Chris Gunter and Hal Robson-Kanu enjoyed a positive couple of performances for Wales over this international break, starting with a 1-0 win over Macedonia in Cardiff on Friday night (11th October). Wales were no doubt understrength, with Gunter playing at centre back as left-back Neil Taylor moved to the right to make way for Cardiff City youngster Declan John. Chris was praised for his performance, as was Hal Robson-Kanu who was a threat from the right wing. Royals’ fans will be interested to hear that Simon Church, now of Charlton, got the winner for the Welsh.
On Tuesday, Gunter, who made his senior debut back in 2007, was the youngest player to be awarded his 50th cap before his appearance in the Belgium away game- manager Chris Coleman has tipped him to go all the way to 100- and the 24 year-old was again solid in a decent 1-1 draw. Gunter and Kanu played again in the same positions as the already-qualified Belgium were held due to a late Aaron Ramsey strike.
Wales finished 5th in Group A with the poorest defensive record, and will be one of many teams looking at the expanded 24 team Euro 2016 as the most realistic route to a major tournament.
Jamaica have finished bottom, and winless, of the final round of CONCACAF (North American) qualification for the 2014 World Cup. This is typically around-about the place they always finish and with strong performances from Panama and the Brazil-bound-Honduras, 6th place was somewhat inevitable. The final two games of their qualifiers, a 2-0 loss to USA and a 2-2 draw at home to Honduras saw Reading captain Jobi Mcanuff play the full 90 in both, with Shaun Cummings an unused substitute with Garath McCleary injured. Watford right-back Lloyd Doyley was preferred over Cummings in both games.
Recent Reading signing Chris Baird was an unused substitute for Michael O’Neil’s Green and White Army in a 2-0 loss to Azerbaijan, but played the full 90 minutes in a morale-boosting draw in Israel. While impressive against the top sides, Northern Ireland’s record against the lesser sides Azerbaijan and Luxembourg sees them finish 5th in Group F on 7 points.
Kaspars Gorkss captained his nation once again, playing the entire game in Latvia’s 2-0 loss in Lithuania before a 2-2 draw versus Slovakia in Riga on Tuesday (15th October). The late goal by Renars Rode earned Latvia their 8th point of the 10 game campaign, both games were dead-rubbers before kick-off and Latvia finished 5th.
Stephen Kelly played for the Republic of Ireland in a tough game away to Germany, resulting in a 3-0 defeat. Following that Kelly was dropped to the bench for the 3-1 win at home to Kazakhstan to cap off a disappointing qualification period for the Republic, finishing 4th in Group C below Austria, Sweden and Germany.
The youth side section of this report has been steadily growing over the course of the season, testament to the quality of our academy and that international managers across Europe are taking notice of Reading as a source of such players.
Jake Cooper featured for the majority of England Under-19s’ game against Andorra in their European Championship qualifiers, a 7-0 win was the result. He was an unused sub in the subsequent 1-0 win over Switzerland as England progress from the Qualifying round to the Elite round in the spring.
Scotland U19s have also qualified for the elite group, and goalkeeper Jonathan Henly was part of the squad that progressed through their group, but didn’t feature.
The Republic of Ireland Under-19 side have also qualified, with Reading academy player Sean Long captaining the side in their 3 qualifiers; victories over Azerbaijan and Sweden before a draw with Bosnia. Liam Kelly was a late sub in the Azerbaijan win, before making headlines with an audacious halfway-line lob that secured the 3 points over Sweden- if you haven’t already, you can watch it here. He subsequently played the entire Bosnia draw.
Last but not least, we had two Reading-based youth internationals play in mini-tournaments for their respective teams; Icleand’s Sammi Fridjonsson and Estonia’s Bogdan Vastuk.