No surprises as Europe’s heavyweights secure World Cup qualifying wins

Kazakhstan France WCup 2022 Soccer
(Image credit: Stanislav Filippov)

Europe’s heavyweights secured World Cup qualifying wins with France registering their first Group D victory by beating Kazakhstan 2-0 in Astana.

World champions France, held 1-1 by Ukraine in Paris last Wednesday, scored both goals in the first half through Ousmane Dembele and Sergiy Maliy’s headed own goal.

Manchester United striker Anthony Martial was withdrawn after receiving treatment for an injury in the second half and Kylian Mbappe saw a 75th-minute penalty saved.

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England, Spain, Germany and Italy all secured wins to take control of their respective groups, while Switzerland’s Group C game against Lithuania in St Gallen was delayed by 15 minutes after one of the goalposts was replaced.

Xherdan Shaqiri scored the game’s only goal in the second minute, but not before a replacement goalframe was put in place after one of the posts from the original frame could not be sunk far enough into the ground.

Harry Kane ended his international goal drought as England won 2-0 against Albania in Tirana to go top of Group I.

Kane headed his first England goal since November 2019 from Luke Shaw’s cross shortly before half-time and later set up Mason Mount for an impressive finish just past the hour-mark.

Mason Mount celebrates with his England team-mates after scoring in Tirana

Mason Mount celebrates with his England team-mates after scoring in Tirana (Florian Abazaj/PA)

Kane struck the underside of the crossbar with a shot before the break and Phil Foden’s effort was turned onto a post early in the second period.

Dani Olmo’s stoppage-time goal snatched Spain a 2-1 come-from-behind win against Group B rivals Georgia in Tbilisi.

Olmo struck in the second minute of added time after Ferran Torres had cancelled out Khvicha Kvaratskhelia’s first-half opener for Georgia early in the second period.

Spain have four points from their opening two qualifiers after drawing 1-1 in Greece on Thursday.

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Denmark secured back-to-back wins in Group F by thrashing Moldova 8-0 in Herning.

The Danes, who won 2-0 in Israel on Thursday, led 5-0 at half-time thanks to Kasper Dolberg’s penalty, Mikkel Damsgaard’s brace and goals from Jens Stryger Larsen and Mathias Jensen.

Dolberg headed home Denmark’s sixth early in the second period, Robert Skov made it 7-0 and Marcus Ingvartsen completed the Danes’ record World Cup qualifying victory in the closing stages.

Armenia won 2-0 in Yerevan against Iceland to secure back-to-back wins in Group J. Second-half goals from Tigran Barseghyan and Khoren Bayramyan made it six points from two matches for Armenia, who won 1-0 in Liechtenstein on Thursday.

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Serge Gnabry scored the only goal of the game for Germany in their Group J match against Romania in Bucharest, while Andrea Belotti’s first-half penalty and Manuel Locatelli’s late effort against Bulgaria in Sofia kept Italy top of Group C.

Ludwig Augustinsson and Alexander Isak gave Sweden a 2-0 half-time lead in Kosovo before Seb Larsson’s penalty secured the Group B leaders a 3-0 win in Pristina.

Kosovo’s Bernard Berisha was sent off for a second yellow card offence in time added on.

Ryan Fraser’s second-half equaliser rescued Scotland a 1-1 draw against Group F rivals Israel, who led at the break through Dor Peretz’s long-range effort.

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Robert Lewandowski scored twice for Poland before Karol Swiderski’s late goal sealed a 3-0 home win against Andorra and Hungary won by the same score in San Marino. Both Poland and Hungary sit two points behind England in Group I.

Austria registered their first Group F win, 3-0 against the Faroe Islands in Vienna, the Ukraine survived the late dismissal of Vitaliy Mykolenko to draw 1-1 with Finland and North Macedonia thrashed Group J minnows Liechtenstein 5-0 in Skopje.

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