The first international break of the season saw plenty of World Cup qualifiers crammed in, as nations continue to catch up after the delays caused by the coronavirus pandemic. Most European nations had three fixtures to complete, and there was no shortage of drama.
For most of the major European footballing nations, World Cup qualification has been going to plan so far, with no major upsets to the Betfair online betting odds. Nonetheless, here are some of the key talking points from the latest set of internationals.
England squander lead against Poland
Although England are in a strong position at the top of their qualification group, the fact that they couldn’t hold on to beat Poland in Warsaw will certainly concern Gareth Southgate. Harry Kane gave the Three Lions the lead with less than 20 minutes remaining, but Poland were not willing to go down without a fight. Despite England defending well in the latter stages of the match, they were undone in the second minute of stoppage time when Damien Szymanski rose to head past Jordan Pickford.
There is a worrying trend of England throwing away one-goal leads in big matches under Southgate. If you cast your mind back to the 2018 World Cup, England surrendered the lead in both their last-16 match against Colombia (before eventually triumphing on penalties) and in the fateful semi-final against Croatia. Then, there was the recent Euro 2020 final, where England failed to manage the game properly and allowed Italy to regain a foothold. The draw in Warsaw is the latest in the series, and it’s something Southgate and his staff will need to work on.
Competitive win eludes Ireland
Stephen Kenny has cut a hapless figure in the Republic of Ireland dugout at times. He is still searching for his first competitive win in charge of the Boys in Green, and came so close upsetting the online betting tips by beating Portugal in Faro. John Egan’s header gave Ireland a lead which they held until the 89th minute, when Cristiano Ronaldo produced a stunning double to break Irish hearts and inflict another defeat.
There was reason for optimism after that match, but further misery awaited Ireland, as they laboured to a 1-1 draw with Azerbaijan in Dublin. It took a late Shane Duffy header to salvage a point, as Ireland squandered plenty of opportunities to put their opponents away.
The international break ended on a vaguely positive note, with Ireland weathering a Serbian storm in Dublin to rescue another 1-1 draw. Kenny has plenty of work to do to get his team pulling in the right direction, but if he can get that first competitive win on the board, things might just fall into place.
Italy’s unbeaten run goes on
Italy have shown no signs of slowing down following their European Championship triumph over the summer. They have started their qualification campaign by picking up 14 points from six matches, and a 5-0 win over Lithuania put the icing on a productive set of results. Moise Kean celebrated his return to Juventus by notching a brace for the Azzurri, and they are already establishing themselves as early favourites to win the World Cup in Qatar.
Roberto Mancini has found the winning formula in international management, and Italy are a scintillating side to watch. The sky is the limit in terms of how far this team can go, and with talented youngsters like Kean and Federico Chiesa hitting top form, they’re a joy to behold at the moment.