2014 World Cup Qualifying Results: Surprise Performances No One Saw Coming
The latest round of World Cup qualifiers have delivered a number of surprising results, with a number of teams falling to defeats which have severely dented their hopes of qualifying for the 2014 tournament in Brazil.
Indeed, the hopes of Denmark, Iceland, Croatia and Montenegro have all taken a setback in the last week, but credit must go to the sides who stunned many by producing some excellent displays.
Denmark 0-4 Armenia
Armenia had won just one game in qualifying until this result, which came in front of a shocked crowd in Copenhagen. The Danes had already been in a difficult position in Group B, with Italy leading the way at the front and a resurgent Bulgaria fighting it out with Czech Republic, but this result leaves them on the brink of effective elimination.
Yura Movsisyan was the hero for the Armenians, as he bagged a double to move Vardan Minasyan's men above Denmark on goal difference and keep their slender hopes of qualification alive.
Croatia 0-1 Scotland
Needing a result to keep pace with an excellent Belgium side at the top of Group A, defeat for Igor Stimac's Croatia against an already eliminated Scotland team was nothing short of disastrous.
It should have been a comfortable and straightforward success for the hosts, but Gordon Strachan's side defied the form books.
The Scots had won just two of their last six internationals, but they sealed a morale-boosting win by virtue of Robert Snodgrass' first-half effort.
Defeat leaves Croatia three points adrift of the Belgians and, although they are pretty much guaranteed a playoff spot, a defeat against a side lacking in true international quality will give potential playoff opponents the hope of exploiting their weaknesses and denying Stimac's men a place at the World Cup.
Iceland 2-4 Slovenia
Given the two sides' respective records in international tournaments, a Slovenian victory over Iceland would not normally be seen as too much of a surprise.
Slovenia have qualified for two of the last three World Cups, whereas Iceland have never qualified for a major tournament.
Yet it is the Scandinavian side who have been more impressive in qualifying, and they won 2-1 in the two teams' previous meeting in Ljubljana back in March.
Slovenia had previously sat at the bottom of Group E with just one win but had shown signs of improvement with a friendly win over Turkey before delivering a big blow to Iceland's prospects. Srecko Katanec's men came from 2-1 down to take all three points, Botjan Cesar and Rene Krhin ensuring success after Valter Birsa had leveled the scores from the spot.
Montenegro 0-4 Ukraine
Locked in a battle with England for first place in Group H, Montenegro needed a positive result to keep the pressure on Roy Hodgson's men.
However, Branko Brnovic's side did not achieve the result they desired, and they fell to a surprisingly heavy defeat against a Ukraine team that had previously underperformed.
Vladimir Volkov and Savo Pavicevic were dismissed in a hugely disappointing performance from the hosts, and their position at the summit of the group is very much under threat after both their goal difference and squad depth suffered severe damage.
Ukraine now sit a point behind second-placed England with four games to play, and with Poland still very much in contention for a place in the finals, the race for qualification in Group H promises to go right down to the wire.
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