Another round of internationals done and dusted, and once again Liverpool's participants come out unscathed. That makes it two breaks in a row without serious injury, which is both a refreshing change and strangely unnerving. At least this latest break wraps up the European Championship qualifying group stage. Which just leaves potential injury during World Cup qualifying group play and more meaningless friendlies to look forward to in November. Because it never, ever ends…
Mexico 1, Brazil 2
With David Luiz scoring an own goal and Dani Alves getting sent off at the end of the first half, Brazil's prestige friendly against Mexico looked certain to deal another blow to embattled manager Mano Menezes. In the end, however, a perfect late free kick by Ronaldinho—who can still deliver from set plays even if he's largely become a liability from open play—followed by a goal of the century of the week rampage through the box by Marcelo would see Brazil unlikely victors on the day. And if it was a good day for Brazil when everything was said and done, it was a fantastic day for Lucas, who dominated midfield despite being left largely on his own for long stretches, winning tackles and pinging the ball about without pause.
If even half the Brazilian attackers had done the jobs they were tasked with even half as well as he had, the match would have never been in doubt. But they didn't, and now Liverpool fans will be left to worry about the shift he put in—and given timezones and typical flight schedules, he likely will be in North America until later today before catching an overnight flight that arrives in England on Thursday morning, leaving Liverpool's only reliable holding midfielder with two days to get over any jetlag while preparing to face Manchester United on Saturday.
World Cup 2014 Qualifiers
Paraguay 1, Uruguay 1
It will be a similar story transatlantic airmiles for Luis Suarez and Sebastian Coates, though at least it could be said that their game mattered, as Uruguay drew Paraguay in the early stages of World Cup 2014 qualification. Suarez put in a full ninety minutes, while with the two Diegos—Godin and Lugano—fit and ready, Coates was again relegated to the bench after his young player of the tournament winning display at the summer's Copa America.
A tight game in Asuncion had seemed to turn towards the visiting Uruguayans when Diego Forlan opened the scoring in the 67th minute, but Paraguay levelled in the final minute of regulation time to earn their first point of qualification. However, with Argentina going down to Venezuela in an upset, their inconsistent play continuing as they begin life with their third manager in just over a year, the draw against Paraguay leaves Uruguay alone on top of the CONMEBOL standings.
European Championship Qualifiers
Spain 3, Scotland 1
With first place in the group wrapped up for Spain, Iker Casillas took a rare night off for his national side. In a minor shock, however, it was Victor Valdes and not Pepe Reina who got the nod in his place as a Spanish side made up mostly of odds and ends who would be long shots to make the bench if the match mattered and the likes of Alonso, Iniesta, and Fabregas been fit cruised to an easy victory over Charlie Adam's Scotland. Given that Scotland needed to at least equal the Czech Republic's result on the final day of group competition, that they were so clearly and easily outclassed by the Spanish C Team makes it hard for them to complain overmuch that a 4-1 Czech victory over Lithuania signals the end of their Euro dreams.
There may be legitimate cause for complaint that the Czech Republic will advance in part because of a draw at Scotland earlier in the competition earned through a reprehensibly blatant dive in the box, yet if this was a side fighting for their proverbial lives, they didn't look it. Though perhaps this Spanish side is just that good, and the lineup of makeshift irregulars passing it around the second place aspirants as though they were a pub side only goes to show this.
Denmark 2, Portugal 1
It came down to the final match in Group H to decide the winner, and in a mild upset it is now Denmark and not Portugal who automatically qualify for next summer's competition. Former Liverpool players Christian Poulsen and Raul Meireles were involved for their respective sides, though with Daniel Agger still working his way back to full fitness the match lacked an obvious rooting interest.
Bulgaria 0, Wales 1
Elsewhere, Craig Bellamy played ninety minutes in a match that meant nothing to either side. Bellamy had a number of chances on the day, though in the end it fell to the greatest player in the history of the multiverse not named Ryan Giggs, aka. Gareth Bale, to give an at times exciting Welsh side a consolation victory to take home. From a Liverpool perspective, that Bellamy played ninety minutes would seem to ensure that any involvement on Saturday will be from the bench.
Sweden 3, Netherlands 2
The match didn't matter for Holland, who wrapped up first place long ago, but for Sweden a victory would ensure a spot at next summer's Euros as the top second-place finisher. After going down 1-0 in the early going, the Dutch would pull level through Klaas-Jan Huntelaar before a Dirk Kuyt strike early in the second saw them take the lead. However, back to back Swedish goals would soon put the home side up for good, and Kuyt would be taken off for the final twenty minutes
Macedonia 1, Slovakia 1
Both countries were stuck on the outside no matter Tuesday's results, and the result of that was a lifeless encounter in Skopje that saw a number of regular starters—including Martin Skrtel—rested for Slovakia.
With the qualifying group stages now wrapped up, it means that Germany, Russia, Italy, France, the Netherlands, Greece, England, Denmark, and Spain will join co-hosts Poland and Ukraine at next summer's finals as group winners. Along with them, Sweden will be there as the top runner up, while Portugal, Croatia, the Republic of Ireland, Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Montenegro, and Turkey will compete in a playoff for the four remaining spots.