UEFA’s qualification campaign for the 2018 World Cup is in full swing. We’re coming up on match five, and (despite the ever present angst from supporters) Germany are in good shape. After four matches, Die Nationalelf sit comfortably in first place in Group C. The German boys have won every match and have a perfect defensive record (against 16 goals scored).
In fact, depending upon other results, Germany could possibly have an eight point lead in the group standings after this weekend, along with a massive advantage in goal differential. If that happens … well, Germany would not be mathematically secured, but Die Nationalelf would basically be able to start buying tickets for Russia.
First, we need to win the match, though …
In a clash between two teams with continental aspirations, FC Köln defeated Hertha Berlin on Saturday, 4:2, behind a smashing offensive attack. Anthony Modeste bagged a hat trick to power Köln’s victory, and to pass Robert Lewandowski and move into second place in the race for Bundesliga scoring title. Matthias Lehman and Christian Clemens were also instrumental for Köln, setting up the attack with effective passing.
After going down 3:0, Hertha did fight back and somewhat turn it into a game. John Anthony Brooks and Vedad Ibisevic both had goals, and FCK ‘keeper Timo Horn had to make two good saves. In the end, the mountain was too big to climb, and Köln held on for an important victory.
Friday morning saw the draw for the UEFA Champions League’s quarterfinal match-ups. For three straight years, FC Bayern have gone out of this competition at the hands of a Spanish club. And will all three of those Spanish sides remaining, this draw always had the possibility of a revenge match-up.
And that’s how it turned out, with one scheduled tie looming larger than the rest. Our brief analysis of the four quarterfinal match-ups:
We’re down to eight teams left in the 2016-2017 UEFA Champions League. The last day of game-play saw one surprise, as AS Monaco stormed back from a two-goal deficit to win at home and advance on away goals. Monaco will be the lone French representative at the next stage, along with three from Spain, two from Germany, and one each from Italy and England.
At this point, supporters of teams that remain are looking forward to tomorrow’s draw, and supporters of teams that have been eliminated are trying to find someone to get behind (or someone to root particularly hard against). For some supporters, though, another concern looms at the back of the mind: any good bets to be made on the remainder of this competition?
FC Bayern Munich picked up a decisive win over Eintracht Frankfurt on Saturday, with Robert Lewandowski, Mats Hummels and David Alaba all putting in good shifts. It was not an easy victory, despite the final score – Frankfurt had two good chances to score in the first half, and Bayern started a little sluggishly.
Once the FC Bayern attack got going, the result was never really in doubt. Lewandowski and Douglas Costa both scored in a short stretch. Then Frankfurt had to push forward to try to get back into the match, and Bayern cruised to a win, with Lewandowski scoring another and Bayern looking by far the better team in the second half. Continue reading
The Bundesliga’s weekend slate of action got off to a good start on Friday evening, as Leverkusen and Werder Bremen fought to a 1:1 draw in an entertaining affair. Kevin Volland scored with a leaping header in the early going, and hosts Leverkusen seemed like the better team throughout much of the affair.
Werder fought back with a spirited performance over the final half-hour, though. Claudio Pizarro’s goal – scored with a fluke re-direction – levelled the scores, and Felix Wiedwald’s penalty save closed out the match to earn the visitors a point. Continue reading
FC Bayern cruised into the Champions League quarterfinals on Tuesday, shredding Arsenal for the second straight match by a 5:1 score-line. With an emphatic aggregate lead coming in, Bayern would only have been in danger with a magnificent Arsenal performance, which certainly didn’t materialize.
Even so, the Gunners had their moments in the first half. Arsenal took a 1:0 lead into the break and could maybe have had a chance to make it respectable. But Laurent Koscielny’s questionable sending-off gave Bayern a penalty and a man-advantage. At that point, it was just a matter of the final score, with Bayern pouring in goals without mercy. Continue reading
In the Bundesliga’s feature match from the early Saturday slate, Borussia Dortmund earned a 6:2 win over Bayer Leverkusen. Dortmund controlled the first half, creating several good chances and taking a 2:0 lead into the half. Leverkusen gave a better accounting of themselves in the second half. Twice, they scored to cut the deficit to one goal and give themselves a chance. But Dortmund were too much in the end, Christian Pulisic, Andrew Schürrle and Raphael Guerreiro all scoring late to ice the win. Continue reading
This weekend, we hit two-thirds of the way through the 2016-2017 1. Bundesliga season. This is the point at which the parameters are set and every team makes whatever run they’re capable of. And we have a wide-open table to create some good stories. Only eight points separate sixth place through thirteenth place, so we have a large number of teams who could still have legitimate designs on a continental spot. And yet every team in the bottom half has been somewhat concerned about relegation this season, so matches at the bottom end of the table are important as well.
We also have a genuine title race at the top. Just five points separate FC Bayern from RB Leipzig, making this a closer race than those in England and Italy. While Bayern would have to be considered the favorites, the Bavarians dropping points even once could allow RBL to pull within three, with the teams still set to play each other once more.
Your three biggest matches of the week … Continue reading