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Dublin: 8 °C Friday 26 April, 2019
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6 things we learned from the international break

It was an interesting international week all around Europe.

Faroe Islands players celebrate their opening goal against Greece.
Faroe Islands players celebrate their opening goal against Greece.
Image: AP/Press Association Images

1. Wayne Rooney will smash the England scoring record

The Manchester United forward is now third in England’s list of record goalscorers, just two goals off Gary Lineker and three off Sir Bobby Charlton.

At 29-years-old Rooney is set to easily break that record and leave himself a long way ahead of the pack on retirement.

If he scores four goals within his next five games he’ll also have the same goals to game ratio as Charlton. On paper then Rooney will be the best England striker in history, although he’ll still be along way off Lineker’s ratio as the former Spurs striker managed 48 goals in just 80 appearances.

But, with possibly five or six years of international football left in him, you’d have to give Rooney a good chance of beating that. That, then, would mean that Wayne Rooney would unquestionably be the best England striker ever to live.

On paper anyway.

Soccer - International Friendly - Scotland v England - Celtic Park Rooney celebrates his first goal last night. Source: Owen Humphreys

2. Shane Long shouldn’t play up front on his own

Martin O’Neill’s tactics for Friday’s game in Glasgow failed to work. The choice to play a tight game with the emphasis on Scotland not scoring is perfectly understandable but to pump high balls up to Shane Long is not.

What Long gives is a never-ending work rate that causes problems for defences thanks to his selfless runs and holding the ball up. However, there is no point in having the Southampton man holding it up if there aren’t any other Ireland players within 15 yards of him.

On a few occasions he won some clever free kicks by getting in front of defenders as the ball came to him, forcing them to foul in an attempt to get the ball. Apart from that he did very little however, mainly through the fault of the tactics deployed and not the player himself.

The point remains, though, that without Robbie Keane, Ireland lack any sort of goalscoring prowess. For a striker, Long has a very average goalscoring record at both domestic and international level.

The Tipperary man has netted just 11 times in his 50 caps for Ireland, while he’s only scored seven times in his last 29 club games. Once Robbie Keane retires it’s hard to see where a consistent goalscorer will come from.

Shane Long dejected Long struggled on Friday in the lone-striker role. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

3. The current Italian team is one of the poorest ever

To put it simply: the Italian national team has gone from the attacking options of Alessandro Del Piero, Filipo Inzaghi, Christian Vieri and Fransesco Totti to Stephan El Sharaawy, Mario Balotelli and Graziano Pelle in less than a decade.

Serie A also now has the fewest homegrown players of any major European league. The 1-1 draw with Croatia on Sunday does not reflect how the game went as the Croats vastly outplayed their hosts and should really have won.

In a strange way the two interruptions during the game, due to Croatian fans throwing flares on to the pitch, probably hurt their team as it gave the Italians a chance to regroup after relentless Croatian pressure.

The Azzurri will most likely still qualify for the tournament as they lie second in Group H, behind Croatia only on goal difference, but the team itself will not invoke much fear into opponents.

Soccer - UEFA Euro 2016 - Qualifying - Group H - Italy v Croatia - San Siro - Milan Friday's game between Italy and Croatia had to be stopped twice due to crowd trouble. Source: Goran Stanzl/PIXSELL

4. Minnows should never be taken too lightly

It was a week to be remembered for the minnows of European qualifying as San Marino, the Faroe Islands and Lichtenstein picked up seven points between them.

The most amazing of all those results surely has to be the Faroe Islands 1-0 win over Greece on Friday night. The Euro 2004 champions are currently ranked 18th in the world while Brian Kerr’s former team sit comfortably in 187th position, just 21 places above the very bottom of the rankings.

And, just to boggle the mind a little bit more: in ranking terms that’s the equivalent of American Samoa (for a long time ranked the worst team in the world) beating Spain.

Yes, Spain.

Even more humiliating for the Greeks is that they now sit bottom of Group F, below the Faroes.

Another shock result was San Marino’s 0-0 draw with Estonia which meant that they chalked up their first ever European qualifying point. The country with a population of just 32,ooo managed to hold the Estonians to a draw in Serravalle. And, to put that into perspective, San Marino are currently ranked as the worst team in world football.

Lets not forget though, if it hadn’t been for Stephen Ireland’s scrambled winner eight seconds from time Ireland would have suffered the same humiliation in 2007.

Source: bokisa 2309/YouTube

5. Germany shouldn’t be feared as much as we first thought

Joachim Low’s side haven’t made the blistering start to the qualifiers that everyone thought they would. The world champions sit three points behind Poland after four games and haven’t really impressed at all yet.

There looks to be a slight lack of motivation within the squad, not surprising seeing as they achieved the pinnacle of what any international team can achieve just a few short months ago.

Even Friday’s 4-0 win over Gibraltar shows that, as they barely even made it into first gear against a team Ireland and Poland both put seven past. It’s hard to see the Germans not qualifying foe the tournament but they certainly won’t run away with the group as was predicted by many at the start of qualification.

Germany Gibraltar Euro Soccer Lukas Podolski has a shot on goal during Friday's match. Source: AP/Press Association Images

6. The England Supporters’ Band have very poor hearing

Last night’s friendly between Scotland and England was marred by chants of ‘Fuck the IRA’ from sections of the England travelling support.

The chants were in tune with the drum beat being played at the time by the Supporters’ Band (a group that is present at all England games and provides the background to most chants) but the band leader, John Hemmingham, this morning said that they were unaware they were providing the tune to such a chant.

Hemmingham says the band were playing the tune to the popular ‘Follow England Away’ chant that is often heard at England games. The offending chant was quite audible even on the television however, meaning it’s hard to see how the band could not have heard it.

Soccer - International Friendly - Scotland v England - Celtic Park England fans hold up a 'No Surrender' banner during last night's match. Source: Owen Humphreys

First published at 14.45

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