Top five things we learnt from the international weekend
1. Even great defenders can forget how to defend
Rio Ferdinand picked up from his shocker in the Manchester derby last month with another somewhat dubious display of decision-making as Robert Green became England’s first dismissal of the Capello era. However, the game presented a perfect ‘can do no wrong’ opportunity for the English: win and the tabloids can continue to talk up the chances of success next summer, lose and it matters little since it was a dead rubber anyway.
2. The epitome of the ‘Great Player/Bad Manager’ theory has been found
Despite a dramatic last gasp win in Buenos Aires against bottom side Peru, Argentina coach Diego Maradona’s methods continue to confuse. A particular mention has to go to withdrawing goalscorer Gonzalo Higuain in place of an extra defensive midfielder. Cue a complete breakdown in ideas from his confused players as Peru, who had barely had a kick in the first half, began to pile pressure on the Argentine defence. But then, I don’t suppose it matters when Heavenly help comes in the shape of a cross-dressing veteran striker.
3. Never bet against Ze Germans
Unlike England previously, the plastic pitches and hostile conditions of Moscow didn’t get in the way of Germany sealing their spot in South Africa. Inevitable really, given that they haven’t missed out on the finals since 1950.
4. Eastern European big boys face failure
They’ve led the way in Eastern Europe over the past decade, but Czech Republic and Croatia must rely on some extraordinary results if they are to make it to South Africa next summer. The Czechs may have seen off local rivals Poland, and they may well defeat Northern Ireland on Wednesday, but if Slovenia win in tiny San Marino there will be no partying in Prague.
Likewise, Ukraine beating England has poured cold water on any Croatian qualification hopes. If Sheva and friends can get past the postmen and policemen of Andorra, Bilic’s men will be going nowhere next June. Although, I’m sure they’ll be delighted that neighbours Bosnia are still in with a shout through the play-offs…
5. Sometimes it hurts being Irish
A typically brave display against reigning champions Italy culminated in a careless moment of disappointment. Still overjoyed with Sean St Ledger’s 87th minute goal to take the lead, a defensive lapse saw Fiorentina forward Alberto Gilardino poach an injury time equaliser and force the Irish into a seeded play-off draw. A draw that will also include the French, Russians and Portuguese.