The Friday: Issue 6

So England beat Slovenia to reach the finals of the World Cup in Russia next year but in a frustrating subdued performance at a sparse unenergetic Wembley it wasn’t until a late Harry Kane goal won the match four minutes into injury time tho help paper over the cracks of what went before it.

In truth, England were bad, but my complaint is more ‘why’ we have to endure this on our TV screens. How long will it be before ITV scrap their multi million pound coverage of screening the English National Team for more trusted programming like Emmerdale, Corrie, Who Wants To Be A Millionaire, for god’s sake bring back ‘The Bill.’

I don’t blame England entirely though, UEFA have designed a qualification tournament that pits the best against the worst, and all that has happened in time is that the best are not quite as good as they once were whilst the worst have got slightly better, at defending at least.

So we have ten group games, usually eight of them that feature a top eight European side are played against a nation far less superior, the opposition will defend, stick men behind the ball, minimilise attacking intent and hope that they lose by just one or two goals. Is that the best we have to offer? Is this really going to create TV gold? Will it fill stadiums and promote our continents game as two great teams pitting their wits? Or will it just bore us to tears before International football falls on its arse? Surely UEFA can create something better than this?

In every other competition in the world we have seeding, so why not international football UEFA?

A simple theory would be to replicate something like they have in South America, all the leading teams playing each other with every match meaning something. No gimmies, no easy games, solid teams like for like with emphasis put on winning matches of football against your biggest rivals. True football, how it should be played, not men against boys, pros against part timers? There’s no fun in that?

In other news San Marino got a customary drubbing 8-0 against Norway whilst Armenia lost 1-6 against Poland, congratulations to Robert Lewandowski in breaking his nations goalscoring record. The best ever Pole? Grzegorz Lato and Zbigniew Boniek might have something to say about that?

As well as England defending World Champions Germany also cemented their place at the finals next year with a win in Northern Ireland which leaves Michael O’Neill’s side still needing a point to be certain of a playoff place.

Scotland kept their hopes alive of qualification after a 1-0 win against Slovakia. Should they beat Slovenia this weekend they will all but guarantee a playoff spot. What’s to say they won’t meet Northern Ireland or even Wales in the battle of Britain?

This weekend Wales take on Georgia and Republic of Ireland needing at least four points to assure themselves of second place. They will do so without Gareth Bale but hope that Ben Woodburn’s rich (international) vein of form continues.

By Tuesday night we’ll know much more than we do already and whether a World Cup will feature the likes of Argentina, Holland, France, Italy or not? My thoughts are at least three of those mentioned will be there, but thankfully although not pretty, at least England no longer have to suffer that concern.

Star of the week: Robert Lewandowski (breaking a record is no mean feat and doing so with a hat-trick to reach 50 international goals puts the Polish striker in a unique category of half centurion internationals)

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