Favourites leave their mark
Qualifying for the 2006 FIFA World Cup Germany™ dominated the sporting horizon again yesterday, with Asia, Europe and the North and Central American and Caribbean Zone all playing a full slate of matches.
In Asia, it was a remarkable day for visitors, most of whom happened to be favourites, seeing as only two home sides in the 16 matches managed to avoid defeat. Apart from the usual suspects, the day's big winners were Iran, who won in Jordan 2-0 to get their campaign back on track, and Saudi Arabia, who became the first side to clinch their place in the final group round with a tough1-0 win in Turkmenistan.
Japan, Iraq lead the way for Asia's road warriors
Most of the results in Wednesday's Germany 2006 qualifiers in the European Zone may have adhered to the form guide - England, France, Italy and the Netherlands all feel better about themselves this week - but as ever a few upstarts came to the fore to make life difficult for their so-called superiors. The likes of Romania, Ukraine, Georgia, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Croatia all pulled off upsets and set the tone for what promises to be a wild preliminary competition.
One more step on Europe's long and winding road
In North and Central America and the Caribbean, three relative giants, Costa Rica, Mexico and Jamaica claimed their first win of qualifying. The United States continued their charmed existence with a 1-1 draw in Panama thanks to Cobi Jones' equaliser deep into second half injury time. The U.S. are on top of qualifying Group 1, which has grown tighter than anyone expected, while Guatemala held onto the top of Group 2 despite earning only a 2-2 draw in Honduras after being two ahead.
Last-gasp U.S. keep on pace, Mexico quick off the blocks