With all of the United Kingdom's soccer teams playing this weekend in qualifying matches for the 2014 Brazil World Cup, it was an exciting weekend for international football fans across the pond. Here's an update on where England, Wales and Scotland fared in international play and where they stand heading forward.
It was job well done for England on Friday night at Wembley, with a 5-0 win over minnows San Marino. It was a bit like watching Barcelona play Chelsea at times — 95 percent possession around the box but no real penetration. That is what you get when only one team comes to play.
Can't really blame San Marino — they held their line pretty well and frustrated England. Wayne Rooney played well and scored twice, once from the penalty spot, to celebrate his captaincy. Normal incumbent Steven Gerrard, who is back after suspension, will replace Rooney on Tuesday night against Poland. Gerrard thought Rooney capably covered for him Friday night, saying he played well and "behaved himself, too" — a backhanded compliment if there ever was one.
It will be a different kettle of fish for England in Poland, however, as England manager Roy Hodgson will have a few selection dilemmas based on the players he has available. Poland will be a decent outfit at home in front of vocal support, and the likes of Rooney and Welbeck will have to be more clinical with the chances they will undoubtedly get.
Three points away from home would be very well received. At this point in qualifying proceedings, the result is more important than the performance, so I don't think we will be in for an end-to-end thriller complete with a standing ovation. Just win and don't get sent off.
It was a cracking finish to this home-nation derby on Friday, with Wales coming from behind and scoring twice in the last 10 minutes to win 2-1 and delight the Cardiff crowd. Gareth Bale was the hero with both goals, prompting praise from all over, including from Croatian scoring legend Davor Suker. Now president of the Croatian Football Federation, Suker suggested that Bale might want to play in Spain for Real Madrid, as it's one of the top clubs in the world. Spurs will be pleased with that comment, then!
Speaking of Croatia, Wales plays there Tuesday night, while Scotland will need to lick its wounds in time to take on Belgium in Brussels. Craig Levein's boys are pretty much facing a must-win scenario if they want to qualify for Rio 2014, and the so-called golden generation of Belgium Football is waiting for them, currently at the top of Group A. It is definitely white-knuckle time for the tartan army.
by Matt Goff
Top: Wayne Rooney, captain of England, scores the opening goal from the penalty spot during the FIFA 2014 World Cup qualifying match between England and San Marino at Wembley Stadium. (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)