' Rooney rounding off the scoring after a horrendous mistake by Runje in the Croatian goal.

Three hundred and forty three miles north, Scotland faced Holland knowing that only a win would be good enough to lift them into the coveted play-off position. A superb performance had Hampden believing that their team could do the unthinkable, but a host of misses by Kenny Miller, combined with a late Dutch goal on the counter attack left Scottish hopes in tatters as they slipped to a single goal defeat. It was a superb effort against the third best team in the world, however the damage had been done in ealrier games, including a defeat in Macedonia and a four goal humilitation in Oslo.

Members of the Tartan Army – once more the 12th man during the game – will take comfort in the fact that manager George Burley will surely be joining the dole queue sometime next week. Baffling decision, players qutting international football, and a decent slick of bad luck means the SFA will have no choice but to sack Burley and his coaching team. This means the Scots will be looking for yet another new manager and the options are diminshing with each failed qualifying campaign. Jobless Gordon Strachan will be among the early faourites, while names such as Souness, Jordan and Levein are always banded about.

Northern Ireland's hopes took a huge body blow, as they lost 2-0 at home to a dogged and hardworking Slovakian outfit. The Irish started the game very well, but lacked the creative edge needed to breakdown the stuffy away defence. This defeat means Nigel Worthington's men need a minor miracle if they are to make it to South Africa next year. Not only do they have to win in Prague against a very good Czech side, they also need San Marino to take a point off closest rivals, Slovenia. A tall order indeed but for the Irish to have even a chance – albeit a slim one – of qualfying this late in the proceedings shows just how far they have come in the past couple of years. 

A disappointing crowd of just over fourteen thousand saw Wales lose yet again in Group 4. The home side fielded a line up crammed full of youth and matched their more illustrious opponents for a large portion of the game. They managed to pull level in the first half but the Russians were deperate for the win, as they chase an automatic World Cup berth. This ultimately proved the difference, as they ran out 3-1 winners. It has been yet another disastrous campaign for John Toshack's team but they will take solace in the fact there is a great deal of hope for the future.

Elsewhere, the Czech Republic look likely to miss out on a place in the finals, while either Sweden or Portugal will not make it into the play-offs. There are three teams with a 100% record going into the last set of fixtures, with Holland, England and Spain all yet to drop points. France look likely to clinch a play-off position but will find it difficult to qualify, as there are a number of very decent countries likely to finish second.

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