Fabian Schar sees Qatar dream become reality as Eddie Howe an interested spectator from afar
Fabian Schar reminded us once again on Monday night of the quality he possesses.
Only two Premier League starts for Newcastle United in over nine months and not a single minute on the pitch since September, totally sidelined by both Steve Bruce and Graeme Jones.
However, despite that lack of time on the pitch for United, against the odds Fabian Schar has helped guide his country to Qater.
Level on points at the top of Group C, Italy a two goal GD advantage, the very final round of World Cup qualifying group matches saw Switzerland with a tough ask.
However, Newcastle’s Fabian Schar and his Swiss teammates rose to the challenge and pulled off a 4-0 win against Bulgaria in their eighth and final group game.
Switzerland taking the lead just after half-time with a goal from Okafor, with then the Swiss coasting through the rest of that second-half with further goals from Vargas, Itten and Freuler.
Fabian Schar playing superbly and helping to prevent Bulgaria having a single effort on target, whilst also at the same time the Newcastle defender’s ability on the ball helping the Swiss to initiate many of their attacking moves when playing out from the back.
Attention then switching to Belfast, with Switzerland set to automatically qualify for the Qatar World Cup finals unless Italy won by at least two goals.
Jamal Lewis played the final 90 minutes for Northern Ireland at home, up against European champions Italy.
The visitors predictably dominated possession with 71% of the play but the Newcastle player at left wing-back helped limit Italy to very few clear chances.
Indeed, Jamal Lewis was arguably Northern Ireland’s biggest threat going forward as well, the Newcastle player five minutes after the break producing a great ball from the left for Saville, only for Donnarumma to pull off an outstanding save.
Lewis again got down the left and when pulling the ball back for Stuart Dallas it looked like this time the Newcastle man would get his assist, only for Dallas to put his effort just past the post.
Northern Ireland then had another chance to win it in the final seconds but Washington seeing his effort cleared off the line.
So in the final analysis, Switzerland getting automatic qualification by a relatively comfortable margin on the night, as the game in Belfast ended goalless.
That now leaves the final Group C table looking like this on Tuesday morning:
Jamal Lewis has been treated abysmally by Steve Bruce, despite spending £15m on the then Norwich defender, Bruce ended up totally sidelining him. Not a single Premier League start since February and only given six minutes in total off the bench this season despite Newcastle’s woeful defensive record, particularly on that left side where Ritchie has really struggled at the back.
Interesting to see what Eddie Howe now does, the only thing counting against both Lewis and Fabian Schar is that they will have less time to impress the new NUFC boss before the Brentford game on Saturday, as compared to those non-internationals left behind on Tyneside.
For Schar, making these World Cup finals is a massive boost as realistically it could be his final one, the Newcastle defender set to turn 30 in December. Whilst whether he is still a Newcastle player by the time of the Qatar World Cup in in major doubt, with his current NUFC deal set to end in June 2022.
Italy now face a play-off in March to see if they reach Qatar, the memory still fresh of missing their first World Cup finals since 1958 when losing to Sweden in a play-off and having to watch the Russia 2018 World Cup finals on TV.
Interesting to know what was going through Ryan Fraser’s head as he no doubt watched Scotland taking on Denmark last night.
The Newcastle player having pulled out of the Scotland squad due to a calf injury but both media and fans north of the border questioning the withdrawal, when Fraser was seen training last week with the NUFC squad.
Having ensured their play-off spot in March with a win over Moldova, Monday night saw the Scots stun Denmark who had a perfect nine wins out of nine going into the final group match, a 2-0 win for Scotland and Ryan Fraser no doubt with mixed emotions as Steve Clarke earlier showed he clearly was less than happy with the Newcastle player’s withdrawal.
This now leaves the final Group F table looking like this on Tuesday morning:
For Newcastle fans the only focus is on Saturday and a vital match, Eddie Howe and his players really needing to beat Brentford to get the recovery started.
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