AC&M Soccer Insights cover, Landon Donovan

Soccer Insights – October Vol. 2

The second international break of the season has thrown up plenty of big stories and surprise results; here is a round-up of the major talking points.

Landon Donovan bids farewell to Team USA
On Friday evening, US soccer legend Landon Donovan made his final appearance for the team in a 1-1 draw with Ecuador (not that many people paid attention to the scoreline). He ends his international career with 157 caps, 57 goals and 58 assists, and will forever go down as one of the greatest ever US players to grace the field.

Before the game, Donovan was presented with a collage of 19 US soccer team jerseys from his career. He had a hand in the opening goal for the US, and came so close to a fairytale moment when through on goal in the 25th minute, but he was denied by the post. He was substituted in the 41st minute to a standing ovation from players and fans alike, and even embraced Jurgen Klinsmann as he left the pitch, despite their strained relationship after the coach omitted Donovan from his World Cup squad last summer.

Donovan will now return to the LA Galaxy, as he looks to lead them to the MLS Cup before his retirement from the game.

Diego Tardelli the toast of Brazil
Brazil won the Superclasico de las Americas with a 2-0 victory over Argentina in Beijing. Diego Tardelli was the hero for Brazil, scoring both goals on his international debut. Leo Messi had a night to forget as he saw a penalty saved by Brazil goalkeeper Jefferson when the score was 1-0. Kaka and Robinho both made appearances for Brazil as they continue their rehabilitation under new coach Dunga.

Both sides faced easier opposition in their second games, Brazil beating Japan 4-0 with Neymar scoring all four goals, and Argentina hammering Hong Kong 7-0, with Higuain, Messi and Gaitan all scoring braces.

Netherlands crash to defeat in Iceland
Gylfi Sigurdsson scored both goals in the 2-0 win for Iceland, their first ever victory over the Dutch. Iceland, who came so close to qualifying for the World Cup last summer, have continued with their excellent form and sit on top of their group with three wins out of three.

Meanwhile, Netherlands are in trouble having already lost away to Czech Republic. They sit six points behind the Czechs and Iceland, meaning the pressure is really on the team that finished third in the World Cup just three months ago.

Spain suffer setback against Slovakia
After a catastrophic World Cup, the last thing Spain wanted was a defeat against a low ranked opponent, but that is exactly what happened when they travelled to Slovakia. They fell behind after Iker Casillas misjudged a free-kick, and although they looked to have salvaged a draw when Alcacer scored late on, Slovakia stole all three points with a header minutes from time.

The shock defeat was Spain’s first loss in a qualifying match for eight years, when they lost 2-0 to Sweden in 2006. Despite this, they will still be big favourites to win their group and bounced back with a comfortable victory over minnows Luxembourg, where Diego Costa scored his first international goal.

Luis Suarez back among the goals for Uruguay
Following the appeal of his ban for biting, Luis Suarez can play in friendly matches for club and country, although his is still banned for nine competitive international games, meaning he will miss the 2015 Copa America. Suarez scored his first goals for Uruguay since the World Cup with a brace in the 3-0 over Oman. His club ban expires later this month, with the El Clasico fixture at Bernabeu the first game he will be available for.

Mexico enjoy back-to-back victories
A successful international break for Mexico, who followed up their 2-0 win over Honduras with a 1-0 win against Panama, Erick Torres scoring the only goal of the game in the 89th minute. That’s now three wins in a row for Mexico, who play Netherlands and Belarus in friendlies next month.

15 year-old makes competitive debut for Norway
Martin Odegaard made history by becoming the youngest player to play a European qualifier at 15 years and 300 days old. The playmaker, who made his debut in a friendly against UAE in August, was introduced as a second-half substitute in the 2-1 win over Bulgaria. Having already been scouted by a host of Europe’s biggest clubs, the composure he showed on the international stage will have done nothing to dampen the hype surrounding him.

Poland earn first ever win over Germany
World champions Germany were stunned 2-0 by Poland in an historic victory for the underdogs. Germany created a host of chances but found home goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny in inspired form, and fell behind early in the second half when indecision from Manuel Neuer allowed Milik to score a header. Podolski hit the bar as Germany chased an equaliser, but a late second sealed a famous win for Poland. The defeat was the first qualifying loss for Germany in 33 games, since a 3-0 reverse against the Czech Republic in 2007.

What to look out for next week:

• Premier League – Manchester City host Tottenham in Saturday’s early kick-off
• La Liga – New boys Eibar face a daunting trip to Barcelona on Saturday
• Bundesliga – It’s top vs bottom as Bayern Munich host Werder Bremen this weekend
• Serie A – Two clubs that have made indifferent starts clash on Sunday when Napoli travel to Inter Milan
• Ligue 1 – PSG travel to Lens on Friday as they aim to close the eight point gap on leaders Marseille
• Liga MX – Leaders America face a tough home game with Monterrey on Saturday
• MLS – LA Galaxy and Seattle Sounders face off in a battle between the top two in the Western Conference
• Champions League Matchday 3 – Roma host Bayern Munich on Tuesday, and on Wednesday Real Madrid travel to Anfield to face Liverpool

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Greg Bortkiewicz