World Cup 2014 Qualifiers: Squads That Impressed During Friday's Crucial Matches
If Friday's slate of World Cup qualifiers served as any indication, some of the top teams in the world are already in elite form with Brazil still eight months away.
Three squads in very different positions—Netherlands already qualified, Germany a win away from qualification and England with still plenty of work to do to avoid a playoff—were especially transcendent on Friday.
Let's take a look.
Netherlands (Beat Hungary, 8-1)
The Oranje may have already qualified for Brazil as Group D winners back in September, but they seemed intent on making a statement against Hungary on Friday.
The Magical Magyars aren't pushovers by any means. They arrived with 14 points in eight matches, still with a legitimate shot at finishing second—and qualifying for a playoff spot—in Group D and gave the Netherlands a tough game—albeit to a 4-1 loss—in Budapest last year.
Louis Van Gaal's squad dropped the metaphorical hammer harder than Thor, though, as Robin Van Persie scored a hat-trick before being taken off in the 61st minute. Arjen Robben then added a cherry on the sundae with this world-class free-kick in the dying moments:
It honestly doesn't get more comprehensive than this.
The Oranje, per ESPN, controlled 74 percent of the possession, fired off 10 shots on goal and only conceded defensively via a penalty in a truly dominant performance.
Van Gaal's side failed to convince in September's qualifying matches against Estonia and Andorra, but this serves as a reminder that the Oranje—runners-up from 2010—are still one of the most talented sides in the world.
Germany (Beat Republic of Ireland, 3-0)
Sami Khedira, Andre Schurrle and Mesut Ozil all scored as Germany somehow made the 3-0 win over a solid Ireland side look incredibly easy en route to securing a World Cup spot.
Joachim Low's side toyed with the Irish for most of the night, casually knocking the ball around the pitch (the Germans controlled 75 percent of the possession) and getting whatever it wanted, whenever it wanted.
Perhaps most impressive was the depth that was on display.
Prolific scorer Marco Reus wasn't even included in the match-day squad, Mario Gotze and super in-form Sidney Sam came off the bench and players such as Mats Hummels and Julian Draxler weren't even used.
England (Beat Montenegro, 4-1)
It would hardly be hyperbole to call this England's best, most complete performance of 2013.
Roy Hodgson surprisingly elected to give 22-year-old Andros Townsend, who has been in solid form with Tottenham, his first-ever start for England.
It worked to an absolute tee as the electric Townsend used his speed to cause all kinds of trouble down the wing. He scored a cracker of a goal to put the match away and, according to WhoScored.com, he fired off three shots on target and completed a match-high (by far) five dribbles.
The young Townsend can be a little erratic at times (he was dispossessed five times), but he can also be a game-changer when he's taking on defenders with his speed and dribbling ability.
Who had the best overall performance on Friday?
Wayne Rooney was also tremendous, not only scoring a goal but also distributing beautifully (five key passes, per WhoScored.com) and showing impressive leadership—he deferred to Daniel Sturridge for a late penalty kick.
A win over Poland on Tuesday will now put England through to the World Cup.
Considering the Three Lions' form on Friday and the fact they will stay home at Wembley, that's looking like a near-guarantee at this point.
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