• Friday, 8 June 2012

    Marking your card #12

    A quick whizz round to pick out the picks of this weekend's viewing and it's an international football tournament frenzy!

    Yes, the Oceania Nations Cup final is on Sunday! Now, since Australia decided to bunk up with the Asian Federation, this is basically New Zealand's tournament. They're the only side in there with any significant number of professionals. Qualification for the last four - the tournament run along the lines of the pre-1980 European Championships - is based on World Cup qualifying results and New Zealand duly topped their group ahead of the Solomon Islands, Fiji and Papua New Guinea. Tahiti won Group A from New Caledonia with Vanuatu and whipping boys Samoa trailing in behind. The finals are taking place in the Solomon Islands and the semis were in the wee hours of this morning. Tahiti beat the hosts 1-0, but New Zealand crashed spectacularly against the tiny French dependency of New Caledonia. The final then sees the current and former French colonies face off, Tahiti probably favourites, with New Zealand and the Solomons contesting third place. Both games are on Sunday in a double-header at Honiara.

    World Cup qualification for Brazil is in full swing with matches all over the world. In Africa, it's the second round of fixtures in the second group stage. The picks here are Morocco v Cote d'Ivoire, Zambia v Ghana and South Africa v Botswana on Saturday Mali v Algeria on Sunday. Venezuela v Chile is the pick of the South Amercian qualifiers along with Uruguay v Peru, but most eyes will be on a friendly between Argentina and Brazil in New Jersey. Th third round of CONCACAF qualifying gets underway as well, the USA at home to Antigua and Barbuda in what, population-wise, is a total mismatch. Of the region's bigger players, Canada look to have the easier group and they start away to Cuba.

    League action does continue and there are three games to go in the Argentine Clausura. Boca have opened up a three-point lead at the top and face rock bottom Banfield, without a win in five, this weekend. Tigre and Arsenal are the nearest challengers with the latter's game against Argentinos Juniors the pick of the round. In Brazil, champions Corinthians got their first point of the season in this morning's game against Figueirense, but it's Vasco da Gama leading the way with three from three so far. They're away to Bahia this week, but most eyes will be on Palmeiras against Atlético Mineiro where a certain Ronaldinho Gaucho will make his first appearance for Atlético-MR following his sensational sacking by Flamengo. His former employers are at home to Coritiba.

    Sampdoria take a 3-2 lead into the second leg of the Serie B promotion play-off final with Varese. It's all all-square in the Segunda Division play-off semis in Spain where Hércules and Alcorcón are locked at 1-1 and Real Valladolid and Córdoba are goalless ahead of Sunday's return legs. Nacional take on Defensor Sporting, who finished top, in the Uruguayan Clausura final.

    Finally, there's a tiny wee competition in Poland and the Ukraine you may have heard about that starts today. Pick of the weekend's fixtures are Spain v Italy on Sunday and Saturday's Group B fixtures. It is, statistically speaking, the most morbid group of death in international football history with Portugal ranked 10th in the world, Denmark 9th, Germany 3rd and the Netherlands 4th. Saturday sees Germany take on Portugal and the Dutch play Denmark.

    That lot should keep you going.

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