Top 10 Performances from Around the World for Weekend of March 26-29

Karl Matchett@@karlmatchettFeatured ColumnistMarch 30, 2015

Top 10 Performances from Around the World for Weekend of March 26-29

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    Dusan Vranic/Associated Press

    It's the international break in the world of football, and to reflect that, our weekly series looking at the best performances around the game focuses exclusively on matches between countries, rather than the domestic leagues still ongoing.

    African, Asian, South American and European sides all feature in our top 10 this time around, taking into account both friendly fixtures and competitive ones, including Euro 2016 qualifiers.

    We're judging the top selections based on result, performance during the game, quality of opposition, recent form and any impression made on the qualifying group tables.

    Our games are selected from fixtures between March 26 and March 29 on the international calendar—and here's our top 10.

10. Equatorial Guinea

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    Themba Hadebe/Associated Press

    It was only a friendly and only a draw, but Equatorial Guinea's improvement in results at the recent Africa Cup of Nations was evident in their performance and almost in the result on Sunday.

    They were leading the winners of 2015's tournament, Ivory Coast, until the final stages of Sunday's friendly and eventually had to settle for a 1-1 draw.

    Iban Salvador Edu scored their early goal before Max Gradel's late equaliser for the Ivory Coast.

9. Albania

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    HEKTOR PUSTINA/Associated Press

    Albania's unlikely rise to the top of European Championship qualifying Group I came partly as a result of them getting a shock win over Portugal in Matchday 1, but they have taken advantage of that start to really put themselves in the conversation for qualification.

    It might have all gone wrong on Sunday, as they trailed at home to bottom-of-the-group Armenia, but a late red card and comeback kept them level on points with Denmark for second place.

    Mergim Mavraj and Shkelzen Gashi netted the vital strikes in the late turnaround, as Albania won 2-1.

8. Bulgaria

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    Claudio Villa/Getty Images

    Bulgaria didn't win their fixture, but playing against tough opposition and being competitive in the match goes in their favour.

    Qualification isn't entirely out the window yet for Bulgaria—or, at least, third place and a playoff spot—and they helped their cause with a 2-2 draw at home against Italy. That result leaves them four points off the pace from Norway in third.

    A crazy initial period saw three goals go in during the opening 17 minutes, only for Bulgaria to cede a late equaliser to the Italians.

7. France

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    Laurent Cipriani/Associated Press

    France were only in friendly action this week, of course, being hosts of the Euro 2016 finals. After losing 3-1 to Brazil on Thursday, the French responded with a much better performance over a poor Denmark side on Sunday.

    The final scoreline of 2-0 didn't really reflect the superiority of France, especially in the first half, when Alexandre Lacazette and Olivier Giroud both found the target.

    Plenty of the fringe squad members picked up a cap to highlight the depth of talent available to manager Didier Deschamps, with the likes of Kurt Zouma, Nabil Fekir and Josuha Guilavogui all coming off the bench and Dimitri Payet and Laurent Koscielny in the starting lineup.

6. Scotland

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    Mark Runnacles/Getty Images

    Scotland were facing new and very mediocre opposition in the form of Gibraltar, but their win was worthy of note, nonetheless.

    Steven Fletcher hit the first hat-trick for Scotland at international level in more than 46 years, as his side ran out 6-1 winners. Determined and difficult opposition that they were, Scotland had to work hard at times to create space against Gibraltar and ended up scoring more than Georgia and Germany both managed against the new UEFA members.

    Scotland are in third in Group D, level on points with Germany and two points ahead of Ireland.

5. Senegal

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    Victor R. Caivano/Associated Press

    Senegal put in a big performance in their friendly match on Saturday, beating African rivals Ghana 2-1.

    With Ghana often one of the more successful sides from the continent—and one that others must aspire to emulate,—the win is huge Senegal, who have not been at their best over the last few major tournaments.

    Young attacker Moussa Konate hit both goals in the second half before Ghana's late consolation.

4. Japan

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    Kaz Photography/Getty Images

    Japan had a tough time at the World Cup and an awful one at the Asian Cup in January, so it's a time for rebuilding the side under new coach Vahid Halilhodzic.

    Things started in the best possible way for them, as they defeated fairly stout African opposition Tunisia 2-0 on Friday, with Shinji Okazaki and Keisuke Honda on the scoresheet. Both netted late in the second half to seal the victory.

    Another friendly against Uzbekistan, an emerging and growing force in Asian football, is up next for Japan on Tuesday.

3. Brazil

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    Francois Mori/Associated Press

    Brazil have been in fine recovery form post-World Cup, with reinstated coach Dunga doing well to find a balance between bringing in new players and getting results ahead of the Copa America this summer.

    A very strong performance on Thursday saw them defeat a full-strength France side 3-1 in a friendly, with Oscar, Neymar and Luiz Gustavo all on the scoresheet after initially falling behind in Paris.

    The South American side looked assured, confident and capable of creating chances both from set plays and on the counter-attack, as they ran out deserved winners in the end.

2. Croatia

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    Darko Bandic/Associated Press

    The biggest win from the Euro qualification matches on Saturday belonged to Croatia, as they destroyed Group H opponents Norway by a 5-1 scoreline.

    Norway were just a point and a place behind Croatia before the game, so it was a vital fixture in the development of the group. The home side proved far too strong, as they rattled in four second-half strikes to add to Marcelo Brozovic's 30th-minute opener.

    Even a late red card for Vedran Corluka didn't matter too much, as Croatia went two points clear at the top of the group after the day's results.

1. Wales

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    Ariel Schalit/Associated Press

    For a team that hasn't qualified for a major finals since the 1950s, Wales players and fans alike must now be hovering somewhere between having all nerve endings on edge and absolute dreamland.

    A terrific away performance on Saturday saw Wales beat then-Group B leaders Israel by an impressive 3-0 scoreline, with Aaron Ramsey scoring one and Gareth Bale netting the other two.

    The result sends Wales top of Group B on 11 points, two clear of Israel and three clear of Belgium, both of whom have a game in hand. With a five-point gap down to fourth and still the relative minnows of Cyprus and Andorra to play, Wales must be hugely confident of a top-three place at a minimum. But they must now be going all-out to ensure a top-two finish and thus automatic qualification for Euro 2016.

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