THE DAY REPLAYED–* *Matchday Three of the European qualifying campaign for the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia™ drew to a close on Tuesday. The coaches of England and Germany are unlikely to approach Matchday Four in November in the same frame of mind; although both teams sit atop their respective groups, Joachim Low witnessed another solid performance from his charges, while Gareth Southgate had a few nervy moments in Slovenia, as his side were given some real scares in defence.
FIFA.com runs the rule over all the action from Tuesday’s UEFA qualifiers.
*Results Group C: *Germany 2-0 Northern Ireland, Norway 4-1 San Marino, Czech Republic 0-0 Azerbaijan
*Group E: *Kazakhstan 0-0 Romania, Poland 2-1 Armenia, Denmark 0-1 Montenegro
*Group F: *Slovenia 0-0 England, Slovakia 3-0 Scotland, Lithuania 2-0 Malta
Match of the daySlovenia 0-0 England
As Gareth Southgate had made clear on Monday, Wayne Rooney started on the bench for England, passing the captain’s armband on to Jordan Henderson. After a reasonable start to the match, the Three Lions began to demonstrate their defensive frailties, allowing Roman Bezjak to run through on Joe Hart, who pulled off a smart save, and then failing to close down Jasmin Kurtic, as he hit the post with a well-struck follow-up effort (10'). The Torino goalkeeper subsequently made two breathtaking saves at the start of the second half, first from Bostjan Cesar (47') and then from Kurtic (48').
Hart, England’s best player on the night, was again called upon to foil the onrushing Josip Ilicic (70'). Rooney then came on for Dele Alli, recovering the armband from Henderson in the process, but even the appearance of England’s all-time leading goalscorer did nothing to change the situation, and in the end the English, who began their campaign with two victories, can consider themselves slightly fortunate to leave Ljubljana with a point.
ElsewhereIn Group C, Germany continued their fine start to the campaign by recording a third successive win over Northern Ireland (2-0), a team they had struggled to break down during the group stage of UEFA EURO 2016. This time around, *Die Nationalelf *had the result in the bag by half-time, after Julian Draxler and Sami Khedira both scored within four minutes of each other. The world champions, who have still not conceded a goal during these qualifiers, controlled the remainder of the match and now enjoy a two-point lead at the top of the section.
Behind the Germans sit Azerbaijan, who managed to secure a hard-fought point (0-0) in the Czech Republic, in a match devoid of real chances. San Marino remain at the bottom of the group after an unsurprising 4-1 defeat by Norway, but their supporters will have savoured the rare away goal slammed home by Mattia Stefanelli, which levelled the scoreline at the outset of the second half.
In Group E, Romania, despite coming off the back of a resounding triumph in Armenia, played out a 0-0 stalemate in Kazakhstan, their second draw of the campaign. Montenegro and Poland have now created a slight gap between themselves and the Romanians after respectively seeing off the challenge of Denmark (1-0) and Armenia (2-1).
The Danes missed a number of good chances and were eventually undone by a goal by Fatos Beciraj, who was set up brilliantly by Stevan Jovetic. Poland, meanwhile, were forced to wait until stoppage time and Robert Lewandowski’s second goal of the day to take all three points, despite having enjoyed a numerical advantage since Gael Andonian’s 30th-minute red card.
With England and Slovenia drawing, Lithuania seized on the opportunity to move into second place in *Group F *following a routine 2-0 win over Malta. Slovakia, who had previously suffered two frustrating defeats, made light work (3-0) of an inept Scotland side in Trnava.
Player of the dayWith two goals and an assist, Slovakia’s Robert Mak was a thorn in Scotland’s side throughout Tuesday’s encounter. The contribution of the Zenit St. Petersburg attacking midfielder, a product of Manchester City’s youth academy, where he spent four of his teenage years, was a massive boost to the Repre’s chances of qualifying for Russia 2018.
The number 94 – In overseeing his 94th win as coach of Germany, Joachim Low equalled a 52-year-old record held by Sepp Herberger, who memorably held the reins of West Germany between 1950 and 1964.
Did you know?The fourth-place finish achieved by Azerbaijan during the qualifying campaign for Brazil 2014 constitutes the country’s greatest performance to date, World Cup and European Championship qualifiers combined. They collected a total of nine points in that campaign, which is just two points more than their current haul of seven, and they still have seven matches left to play! In addition, their 0-0 draw with Czech Republic marked the second time in the nation’s history that they had kept a clean sheet for three successive competitive games.
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