Apologies for the latness of this international round-up, but today was a pretty busy day for me and wasn’t condusive to regular posting earlier on.
There were plenty of Fulham players in action for their national teams this week. Three of our boys were involved on Tuesday as the Republic of Ireland entertained the World Cup hosts South Africa in Limerick. Stephen Kelly started at right back for the home side and Kagiso Dikgacoi looked pretty impressive for the South Africans in central midfield. Damien Duff made a late appearance as a second half substitute as the Irish won 1-0 thanks to a goal from Liam Lawrence.
Chris Smalling watched from the bench as England under-21s struggled to a rather disappointing 1-1 draw with Greece on the same evening.
As Lydia has already mentioned, it was a night of despair at Windsor Park last night. Northern Ireland were in with a big chance of getting to the finals had they beat Slovakia at Windsor Park, but they slipped to a 2-0 defeat. Aaron Hughes started at centre back and Chris Baird came on as a substitute but Nigel Worthington’s side will now have to win in Prague to keep their hopes of qualifying alive. It looks like a very tall order indeed.
Brede Hangeland and Bjorn Helge Riise were both included in the starting line-up as Norway rather stuttered to a 2-1 win over Macedonia in Oslo last night. The Norwegians finished second in Group Nine after Scotland were beaten by Holland at Hampden Park but look unlikely to earn a play-off place.
Clint Dempsey played most of the USA’s 1-0 win over Trinidad & Tobago in Port of Spain late yesterday. The Americans are back on top of the CONCACAF section with sixteen points and look certain to reach South Africa for the tournmanent next summer.
John Pantsil, who helped Ghana make certain of their qualification at the weekend, had a bit of a nightmare in a friendly in Utrecht yesterday. The Fulham right back’s mistake gave the Japanese a chance to get back into the contest when they were 3-1 down and they seized it with both hands, going on to win 4-3.