No stopping Scotland
After years of pain and misery, what a time it is to be a Scotland fan.
Steve Clarke has brought something special to this squad and the fear that used to come with watching this side has eased.
It was a professional performance from Scotland and they limited the hosts to few chances as they kept yet another clean sheet as well.
They have yet to concede from open play in qualifying, with only Erling Haaland’s penalty for Norway in June going into the Scotland net.
Five wins out of five and Scotland are on the brink of qualifying for their second consecutive European Championship finals – if Norway draw with Georgia on Tuesday, the Tartan Army are off to Germany!
Republic suffer from deja vu (again) in Paris
For Ireland, there were two cases of déjà vu in Paris on Thursday night.
The two goals they conceded against France came via a long-range strike – the 11th goal they have let in from outside the box since the start of 2021 – and a strike just after half-time, just like when they lost their crucial match of this qualifying campaign in Greece.
How many times do Ireland fail to learn their faux pas? It is perhaps why Stephen Kenny’s side are stuck in a cul-de-sac of being a team for the future, with the next qualification campaign always being the one where the team comes of age.
With players such as Evan Ferguson and Nathan Collins now playing at a high level, and more will follow, time is slowly running out for Kenny to get his protégés clicking…
A lack of ruthlessness leaves Northern Ireland with mountain to climb
Northern Ireland created more chances than the hosts but Slovenia were ruthless. They took advantage of the spaces afforded to them. That’s the difference between the teams.
I would say Northern Ireland have too much to do to qualify. Michael O’Neill pinpointed this game as must-win. That’s what everyone thought when the draw was made.
He won’t give up the ghost with five games to go but it’s a disappointing night, a disappointing result and leaves Northern Ireland with a mountain to climb to try to qualify for the Euros.
Ian Baraclough on Sky Sports News
Son brings joy to South Wales but Page needs Riga remedy
UEFA regulations stipulate that nations in odd-numbered qualifying groups must fulfil blank dates in the calendar when group rivals are playing, so here were Wales playing South Korea.
It was a game nobody wanted save for a few hundred adoring South Koreans delighted to see Heung-min Son in the flesh at the Cardiff City Stadium, which housed just 13,668 supporters.
From his seat in the stands, our senior reporter Geraint Hughes commented: “57th minute and Son has a left footed shot, high and wide, but the response from the Korean fans is infectious!
“They just adore Son. Loud doesn’t explain it. The adoration for Son I can at the moment only compare with that the Argentine fans have for Messi.”
In some ways, the carnival atmosphere generated by the delighted visiting fans and the Welsh band serenading David Brooks made this forgettable stalemate palatable. But there was a serious element.
Exactly 12 months ago manager Rob Page signed a new four-year contract and everything in the Welsh garden was rosy. Following a miserable time in Qatar, Wales now face an uphill task to automatically qualify for Euro 2024.
Page has come under pressure following a run of only one win in 12 games either side of the 2022 World Cup when Wales finished bottom of their group and scored only one goal – a penalty from the now-retired Gareth Bale.
While that run extended to one victory in 13 on Thursday night, there was a recovery of sorts following back-to-back June defeats to Armenia and Turkey.
Qualifying for the tournament in Germany next summer through the play-offs now appears Wales’ best option – but nothing less than three points in Latvia on Monday will keep the heat off Page.