Germany 4-4 Sweden
At 4-0 to Germany it looked like the biggest boost to Giovanni Trapattoni"s hopes might not come from his own side"s performance in Torshavn, but from the beating the Germans were administering to the Swedes in Berlin. If Germany were to beat Sweden 4-0, or even more as they stretched their lead to 4 by the 55th minute, then maybe last Friday night"s humiliation in Dublin might look a little more respectable on reflection.
If only Sweden could have rolled over and accepted their fate. 4 goals in 31 minutes dragged the Swedes back in dramatic fashion, leaving Ireland in a worse position in the table and their manager holding a weaker hand for any potential showdown talks with the FAI.
Belgium 2-0 Scotland
And so for Scotland the World Cup was over almost as soon as it began. A 2-0 defeat to Belgium, which could have been far more painful for the scots, has left them bottom of group group A and out of the race for qualification.
While Belgium are busy trying to dampen expectations of what they can achieve in Brazil the scots are wondering if there are any positives, even half imagined ones, they can take from their current situation. Whereas both sides have been enduring travels in the international football wilderness in recent years, Belgium haven"t qualified for a major tournament since 2002 and Scotland since 1998, the difference in outlook from both countries could sacrcely be more of a contrast. Belgium are possibly the most talked about and hyped young side in world football, with their participation in 2014 eagerly anticipated by many. Scotland, conversley, are enduring a painful decline, further and further from the days when qualification, if not good tournament performances, were a regularity rather than a fantasy.
Banners called for the removal of boss Craig Levein and there is speculation that the SFA will bow to public pressure and dismiss their man. Publicly Levein maintains the support of his players but with this campaign extinguished so early on it is expected the SFA will bring in a new man in the hope that the remainder of the campaign can be used to prepare for the 2016 campaign.
Spain 1-1 France
Spain have put themselves in the precarious and unfamiliar position of having an uphill task facing them to finish top of their group as the have dropped points in a qualifying game for the first time since 2007.
The world and European champions drew 1-1 with France, in Madrid, last night following a 93rd minute goal from Arsenal"s Olivier Giroud. Sergio ramos had put the reigning world champions in front on the
Group I has always seemed destined to hinge on the results of the two games between Spain and France. With Georgia, Belarus and Finland comprising the remainder of the group it seems likely that France and Spain would take full points from the rest of their games. With Didier Deschamps" side taking a point from the Vicente Calderon last night they have placed themselves in a strong position to take top spot and Spain will travel to France in March knowing that, for once, they are not the ones who hold the advantage.
Portugal 1-1 Northern Ireland
It was Ronaldo"s night, his 100th cap and with Northern Ireland the visitors the celebrations would, presumably, be safe from spoiling. However the world"s most expensive man was left in the wake of former Derry City winger Niall McGinn as Northern Ireland earned a historic result in Porto. McGinn got through on goal after half an hour and finished by lifting the ball over the onrushing Rui Patricio.
It was the 79th minute before the hosts breached a stubborn Northern Ireland defence and when they did it was a result of a scarppy finish from Helder Postiga. Portugal"s onslaught continued right up to the final whistle and some desperate defending and admirable work from the goal posts helped Michael O"Neill"s men on their way to one of their biggest results of recent times.