Radamel Falcao is back to his brilliant best for both club and country, and he’ll surely lead the line for Colombia in Russia. Accordingly, Los Cafeteros could very well match or better their 2014 run to the quarterfinals — the country’s best-ever World Cup finish — which Falcao missed because of a knee injury.
This is the official end of an era for the Italy national team. After a 0-0 draw with Sweden on Monday, combined with a 1-0 defeat on Friday, Italy will not be at the 2018 World Cup, ending a run of 14 straight World Cup appearances. The dominoes are already falling in the aftermath of the Azzurri failing to qualify.
We know — as evidenced by their march through CONCACAF World Cup qualifying and a solid showing at the 2017 Confederations Cup — that this Mexico side is capable of making a splash at next summer’s World Cup, but just what should we expect from the world’s 16th-ranked side? Based on the evidence of their November friendlies on European soil, a lot.
In the end, the only moment that separated Switzerland and Northern Ireland in their World Cup qualifying playoff was a dubious penalty call awarded to the Swiss in Belfast. Sunday’s return leg at St Jakob-Park in Basel ended in a 0-0 draw with the Irish again looking extremely limited going forward, but Switzerland were entirely wasteful as well, particularly forward Haris Seferovic.
Following a 1-0 defeat to Sweden on Friday, Italy is on the brink of failing to qualify for the World Cup for just the second time in the national team’s history. Italy must rebound in the return leg on Monday in Milan if the Azzurri want to reach a 19th World Cup.
Germany and England don’t always see eye to eye on the football pitch after decades of contentious football matches. But even with all their history, that Ruben Loftus-Cheek double nutmeg was just nasty.
Sweden registered a famous 1-0 victory over Italy in their World Cup qualifying playoff first leg in Stockholm thanks to a deflected effort from substitute Jakob Johansson. The return leg is on Monday in Milan with Italy’s hopes of a 19th World Cup appearance in serious jeopardy.
Johansson’s 61st minute strike was vital, but Sweden’s ability to successfully keep Italy off the scoresheet was just as big. An away goal in Milan would almost certainly be enough to send Sweden through, and this Swedish side has enough talent to go toe-to-toe with the four-time world champions.
Senegal qualified for the 2018 World Cup in Russia by beating South Africa 2-0 in a World Cup qualification replay on Friday. For the second goal, South Africa capitulated in perhaps the most painful way possible: the shambolic own goal.