There are always going to be winners and losers when there’s a major tournament involved. This week’s out-and-out winners, qualifying for next year’s World Cup in Brazil, are the Colombia who overturned a 3-0 deficit against a crestfallen Chile team.
When you see fans climbing onto the crossbar and swinging their shirts, it’s probably safe to say that they’re happy. The kind of happiness England fans saw on the face of Andros Townsend when he scored against Montenegro on his international debut; a huge grin creeping through a mouth trying to keep its composure. In stark contrast, two Chilean commentators were cursing Carlos Carmona’s second-half sending off and counting tears as they watched their team snatch a painful draw from the jaws of certain victory. I guess this makes Chile the biggest losers of this week. Branko Bošković too.
Last night lots of questions arose around Roy Hodgson’s decision to start Andros Townsend but a Man of the Match performance from the Spurs winger justified the gamble. Just how important are inside wingers to success in football right now? Very. Is Andros Townsend the English Arjen Robben? No. It’s all well and good getting excited but, come next year, you’ll probably find Hodgson starting James Milner on the right when the England team all get nosebleeds from the pressure of being at a World Cup. Besides you can’t compare Townsend to any world class player until he’s shown his ability at the top of the game at a consistent enough level. They’re both bald though. For now just enjoy his brilliant strike and hope he’s still relevant enough when the teams get picked in the summer.
If your name is Raúl Jiménez then you’re probably being flung into the air by ecstatic Mexican fans right now. The CF América forward scored a last gasp, game-winning bicycle kick to give his country a 68% chance of qualifying for next year’s World Cup and consequently reminded everyone that football is beautiful. People who don’t like overhead kicks are probably one of those creativity-sucking robots working in accounts who get aroused by numbers and turn their tin cans so the labels face forward. Chicharito is most likely one of those people as he now sits in the shadow of Jiménez and his Manchester United team mates. Poor guy, he just wants to play football and score goals.
One player who certainly knows how to score goals is Robin Van Persie whose hat-trick in the hammering of Hungary, cemented him as the Netherlands all-time goalscorer with 41 goals in 80 appearances to beat Patrick Kluivert’s previous record. They both celebrated with a big hug as the Hungarians looked on and hoped that the coming together of two national legends would create an instantaneous explosion, so much so that the pitch collapsed and the newly-born sinkhole ate them to conceal their embarrassment. An unlikely scenario but it would be a slightly less humiliating fate.
Let’s not forget about Romelu Lukaku and his perfect mission of making Jose Mourinho facepalm until his nose is flat like a Fernando Torres performance. Another two goals from the Belgian powerhouse sealed Croatia’s fate and simultaneously made every Chelsea fan bang their heads against the wall until bits of Samuel Eto’o posters were stuck to their foreheads. No such problems for Arsenal fans though as they saw their leading striker, Olivier Giroud, curl a glorious chip past a hopeless Aussie goalkeeper. With Mesut Özil on the scoresheet for Germany and Aaron Ramsey still playing above his level, Gooners all over the world can sleep easy tonight knowing that they made the right decision to change their minds about sacking Wenger just two months ago.
Finally, spare a thought for Michael Lang, whose second-half goal effectively sealed Switzerland’s victory over Albania and qualification to next year’s World Cup. Quick, crack out the champagne for the Group E winners– it’s only 242 days until their Brazilian adventure ends in disappointment. I joke, they deserve to be there and they definitely deserve to give it all that they’ve got. Here’s hoping the young team can pull off some surprise defeats. Hopefully not against England.