Portugal, Colombia and Argentina booked their place in Russia next summer while Italy and Switzerland will have to go through the play-offs.
The group stage of the FIFA World Cup qualification stage is now over and 23 teams have secured their places in Russia next summer, hoping to win the most prestigious trophy football has to offer.
In the night between Tuesday and Wednesday, the crazy South American group reached its conclusion: Argentina went to Ecuador and absolutely could not afford anything other than three points.
Lucas Biglia played from the first minute to the very last and he saw his side concede a goal already in the first minute as Romario Ibarra beat Sergio Romero. But luckily for La Albiceleste, the have who many consider the greatest player all of time – Lionel Messi. The Barcelona man scored a fantastic hat-trick (11′, 18′, 62′) to overturn the result and give Argentina the third place and a World Cup spot.
Another Milan player who comes back happy for South America is Cristian Zapata. The center back did not take part in Colombia’s 1-1 draw with Peru due to suspension, but watched as his side picked up a point which, due to Chile’s 3-0 defeat to Brazil, was enough for a place in Russia next summer.
Paraguay and Gustavo Gomez failed to qualify, however, as they were defeated 1-0 in Asuncion by the weakest side in the group – Venezuela. The Milan center back was sent off in the 90′ minute.
In Group B of the European qualifiers, Portugal hosted Switzerland in Lisbon, knowing that three points send them directly to the World Cup. Fernando Santos started André Silva, who scored and assisted against Andorra, alongside Cristiano Ronaldo while Vladimir Petković played Ricardo Rodriguez from the start, with Juventus’ Stephan Lichtsteiner on the opposite side of the defense.
Switzerland, who had won all of their 9 matches prior to this encounter, were far from their best and Portugal took advantage of it. In the 41′ minute, Eliseu’s cross created a bit of chaos in the Swiss defense, goalkeeper Yann Sommer dived to stop the ball from getting to Inter’s João Mário but it ended up hitting Johan Djourou and it was an own goal which gave A Selecção the desired lead.
In the 57′ minute, the big moment of André Silva arrived. It was a lovely team goal from Portugal as João Moutinho found Bernardo Silva who then sent a pass to the ex-Porto striker, who was on the opposite side of the penalty box; Andre stopped the ball brilliantly and scored Portugal’s second. He then went on to celebrate with nothing else but a sliding dab, as seen in the image below.
Silva was replaced in the 75′ minute and his goal was crucial as Portugal won 2-0. Ricardo Rodriguez meanwhile completed the 90 minutes and like his teammates, was underwhelming. Switzerland, like Italy, will have to go through the playoff round in November. They are one of the seeded teams.
On Monday night, Italy visited Albania. Leonardo Bonucci played the full match while Gianluigi Donnarumma was an unused sub. The Azzurri won the game 1-0 thanks to a goal from Inter’s Antonio Candreva (73′). Italy did better than against Macedonia and in particular Bonucci, after the criticism he suffered in the last match, had a good showing and was one of the better performers.
Hakan Çalhanoğlu returned from his one-match Turkey suspension to face Finland but it was a meaningless match between two sides that have already been eliminated from World Cup contention. The Milan man, who is banned for the Derby, played the full match as Turkey drew Finland 2-2.
André Silva scored for the second match in a row – and so did Patrick Cutrone. The Italy U21 side played Morocco for a friendly last evening and Luigi Di Biagio played Davide Calabria (as a captain) and Manuel Locatelli from the start in addition to the Milan striker, who’s been on fire.
In the 25′ minute, excellent ball-keeping ability from Cutrone was followed by a pass to Vittorio Parigini who sent a beautiful curling ball to the back of the Morocco net. 7 minutes before half time, Cutrone added a goal to his assist as Calabria played a terrific ball to the penalty box, and Patrick connected to score. Federico Bonazzoli scored Italy’s third in the 65′ minute, as Locatelli’s great pass found Lazio’s Alessandro Murgia who delivered the assist. Luca Vido, who was sold to Atalanta this summer (Milan reportedly have a buy-back clause) made it 4-0 in the 91′ minute.
Cutrone was substituted after 61 minutes while Calabria and Locatelli completed 75 minutes. All three had great performances and Patrick was picked by Wednesday’s edition of La Gazzetta dello Sport as the best performer of the night with a rating of 7/10, while Calabria and Loca got 6.5.
Matteo Gabbia meanwhile starred for Italy U19. He played 74 minutes in their 3-2 win over Sweden as part of the 2018 UEFA European Under-19 Championship qualification. The Rossoneri player scored two goals (45+1′, 59′) and Italy now have three wins out of three matches.
The World Cup qualification will be completed in November with the playoffs. Milan fans will keep a special eye on the performances of Italy, Croatia and Switzerland while Ivory Coast can also qualify.