For West Ham United players Robert Snodgrass and Havard Nordtveit, Sunday’s World Cup Qualifiers spelled a virtual must win for their countries at just the halfway point of their campaigns for Russia 2018.
Nordtveit’s team couldn’t come up with the required result; Snodgrass’ side, however, just barely did.
The Hammers marquee January signing went the full 90 in Scotland’s dramatic 1-0 victory over Slovenia in Glasgow, keeping hopes of making their first World Cup in 20 years alive.
With Gordon Strachan’s job on the line if his squad failed to get all three points, it seemed the Scots were destined for misery again after Celtic striker Leigh Griffiths hit the Slovenian post twice in the first half. Snodgrass wasn’t anywhere close to having the dynamic moments that Griffiths had in the match, and it appeared he and the rest of the Scots would be resigned to more frustration.
But suddenly in the 88th minute, Chris Martin received a Stuart Armstrong pass into the box and hit a scuffled, deflected shot that fooled world class Atletico Madrid keeper Jan Oblak for the winning goal. An eruption of celebration and relief swept through Hampden Park, as their national team provided joy in the face of continuous agony.
With England (13 points) a clear four points ahead of Slovakia in second, Scotland’s win see them climb to 7 points, just two points off Slovakia (9) in the playoff place and one from their Slovenian visitors (8).
Nordtveit and Norway could only wish to have that many points in Group C, as their disappointing campaign hit a new low with a listless 2-0 loss to Northern Ireland. The holding midfielder did play in his preferred position and went the full distance in Belfast, meaning he could factor in Slaven Bilic’s starting lineup next week against Hull City in wake of Pedro Obiang’s season ending injury.
Finally, Reading loanee Reece Oxford saw his U19 England side secure a rousing 3-0 win over Spain to secure their place in this summer’s European U19 Championships.