The Madrid Perspective: A Qualification Round-Up
Israel – Portugal (3-3)
Real Madrid’s Portuguese players spared their national team’s blushes for the game against Israel. Cristiano Ronaldo grabbed an assist for Hélder Postiga and Fábio Coentrão got a goal in extra time to make it 3-3 after the team went ahead early but found themselves 3-1 down in the final half hour.
Portugal are in a rough spot, and have it all to play for lying in third place behind Israel on goal-difference.
They play Azerbaijan, away, on Tuesday.
Kazakhstan – Germany (0-3)
In Europe’s most far-flung qualifier, Madrid’s Germans played a solid game on artificial grass in Astana.
Madrid's players provided the goals for their National teammates with Mesut Özil grabbing two assists (for Bastian Schweinsteiger and Thomas Mueller, respectively) and Sami Khedira another (for Mario Götze)in their 0-3 away win.
Die Mannschaft were rarely troubled and won comfortably.
Results in the other group game were favourable, with Sweden drawing at home to Trappatoni’s Ireland, and the Germans are now firmly in first place with a home-game against Kazakhstan on Tuesday.
France – Georgia (3-1)
France will be pleased as Punch with their position as first in the group after beating, rather convincingly, Georgia at home while results in Spain favoured their position as group leaders.
For Madrid fans, Karim Benzema’s performance will be a major concern. He was lacklustre and missed three excellent chances, scuffing wide when he had a good chance for the first and also missing a one-on-one with the Georgian keeper. He was jeered off the pitch when he was replaced on the hour.
In happier news, Raphaël Varane is now finally "the French International" after making one of the most anticipated debuts in years on a night when his team firmly took control of their group. He played very well.
Croatia – Serbia (2-0)
The round’s most emotional match was played in Croatia against Serbia – countries that a decade ago were at war and had never yet met before in competition. Croatia completely overwhelmed Serbia, with Luka Modrić in the starting line-up and with Mario Mandžukić and Ivica Olić finding the goals before half-time.
A delighted Modrić posted a happy picture on his Instagram account to celebrate the win.
Croatia sit top of the group tied on points with Belgium, and will play Wales on Tuesday.
Spain – Finland (1-1)
Spain continued to struggle for goals on the night Sergio Ramos made European history as the youngest player to reach 100 caps for his country. He crowned his performance with Spain’s only goal, taken about 10 minutes after half-time and was clearly his team’s (if not the game’s) man-of-the-match.
Spain wasted a flurry chances however before Finland equalized through Teemu Pukki. This leaves the reigning World and European Champions reliant on results in other games in the group to avoid the play-offs or possible disqualification. France now sits firmly in first place, with a two point advantage, having drawn the game played in the last round in Madrid.
Alvaro Arbeloa was also in the line-up. He played poorly, offering no attacking threat, and looked tired.
Spain play France on Tuesday in what will now be the round’s most intriguing tie. The game will be played away.