International breaks are often considered unwanted distractions from riveting domestic campaigns, but this past week’s batch of games definitely offered above average drama. Outside of the contentious and commonplace concerns over the Home Nations, let us reflect on qualifying from across the world and pick out who particularly impressed and who can’t wait to get back to their clubs.
Pedro Rodriguez – after a lukewarm start to the season with Barcelona in which the diminutive forward has only scored 2 goals in 11 appearances, Pedro was given a chance by Vicente Del Bosque to lead the line for his country against Belarus, a considerable vote of confidence considering both the fact that he featured ahead of Fernando Torres, David Villa and Roberto Soldado, and Spain’s recent prolificacy playing without a striker at all. He repaid the faith perfectly, scoring an excellent hat-trick, the second goal of which was truly sublime. Granted, the opposition was hardly up to standard, but Pedro retained his starting spot against France and came away with an assist, putting in one of the team’s best performances in this game too.
Marco Reus – While Germany’s catastrophe against Sweden will be mentioned shortly, their mauling of Ireland deserves praise as well, mainly due to the scintillating performance of Marco Reus. Reus is in a top-heavy German team that sees him in constant competition with the likes of Ozil, Kroos, Gotze, Podolski and Mueller, but on this occasion was by far and away the best player on the park. A questionable booking for diving was the only blight on his best international performance yet, which he followed up with an excellent display against Sweden as well.
Bosnia-Herzegovina – In the qualifying group that is probably the most ridiculously weak and ridiculously wide-open, Bosnia-Herzegovina have surged past Greece to claim temporary top spot. This past week saw them earn a creditable draw with the Greeks as well as convincingly beating Lithuania. Level on points with Greece, they are ahead on goal difference having also annihilated Lichtenstein on matchday two. For a country with a football pedigree going back to Yugoslavia, but a turbulent recent history and no success to speak of since independence in the nineties, Bosnia-Herzegovina proved their mettle in this group over the week and now stand a real chance of gaining automatic qualification.
Germany – Because you don’t lose a four goal lead in Rascal’s six-aside, never mind in World Cup qualifying. What looked light another brilliant rout quickly descended into a hilarious nightmare, and while it is tempting to credit Sweden with a sensational comeback, it really was more of a German collapse. With twenty minutes to go, the German defence decided they didn’t want to defend balls over the top any more, to which Sweden responded by trying this tactic every single time they got the ball and scoring four goals, the second of which involved some particularly comical goalkeeping to boot. Germany are still three points clear, and should qualify with ease, but will take little away from this game other than hoping it was a freakish one-off.
Luis Suarez – Had the build-up to Uruaguay’s clash with Argentina marred by seemingly over the top accusations of a reputation for diving, and ultimately failed to deliver during the clash itself. In the 3-0 loss, The spine of Uruguay’s team put in some industrious performances, Walter Gargano and Martin Cacares in particular, but, of Uruguay’s attacking threat, Suarez and Forlan really failed to impress. Granted, Argentina controlled the game well, but a forward of Suarez’s quality, particularly one who likes to drop deep, would be expected to have tried to get on the ball more. Probably an unfair comparison, as the talisman of his team he was ultimately outshone by Messi, whose second goal is a youtube necessity. This leaves Uruguay in the uncomfortable position of fifth in a group of only four guaranteed qualifications.
Brazil – Not that they did anything wrong, but if Switzerland win two of their next four games, against Tunisia, Cyprus twice and Iceland, they go above Brazil in the World Rankings. No joke.