A round-up of the final batch of internationalsOn the final day of international fixtures during the current break, Reading striker Matej Vydra found the net for Czech Republic to earn his nation a 1-1 draw away in Sweden in a friendly fixture.
After coming off the bench against Scotland last Thursday, Vydra’s appearance in Stockholm was the first time he had been named in the starting XI for his country in over 18 months following an unlucky spate of injuries at crucial moments that have kept him sidelined for much of the successful Euro 2016 qualifying campaign. But he did no harm to his chances of making a trip to France this summer by flinging himself bravely at Tomas Sivok’s cross to head Czech Republic level midway through the first period – Marcus Berg had opened the scoring for hosts Sweden earlier in the half.
Meanwhile in Dublin, Reading captain Paul McShane also had his name on the scoresheet, but not in the manner he would have wanted as he inadvertently turned into his own net against Slovakia as he started for Ireland. The visitors had gone ahead through Miroslav Stoch, but former Royals striker Shane Long won two penalties within the space of three minutes, converting one himself and James McClean the other to turn the match on its head. The scoring was rounded up on the stroke of half-time when Slovak full-back Peter Petarik’s low cross was accidentally turned past Rob Elliot at his near post by defender McShane; teammate Stephen Quinn was an unused sub.
The hopes of Garath McCleary and Michael Hector of reaching the 2018 World Cup in Russia with Jamaica took a bit of a hit in the small hours of Wednesday morning with a 3-0 defeat at the hands of Costa Rica. The group leaders had been held by the Reggae Boyz in Kingston earlier in the Easter weekend, but they had their revenge in San José with a comfortable victory; defender Hector played the entirety of the match. It means that Jamaica’s hope realistically hinge on getting a good result in their next outing in Panama; defeat would mathematically put progression to the next stage beyond their reach, while a victory would increase their prospects dramatically.
Ali Al-Habsi and Oman were defeated 2-0 in Tehran by Asia’s top-ranked side Iran on Tuesday – two early goals by Rostov striker Sardar Azmoun gave the hosts a win and ensured they finished their group undefeated. Despite defeat, Oman still finished second in their pool – however that wasn’t enough to qualify for the third qualifying round, as they weren’t placed amongst the top-four runners-up. As it turns out, they would have needed an unlikely heavy win in Iran to have secured passage to the next stage in order to make up the goal-difference on China.
Defender Dominic Hyam was an unused sub for Scotland Under-21 as they secured an important three points in their European Under-21 Championships qualifier against Northern Ireland in Paisley; Shay McCartan had struck early for the Ulstermen but the hosts hit three within 20 minutes during the second half through Oliver McBurnie and a Jason Cummings brace to keep the top two places within touching distance as they passed the midway stage of qualifying.