So they’re through then. There was no, um, Waterloo in Paris for the Spanish national team as the hosts succumbed to the wizardry of Iniesta and a goal from Pedro which sealed their return to the top of the group. France will (probably) now have to face the prospect of second place and the subsequent Trial by Knock-Out which could be contested against England, Portugal or event the French’s bête noire, Israel who are chugging along very nicely indeed.
Elsewhere, Group C is looking interesting as Austria, Sweden and Ireland are all locked on eight points – a seemingly unassailable eight behind Germany. The contest for runner up should go right to the wire. England turned up in Skopje,played for forty five minutes and then went home. Montenegro – group leaders no less – thoroughly deserved the equaliser which could only have come about due to the panic caused by the introduction of Rayo Vallecano’s finest, Delibasic only seconds before the Montenegran’s goal.
Hungarian and Iceland fans may be doing more than just avoiding all mention of Brasil 2014 (sorry, that should read Brazil 2014 as FIFA have changed the name of a nation state for the duration of the tournament) as their teams seem to have shed the shackles of recent history. They’re both second and both in with a reasonable shout of the play-off promised land.
Back to domestic bliss, La Liga returns with the LFP having fiddled with the kick-off times again so that the first game – Rayo entertain Malaga – starts at four pm on Saturday. I’ll plump for a draw on this one but one which Rayo may be relieved at. Celta then entertain hopes of scrambling another few precious points to reach safety. They won’t though as they’re playing Champions elect, Barcelona. Zaragoza have their own woes at the wrong end of the table so probably won’t be looking forward to their own encounter to seccond placed Madrid Royalists.The final game of Saturday sees Sevilla travel to Valencia in search of some points from Levante. Had you enquired of my opinion only a month ago, I’d have gone for a home win but as Sevilla seems to have realised that they’re a Big Team whilst Levante have gone into the doldrums after a Europa League exit, I simply haven’t a scoobie.
Sunday sees perennial sabbath morn Valladolid do it again, this time at home to Osasuna after which a SIX POINTER looms into view when Depor who must win face Mallorca who musn’t lose but probably want a win too in the Islands. Home win. In the battle for most entertaining/best teams in the Second half of the campaign, Champions League chasing Real Sociedad go to Espanyol. I can see La Real continuing their charge toward a late August play-off here.
Sunday’s Top of the Bill sees Valencia travel to face Atleti. The return fixture in November revealed the first chink in Atleti’s title aspirations and a win for Valencia here would probably put pay to second place for the Madrid outfit.
La Liga, not content with nobody bothering to watch Monday night games have now gone for the strange philosophy that if it doesn’t work once, try it twice. So Monday (Monday!) at eight sees Athletic host Granada who would probably both be happy for the season to finish here and now. This is followed by Betis and Getafe – neither strangers to Monday night football – and should be a top notch encounter. It’s just a shame that only those emotionally involved will bother to watch.