International break period brings some shocks, pleasant surprises

By Hilton Yip Source:Global Times Published: 2014-10-13 22:48:02

Despite being an international break, the past weekend was a big one for soccer. Germany lost its first qualifying game in seven years, while Spain lost its first in eight years.

The 2016 Euro tournament will be the first to have 24 teams and smaller nations will likely have a better chance to qualify. On the other hand, the increased number of places might mean qualifying might be easier and less dramatic for major countries. Slovakia and Poland defied this logic in a stunning way.

Poland achieved a shocking victory over World Cup champions Germany with a 2-0 win in Warsaw on Saturday. For the Poles, it was more than just an important victory over a group rival, but a milestone first-ever win over a longtime rival ­after 18 matches and 81 years.

Slovakia upset Spain 2-1 as the Spaniards lost their first qualifying game since 2006. This is a continuation of the latter's disappointing performances since the World Cup in June, as well as goalkeeper Iker Casillas who was criticized for the Slovakians' first goal. Yet the whole team needs to share the blame as they allowed their opponents to score again in the dying minutes after Spain had equalized in the 82nd minute.

Unlike the Germans, Spain's loss might not be a one-off, but suggests more changes are desperately needed for the defending European champions to ­regain their past supremacy.

In Asia, there were only friendlies since qualifying for the 2015 Asian Cup has long ended. Yet the premiere matchup was between two non-Asian powers, specifically Brazil and Argentina. The old foes faced off in Beijing on Saturday with Brazil prevailing 2-0, while China's actual team played in Wuhan and thumped an undermanned Thailand team.

China beat Thailand 3-0 on Friday, a complete reverse from a year ago when the Thais prevailed 5-1.

China can't get too excited as the Thais only brought 15 ­players, with key players missing and their head coach taking a break after leading the country's under-23 team to fourth place at the just-­concluded Asian Games.

The Chinese have enjoyed good results in recent friendlies against the likes of Kuwait and Macedonia, but the upcoming Asia Cup in a few months will be a different matter.

The author is an editor with the Global Times.

Posted in: Extra Time

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