Dramatic Last Minute Goals Change Fortunes
Late goals changed the result in an amazing number of World Cup qualifying matches yesterday. Australia and France both benefited from late goals, but the most incredible result of the night must have been the recovery by Sweden, who were 4-0 down to Germany with 30 minutes to play and managed to even the scores to go home with a point.
Germany had taken an early lead with two goals from Miroslav Klose. Arsenal’s Per Mertesacker added another before half time. Then Mesut Ozil put Germany four goals clear just after the break. But Sweden mounted an incredible comeback with goals from Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Mikael Lustig and Johan Elmander within 14 minutes. Finally Rasmus Elm scored in injury time to wild celebrations and left the Germans wondering what had happened. The German national side has never conceded a four goal lead before.
Australia fought out a dour 0-0 battle with Iraq in an almost empty stadium in Doha, until a slip up at the back allowed Iraq to score in the 72nd minute. Things were looking bad for Australia, if the game finished that way they would struggle to qualify for the finals in Brazil. But Tim Cahill was on hand to head home a Matt McKay corner in the 80th minute, to level the scores. Four minutes later super sub, Archie Thompson, repeated the process from a cross from fellow substitute Tommy Oar. Thompson has now scored as a substitute in his last three appearances for his country. The result elevated Australia to second spot in their table, 5 points behind Japan.
In Madrid, Spain took a 1-0 lead over France from a Sergio Ramos goal and held on through the entire game. Former Arsenal captain, Cesc Fabregas, failed to extend the lead when his penalty was saved by France captain Hugo Lloris, just before half time. But Arsenal striker, Olivier Giroud, came on as a substitute and scored in the very last minute of stoppage time, to claim a point for France. Prior to the match Spain had won a remarkable 24 consecutive qualifying games, but they may now have to win at Stade de France in March 2013 to avoid a play off to qualify for Brazil.
England’s game against Poland was postponed late on, in farcical circumstances. Heavy rain left the pitch unplayable, despite the fact that the stadium in Warsaw has a roof. The roof was only closed at midnight, hours after the game was rearranged for Wednesday.
In other results, the USA beat Guatemala 3-1 with a brace of goals from former Fulham and now Tottenham star Clint Dempsey. Northern Ireland held Cristiano Ronaldo’s Portugal to a 1-1 draw while the Republic of Ireland beat the Faroe Islands 4-1. Wales and Scotland both lost 2-0. Wales went down to the talented Croatians and Scotland lost to the Belgium side full of Premier League stars. The loss leaves Scotland bottom of their qualifying group after four matches and little to no chance of reaching Brazil.
England’s under 21 side played a qualifying game for the Euro 2013 tournament in Serbia. Serbian fans disgraced themselves with racist abuse of England’s black players and stones, coins and seats were thrown at them. Fans ran on to the pitch and scuffles broke out after England won 1-0. This type of racism was also seen in the senior European Championship held in Poland and the Ukraine earlier this year. If these former Eastern Bloc countries do not understand that this is not acceptable in 2012 then they should be banned from the competitions until they do.