Agathe Vanmassenhove || Sports Reporter
This week marked the third international break of the 2023/2024 season and the last before the new year. The last games for direct qualification to Euro 2024 were played, along with some 2026 World Cup qualifiers and friendlies.
Let’s start with some strong qualifying games for the Euro 2024. The French National Team broke their record of ten goals in a single game, with an incredible 14 goals, while their opponent Gibraltar couldn’t score one. Gibraltar is known as a small and weak team, but the final score better reflects the strength of the French national team, who could earn the top FIFA ranking with a win against Greece on November 22nd. The game against Gibraltar allowed Les Bleus to preserve the first spot of their group in front of the Netherlands. Giroud and Mbappe both were able to score, with Mbappe scoring from the middle of the field, and Giroud scoring the last goal in extra time with an acrobatic flip. Deschamps’ team played confidently and is sure to have an impressive performance in Euro 2024.
Spain also solidified their first spot in their group with a 3-1 win against Georgia. La Roja had a dominating game, much needed as they had to gain more points than Scotland. Despite the great score, the Spanish national team lost one of its most important midfielders, Gavi to an ACL injury, taking him out of play for six to nine months, and ending his hopes of playing in the Euro Championship. This raises questions about the number of international breaks within the regular season, a number that has grown in the past couple of years. Some have even started calling injuries sustained over the international break symptoms of the “FIFA Virus”, a sickness with incredible ramifications for some teams.
The final bracket for the Euro 2024 will be released on December 2nd. As of now, 17 nations have qualified: Germany (the host), Albania, England, Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Scotland, Spain, France, Hongria, Netherlands, Portugal, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia, Switzerland, and Turkey. Following the end of the eliminatory phase, three more spots will be available and will be played in March. As of now, countries like Greece, Poland, Finland, Bosnia, and Georgia do not have any more chances to qualify directly and will have to go through the playoffs in March. Italy will have a chance to finish second in their group on November 22nd with a win against Ukraine. The losing team will be eliminated, forcing them into the playoffs.
On the other side of the globe, Latin America is beginning qualifications for the 2026 World Cup. Despite their first loss since winning the World Cup last year, Argentina remains first in their group. Uruguay managed to beat the current World Champions with two goals from Ronald Araujo and Darwin Nuñez. The tension was high during the game with Uruguayan player Ugarte making some obscene gestures towards Argentinian player DePaul concerning his supposed role as Messi’s bodyguard. This gesture led Messi to speak about the lack of respect from the other team after the game, while Argentina was criticized for their lack of respect against their opponents during the 2022 World Cup.
The regular season will be back this weekend until the end of December. The next international break will be in March.
Sophomore Agathe Vanmassenhove is a Sports Reporter. Her email is email@example.com