To those who spout cliches that football is a funny old game or that there are no easy games in international soccer, have a look at some of the results in the early stages of European qualifying for the 2010 World Cup. Obviously, the easiest game was England away to FIFA fifth-ranked team Croatia. Cue wunderkind Theo Walcott's hat-trick and it did turn out to be a stroll in the park for the England boys. Not quite what was imagined as Croatia have dominated England recently and never lost a competitive game at home. This was the best performance by England since they dismantled Germany 5-1 in Germany back in 2001. Walcott was calm, quick and caused problems all night. David Beckham may never start another game for England again after this. I think it was all obviously down to the game Walcott played for Arsenal reserves against the Colorado Rapids on their preseason tour to the UK back in March. I'm sure we were thinking of picking him up on loan as he was not a sure starter for the Gunners but that might seem a little distant as a prospect now. The infamous Sun newspaper summed it up very nicely: "Walcott, 19, gave Croatia a real kick in the Balkans."
Elsewhere, the team of the moment appears to be Lithuania who have beaten both Romania (away) and Austria. Austria, themselves, beat France at the weekend. Fancied Portugal somehow managed to give three goals away to Denmark in the last eight minutes to lose at home, Finland drew with Germany and poor old Luxembourg, who basically never seem to win, got an away victory in Switzerland, hosts of Euro 2008. It's good that it's not as predictable as the Premier League. Thirteen teams will qualify for South Africa from Europe; the nine group winners and four of the runners-up. I'll try and write something periodically about the other qualifying zones.
Off to Rapids training tomorrow so will post something to preview the Chicago game on Sunday.