Home Nations On The Up!
This week saw the return of European Qualifiers for the 2016 European Championships in France and the home nations can take great pride from their performances during the week.
England, Wales and Northern Ireland all opened their campaigns with well fought out victories whereas despite losing, Scotland put on a brave performance against World Champions Germany.
Everyone wrote off England prior to the Switzerland game after a mundane 1-0 win over Norway earlier in the week. With fringe players such as Fabian Delph playing in only his first competitive start, and against Switzerland who are ranked 9th in the FIFA rankings, England fans weren’t very optimistic.
But the day of the match, the tactics set out by Roy Hodgson worked a dream. Counter attacking football at its finest. Switzerland did have chances but the rare chances England got, they took and for once England looked like a team, rather than a team of individuals. This can only set them in good stead for the rest of the campaign with the games only, dare I say it, getting easier.
Scotland had a tough opener against Germany so they were always going to be on the back foot. A resilient Scotland, they set up similar to England but it was never going to be as a simple. A total of 26 shots for Germany the Scots took a battering but held their own and even levelled things up. A close 2-1 victory to the Germans which could have easily been nicked by the Scots.
Scotland can take great pride from the result and despite having one of the tougher groups I feel the have the quality to see them through to the group stages.
Wales came up against what seemed like a dead certain victory against Andorra. They did get the victory but they made hard work of it after conceding a penalty early on. Wales fought back through their star man Gareth Bale to claim a narrow 2-1 victory. As much as this doesn’t seem like a great victory it can only give them confidence going into the next game and with someone like Gareth Bale in their team then they can achieve anything.
Wales have a relatively easy group as well with only Belgium a real threat. I expect them to just scrape second place but only if Bale remains fit for all their games.
Northern Ireland’s victory against Hungary was one of the more impressive victories for me. Two goals in the last 10 minutes saw them win their first away game in 12 matches and has put the in a great position to qualify from a group lacking quality.
All the home nations can take great pride and confidence from their opening qualifying matches and I firmly believe that they will all be a part of France 2016.