World Cup Qualifiers
The glamour, passion, quality of play and tension associated with world cup qualification has produced many unforgettable moments in history. The journey to Brazil 2014 has already begun. But, while we all relax and enjoy this competition across different continents here are some sizzling qualification matches from the past.
Algeria 1 Vs Egypt 0, 2009
Egypt was the reigning African champion, so they were tipped to progress from a qualifying group that had Algeria, Zambia and Rwanda with ease. The Pharaohs had dominated African football for six years that pundits overlooked the fact that Egypt and Algeria were fierce soccer rivals.
A solitary point from two matches confined Egypt to the bottom of the table. It took a lot of guts, determination and consistency for the Egyptian team to find its way back to the top of the group. They won all their remaining four games including the final game in Cairo where a last grasp goal ensured they moved level on points and goal difference with Algeria who had led the group throughout the qualifying campaign.
Only one team could progress from the group and going by the books nothing separated both sides. A play- off match was fixed in Sudan to determine the team to represent Africa in South Africa. In the 40th minute, a thunderous strike -which no goal keeper could save by Antar Yahia gave Algeria the lead. The desert foxes held on their slender lead despite incessant pressure from Egypt. In the end, Algeria returned to the World Cup after a twenty-six year absence while the Egyptians were devastated as they missed out on another opportunity to make it to their 3rd world cup.
France 1 Vs 1 Ireland (Agg: 2:1), 2009
Both teams came into this game having ended up second in their respective groups. France won the first leg in Dublin by a lone goal despite been outplayed by the Irish. The second leg in Paris was expected to be an easy ride for the French, but it wasn’t. Ireland played with so much purpose and passion and took a well deserved lead in the 33rd minute after a smart play between Robbie Keane and Damian Duff set up the LA Galaxy striker to fire past haplessly Llorris in goal.
Ireland Had control of the game and perhaps should have scored 4 more goals. They were made to pay for their missed chances after Thierry Henry handled the ball twice in the Irish 18 yard box before squaring it for Williams Gallas to score in the first half of extra time. Henry admitted he had handled the ball moments after the game. By then the damage had already been done- Ireland didn’t qualify after a playoff match many soccer fans agree was characterized by daylight robbery.
Wales 1 Vs 1 Scotland, 1985
En route Mexico 1986 world cup, Scotland and Wales locked horns in a the last qualifying match- a game marred by the death of Legendary Scottish manager, Jock Stein few minutes before the final whistle. The final result was 1-1, which was what Scotland needed to secure a playoff against Australia.