After a long weekend of travel, I finally find myself able to write about Friday’s qualifying matches.

In truth it has taken me this long to overcome Steven Davis’ horror backpass that led to Northern Ireland’s defeat against Serbia.  After being thoroughly dominated for the first half, Northern Ireland were showing signs of breaking through against the Serbs, but Davis’ misplayed ball back to keeper Lee Camp allowed Marko Pantelic to steal in and score the match’s only goal.  The loss sees Northern Ireland fall to 5th in Group C while Serbia has drawn level with Slovenia for the group’s second spot.  Two crucial matches against Estonia will determine Northern Ireland’s qualifying fate along with the job status of manager Nigel Worthington.  The match’s lone goal can be seen here: 

Equally disappointing was the United States Men’s National Team, new manager Jurgen Klinsmann is still searching for his first win.  Their night-time friendly against Costa Rica began with shouts from the crowd, as the USMNT impressed early.  They earned several quality opportunities in the game’s opening minutes; however they were unable to capitalize on these opportunities and as the game went on these opportunities grew increasingly scarce.  Jozy Altidore began his first game under new manager with flair and was vital in the team creating chances, but was unable to find the back of the net.  Rodney Wallace was able to capitalize on one of Costa Rica’s chances, netting the game’s only goal off a diving header after a nice parrying save by Tim Howard.  The Americans were largely wasteful in front of goal and were unable to find the back of the net for the remainder of the game and allowed Costa Rica to walk out of the Home Depot Center with a 1-0 victory. Wallace’s goal and full highlights can be seen here:  

Back in Euro 2012 qualifiers, Italy was victorious against the Faroe Islands, but only managed to score once.  Holland completed an absolute demolition job against San Marino, winning 11-0 behind a hat-trick from Robin Van Persie.  Mesut Ozil netted a hat-trick as Germany dismantled Austria 6-2. England now see themselves on the verge of qualification as they handily defeated Bulgaria behind two goals from Wayne Rooney and Tim Cahill’s first international goal.

Spain and Chile played a testy affair that saw the match end with a scuffle between the two teams.  The South American side jumped out to an early 2-0 lead behind goals from Mauricio Isla and Eduardo Vargas, however it would not be enough as the Spanish giants roared back with goals from Andreas Iniesta and Cesc Fabregas.  The closing minutes of the game grew testy as Chile saw Pablo Contreras sent off for a tackle from behind.  The game would see a winner as Alvaro Arbeloa went down in the box after receiving very little contact, but the penalty was awarded.  Fabregas stepped up to take the penalty which was saved but the ball bounced directly back to Fabregas who was able to coolly slot the ball home for the game’s winner. The match highlights can be seen here: The scuffle during the closing seconds can be seen here:

Scotland saw their Euro 2012 qualifying chances sunk as a result of poor refereeing in a match Saturday against the Czech Republic. Kenny Miller's opening goal was pegged back a few minutes later by Jaroslav Plasil.  Darren Fletcher looked to have the match won in the 83rd minute after putting home a cross from Kenny Miller, but Jan Rezak's dive in the penalty area earned his country a spot kick which Michal Kadlec converted.  The controversy continued as Scotland's shouts for a penalty went unheeded despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary.  

Ronaldinho also made a return appearance in the Brazil squad during their 1-0 victory over Ghana. 

Arsenal’s Injury Woes Continue:

Arsenal has two more injuries to add to the list of Arsene Wenger’s worries as Jack Wilshere will be out at least two to three months with a foot injury.  The Gunners will also be without centerback Thomas Vermaelen after heel surgery will sideline the Belgian defender for at least two months.

Tuesday’s Matches:

While there is a round of CONCACAF qualifiers taking place, the United States will face off against Belgium in an international friendly.  The match will serve as a great opportunity for America to show its worth against a team that is expected to qualify for Euro 2012.  Klinsmann will be eager to get his first win as well as manage his first match in which American superstar Clint Dempsey will play.  Dempsey missed Friday’s match, undergoing treatment for back spasms. 

Ireland will take on Russia after a boring 0-0 draw against Slovakia in Group B’s biggest match.  Group C has a slate of important games as Italy take on Slovenia, Northern Ireland take on Estonia, and Serbia take on the Faroe Islands.  Group D has France taking on Romania and Belarus taking on Bosnia-Herzegovina.  Group E will have the Netherlands playing Finland while England will take on lowly Wales in Group G.  Denmark and Norway will face off in Group H while Group I will have Scotland see Lithuania and Spain take on Lichtenstein. 

Tuesday’s Results

With matches taking place all over the globe on Tuesday, Argentina faced Nigeria in a friendly with their newly announced captain Lionel Messi.  Messi was able to recover from an early collision to feed Gonzalo Higuain who scored the first of two first half goals that gave Argentina an early 2-0 lead.  The captain also had his hand in the second goal after forcing a save from Aiyenugba, who parried into the path of Angel di Maria for the second.  The Super Eagles were able to peg one back from Chinedu Ogbuke just after halftime, but Uwa Echiejile’s own goal extended the Argentine’s lead to 3-1 twenty minutes into the second half.  The game would finish that way with Lionel Messi ending the day with two assists.  Highlights here:

Best goal of the weekend goes to Coleraine's Johnny Black who scored from within his own half:

Brave John Terry gets the background for leading England through the hostile Bulgarian crowd to victory. The demonic gaze is no more.