By RYAN TOLMICH
Despite the absence Cristiano Ronaldo, few predicted Portugal’s clash with Albania would prove to be much of a challenge. However, the Albanians turned out to be more than the Portuguese could handle.
Albania kicked off their Euro 2016 qualifying campaign with a 1-0 upset victory over Portugal on Sunday in Aveiro, Portugal.
The hosts dominated much of the first half, but it was Albania’s Bekim Balaj who produced the game’s lone score with a spectacular volley in the 56th minute. Finding himself on the receiving end of a Odise Roshi cross, the 23-year-old forward was able to drift back to and fire a right footed shot into the back of the net to give his side the 1-0 victory.
Here is a rundown of international friendly results from the weekend:
COSTA RICA ERASE TWO-GOAL DEFICIT TO EARN SPOT IN GOLD CUP
Down a pair of goals to Panama with just ten minute remaining, it appeared that Costa Rica’s Copa Centroamericana fate would be left in the hands of the other sides that occupy Group B.
However, Los Ticos rallied with a pair of late goals Sunday to earn a 2-2 draw in Dallas to claim first place in the group through their pair of games.
Panama opened the scoring through a pair of second-half goals scored by forwards Blas Perez and Roberto Nurse in the 51st and 71st minutes, respectively. Costa Rica pulled one back through Johan Vanegas in the 81st minute, paving the way for an 87th minute penalty kick from Celso Borges to tie the score at two.
The contest was far from finished following Borges’ spot kick, as Panama earned a late penalty kick with all three points up for grabs. However, Ticos goalkeeper Patrick Pemberton guessed correctly to stop the ensuing Gabriel Gomez shot, leaving the two sides locked at two as time expired.
With the draw, Costa Rica earn a place in the 2015 Gold Cup. Los Ticos conclude their group play with four points, three points above Panama, who will look to makeup a three-goal deficit when they take on Nicaragua Wednesday.
GUATEMALA TAKE LEAD IN GROUP A WITH VICTORY OVER BELIZE
With just a one game remaining for each side in Group A of the Copa Centroamericana, Guatemala have asserted themselves as the group’s dominant side.
Guatemala picked up a 2-1 victory over Belize Sunday in Dallas to pick up the team’s second win in as many Copa Centroamericana contests.
The scoring was opened in the 26th minute through Guatemala’s Carlos Ruiz before Marvin Avila doubled the Guatemala advantage six minuted into the second half. Belize’s Deon McCaulay pulled one back in the 80th minute, but Belize failed to find that second goal as Guatemala emerged with all three points.
With the victory, Guatemala claim first place in Group A with the maximum points through the opening two contests. Guatemala will look to add to that tally Wednesday in a clash with Honduras while Belize takes on El Salvador that same night.
MULLER, GERMANY OUTLAST SCOTLAND IN EURO QUALIFYING OPENER
Despite a valiant effort from Scotland, Germany’s Tomas Muller found a way to continue his goalscoring exploits.
The German forward netted a brace, leading his side to a 2-1 victory over a lively Scotland side Sunday at Signal Iduna Park in Dortmund.
Muller opened the scoring with a header in the 18th minute, as Germany cruised in a dominant first half. The visitors gave the reigning World Cup champions a scare in the second half via a 66th minute finish from Ikechi Anya.
However, Muller once again proved to be the hero, ending Scotland’s joy just four minutes after Anya’s equalized by netting the eventual winning goal.
Georgia 1 – 2 Republic of Ireland
Hungary 1 – 2 Northern Ireland
Denmark 2 – 1 Armenia
Germany 2 – 1 Scotland
Gibralter 0 – 7 Poland
Faroe Islands 1 – 3 Finland
Greece 0 – 1 Romania
Portugal 0 – 1 Albania
Costa Rica 2 – 2 Panama
Guatemala 2 – 1 Belize
Honduras 0 – 1 El Salvador
Japan 0 – 2 Uruguay
South Korea 3 – 1 Venezuela
Kazakhstan 7 – 1 Kyrgyzstan
Brazil 1 – 0 Colombia
Palestine 7 – 3 Chinese Taipei
Vietnam 3 – 1 Hong Kong
Philippines 2 – 3 Myanmar
Singapore 2 – 1 Papua New Guinea
Bolivia 0 – 4 Ecuador
Chile 0 – 0 Mexico
Morocco 3 – 0 Libya
Paraguay 0 – 0 United Arab Emirates
Serbia 1 – 1 France
What did you think of these results? What is Portugal’s biggest concern? Who do you see as favorites in the Copa Centroamericana? Have any bold predictions for Euro 2018 qualifying?
Share your thoughts below.