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International Break Recap

USA v Trinidad 11/23

It was an extremely busy week-and-a-half of international soccer, with qualifiers, friendlies, quarterfinals, and everything in between being played across the globe. Euro 2024 qualifying wrapped up the group stage, while World Cup 2026 qualifying was just getting started on a few continents nearby. Check out all of the action from what was an awesome international break, starting with your Loons. 

Outstanding Loons

Between Joseph Rosales’ outstanding performances for Honduras, Sang Bin’s Reynoso-esque free-kick against France’s U23 squad, and the Finnish duo of Robin Lod and Teemu Pukki linking up for a goal, it was a good international break to be a Loon. If you’re a fan of any of their national teams, though, you were left disappointed by some frustratingly close calls. 

Finland failed to qualify for Euro 2024 automatically, though they will compete in the play-offs in March for a final chance at the tournament. Honduras was knocked out of the Nations League and missed their easiest ticket to Copa America 2024, but will likewise have another chance at qualification early next year. 

Concacaf Nations League

Concacaf will never give us a tournament free of shenanigans or controversy; that’s why we love it. The Nations League quarterfinals brought plenty of drama last week, and Panama was seemingly the only nation able to avoid a misstep. The final four are set, with the USA taking on Jamaica while Panama faces Mexico in March. By advancing to this semifinal, all four nations have secured a spot in the 2024 Copa America. 

While an aggregate score of 4-2 saw the USA past a resilient Trinidad and Tobago side, it wasn’t smooth sailing. Game one’s 3-0 scoreline flatters the Stars and Stripes, while the more realistic 1-2 loss in Port of Spain showed that though the Soca Warriors have the United States’ number, the US did just enough to squeak by. Likewise, Honduras nearly took down El Tri after a 2-0 first-leg win. Mexico ultimately equalized at the death of leg two, winning the ensuing penalty shootout to advance. Jamaica had a similarly successful comeback after losing 1-2 to Canada in the first leg, storming back to win 3-2 at BMO Field and going through on away goals.

UEFA Euro 2024 Qualifying

The top two nations from each of the 10 UEFA Euro qualifying groups have officially clinched their spot at next summer’s competition, with a few notable names missing out on direct qualification. Three spots remain up for grabs, with the playoffs for said spots set to take place in March 2024. All of the traditional powerhouses are already in, but some very talented teams will be battling for those precious playoff prizes. 

Finland, Greece, Ukraine, Wales, and Poland all still have a chance at making it to Germany for the tournament. Luxembourg, Kazakhstan, Georgia, and Estonia stand out as some intriguing playoff participants, but the Hawks of Kazakhstan are the most likely of that group to cause some havoc. Erling Haaland’s Norway side hasn’t even made the playoffs, meaning the wait goes on to see one of the game’s most clinical finishers make his major tournament debut. 

World Cup Qualifying

A new round of qualifiers for the 2026 FIFA World Cup began during this window for the Asian Football Confederation (AFC), the Confederation of African Football (CAF), and the South American Football Confederation (CONMEBOL). No one was at risk of losing their chance at World Cup glory during this break, but a good start for some teams definitely made their road to North America a bit easier. 

The AFC began what is officially the second round of their qualifying process, with 36 teams broken up into nine groups. Each nation played their first two matches out of eight during this break, aiming to finish within the top two of their group to move on to the third round. Eight teams won both of their matches this time around, coming out of the break with a perfect six points out of six. These early frontrunners include Qatar, Japan, South Korea, Malaysia, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Australia. Some big scorelines saw the traditional powerhouses dominate, though Iran stumbled in their draw with Uzbekistan. 

Now that nine CAF teams will automatically qualify for 2026’s 48-team World Cup, CAF has begun a new format for qualifying in this window. Nine groups of six will play home-and-away matches against their group mates, with the group winners earning a spot at the next big dance. Most of the nations have now completed their first two matches, and while plenty of results followed the usual script, there were several surprises mixed in. 

Ghana’s 1-0 loss to Comoros has left them three points adrift of top spot in Group I, and in a qualifying setup as tight as this, those points may come back to haunt them. Early standouts have to be Egypt, Tunisia, and Ivory Coast, each of whom won both of their games without conceding a single goal.

Finally, there was more drama down in South American qualification, where all ten nations continued their fight to make it up north in 2026. Argentina is still leading the way with 15 points from six games, followed by Uruguay with 13 and Colombia with 12. Brazil is languishing at midtable, having earned just seven points thus far. This historically brutal qualification process was made a bit easier this time around, with CONMEBOL getting six automatic spots in 2026, two more than last time. 

Uruguay’s huge 2-0 win against Argentina was the biggest storyline of the window, while Argentina’s dicey 1-0 triumph in Rio caused pandemonium both on the field and in the stands of the Maracanã. Colombia and Uruguay were the only sides to win both of their matches this window, with Liverpool stars Darwin Núñez and Luis Díaz showing their quality.