Sunday, October 11, 2015

Ups and Downs for Sporting Internationals

Four Sporting KC players were on national team duty this week. The three important games have all taken place with only one game left.Krisztian Nemeth and Hungary had their European Cup qualifiers against the Faroe Islands and Greece, and Matt Besler, Graham Zusi, and the US had the CONCACAF Cup against Mexico. The one game left is Marcel de Jong and Canada's friendly against Ghana. Besler and Zusi will be returning to KC ahead of their game on Friday against San Jose and will not be participating in the USA's friendly against Costa Rica on Tuesday.

For Nemeth and Hungary it was a big week with a pair of European qualifiers. In their first game against the Faroe's, Nemeth started on the bench for Hungary in Budapest. An early goal by the Faroe's put Hungary in the whole early. When they were still trailing at half time Nemeth and Daniel Bode were both inserted into the game. The moves paid off as Bode scored twice to help Hungary to a 2-1 win. The win combined with Romania's draw with Finland saw Hungary clinch at least second place.

Today Nemeth started for Hungary in their final group game in Greece. With Greece guaranteed to finish last in the group, this game only mattered for Hungary if Romania fell on the road against the Faroe Islands. Unfortunately for Hungary around the same time they fell behind 1-0 to Greece  Romania was grabbing a lead themselves. Romania ended up rolling to a 3-0 win clinching second place in the group. Hungary and Greece put on a good show. Before half time Hungary was level off a header. In the second half Hungary took the lead as Nemeth scored his second career international goal. Unfortunately minutes later Greece equalized to level the game at 2-2. Nemeth though again found the back of the net for his second goal of the game to again give Hungary the lead. Getting to three goals seemed a safe bet for Hungary grabbing all three points as they'd only allowed five goals in the previous nine games. But the Greeks again equalized shortly after Nemeth had put Hungary up 3-2. The Greeks continued to search for a winner and with less than five minutes left scored to make it 4-3 to the Greeks. While the loss doesn't hurt Hungary in terms of the standings it is still a disappointing result.

Now Hungary plays the waiting game to see if they qualify automatically as the best third place team or have to go through another stage of qualifiers. Currently Hungary sits at the top of the standings but only two teams can surpass them for points. The Ukraine who host Spain on Monday are one of them. If Spain can keep Ukraine from winning, Hungary will finish ahead of them.

The other result that Hungary needs in group A. Here there are a few results that could go Hungary's way. Turkey could lose to Iceland at home which would mean that they'd finish with with either nine or 13 points against the top five teams in the group. The other result is if Turkey ends up beating Iceland. If that happens, Hungary needs Latvia to not lose at home to Kazakhstan. A loss would see Kazakhstan jump above Latvia and into fifth place in the group. That would give Turkey four extra points as Turkey had two draws against Latvia and two wins vs Kazakhstan and bump them to 16 points against the top five teams in their group.

For the US things were a lot worse. Besler started in central defense against Mexico at the Rose Bowl in the CONCACAF Cup. The KC captain got pulled out of position on Mexico's opener, but had a solid game after that. The US tied the game through Geoff Cameron in the first half. The two teams went to extra time where Mexico again scored early to take a 2-1 lead. The US fought back a second time with Bobby Wood finding the back of the net again. Unfortunately Mexico found a third goal late in extra time to give them a 3-2 win and a ticket to the 2017 Confederations Cup. Zusi was an unused substitute for the US.

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