The latter stages of qualifying for World Cup 2018 have produced some incredible stories. Here’s Bernie Uche with his highlights.
- After 28 years, Egypt qualify for the world cup: Since the last time they made the World Cup, Egypt have won the African Cup of Nations four times. It seems odd that a country can be a continental juggernaut but a minnow on the world stage. That’s the story of Egyptian football, but it all changed after Mohamed Salah’s last gasp penalty against Congo on home soil which secured qualification. Look at this man to see just what it means to Egyptians. Magic!
2. Messi puts Argentina on his back (again) with a hattrick: Argentina were sitting in 6th place prior to the final CONMEBOL qualifier against Ecuador. Only a win would see them through to the World Cup in Russia. Argentina had not won in Ecuador for over 16 years. Playing at altitude has not been good for Messi and co, but of course it was he who who took on the responsibility. Ecuador scored within a minute and hope was almost lost. When his country needed him the most, Messi came up with a momentous hat trick to seize qualification for the Argentines. Relief all round.
3. US fails to qualify: The richest country in CONCACAF, perennial Gold Cup hosts and aside from Mexico, the most talented team in the region failed to qualify for the World Cup. Not only that but they were beaten 2-1 by the Trinidad and Tobago B team to confirm their fate. This is a major shock in world football and a major league humiliation for the United States. At least now there will be no collusion between Russia and the US on this particular world stage.
4. Iceland do it again: Iceland are now the smallest nation (pop. 300,000) to qualify for a World Cup. Many thought that their run to the Euro 2016 Quarter finals was a once in a lifetime thing, but boy were they wrong. It goes to show that Iceland’s revamp of their football development program could be a model for others to follow. I’m just glad that the Iceland thunderclap will be back on the world stage.
5. Syria, almost a fairytale story: They almost did it. Syria almost did it. Australia will go to the final World Cup playoff while the Syrians will watch at home. However, it must be said their home is currently engulfed in civil war. Most Syrian home games were played in other countries such as Malaysia. We all know the severity of the situation in war-torn Syria and the national team’s progress in World Cup qualifying was a ray of hope in an otherwise bleak situation. Unfortunately, for those of us who love an underdog story, Australia won in extra time. Heartbreak for the Syrians but the country should be proud of what this team accomplished.
What are your favourite moments from this World Cup qualifying phase? Let us know in the comments or on Twitter.