British sides fail to get Olympic feel-good bounce
British countries failed to feed off the feel-good factor of the success of the London Olympics and Paralympics yesterday as all four failed to win their 2014 World Cup qualifiers.sports Updated: Sep 12, 2012 08:11 IST
British countries failed to feed off the feel-good factor of the success of the London Olympics and Paralympics on Tuesday as all four failed to win their 2014 World Cup qualifiers.
England had to rely on veteran Frank Lampard's late penalty to force a 1-1 draw at home to Ukraine, while Northern Ireland were held humiliatingly 1-1 at home by Luxembourg.
Both Scotland and Wales already face uphill tasks to even get a play-off place in their Group A as the Scots had to come from behind to draw 1-1 with lowly Macedonia, while Wales' woes under Chris Coleman continued with a 6-1 hammering in Serbia.
Those two results will heap the pressure on Scotland boss Craig Levein and Coleman, who has yet to win in five matches in charge of the Welsh since predecessor Gary Speed took his own life.
Elsewhere, the European heavyweight quintet of reigning World and European champions Spain, Germany, France, Italy and Portugal all recorded victories, though several were made to work hard for the three points over lesser opposition.
The Spanish edged Georgia 1-0 in Tbilisi with a late goal from Roberto Soldado, while Group I rivals France avoided a repeat of their shock Euro 2012 qualifying defeat at home to Belarus with a 3-1 win over them in Didier Deschamps' first match at the Stade de France as coach of Les Bleus.
Germany made it two wins from two in Group C with a hard-fought 2-1 win over neighbours Austria in Vienna.
Despite Lampard rescuing England a point with his third goal in two games, manager Roy Hodgson thought that a point was the least they deserved.
"The first 15 minutes we weren't at our best. The next 75 minutes we dominated the game," said Hodgson, whose side had beaten the same opponents 1-0 in the group stages at Euro 2012.
"The fact is we played against a very good Ukraine team but I was very pleased with the way the players went about their task."
Levein remained defiant despite a second successive home draw -- they were held 0-0 by Serbia last Saturday -- leaving them already struggling in perhaps the toughest group with Croatia and Belgium, who drew 1-1 on Tuesday, also involved.
"I think we struggled a bit to really get going. The second half was better than the first," Levein said.
"We didn't quite get our game going in the attacking sense and losing the early goal put us on the back foot. I think on the evidence of the last two games that this group is going to be really tight indeed."
Georgia's plucky performance against Spain drew high praise from La Roja coach Vicente del Bosque, whose side showed some rustiness in what was their first qualifier.
However, the ever astute tactician's second-half introduction of Cesc Fabregas and Pedro changed the balance.
"We had various options to try and break through, and it's true that Cesc and Pedro moved well between the lines, with intelligence, and it was from that the gap eventually appeared," he said.
He will be pleased to have had a relatively tough run out before Spain host France next month in a repeat of their meeting at the quarter-finals of Euro 2012 in Donetsk, when Spain comfortably won 2-0.
Deschamps, while admitting that his side were far from the finished article, said that it was mission accomplished thus far with two wins from two qualifiers.
"The great Spanish side only beat Georgia 1-0," he said bullishly.
"It is difficult for everyone. We must treasure these six points but the real reward is the overall spirit.
"The players are good together, but that is only so much bla bla if it isn't replicated on the pitch. But there is a unified spirit to make an effort and to hassle the opposition."