Soccer

UEFA World Cup qualifiers: France’s Mbappe injured, Ronaldo makes history, racism ruins England win in Hungary

In a busy September international break, the first European zone 2022 FIFA World Cup qualifiers took place on Wednesday and Thursday with some surprise results. France failed to win at home to Bosnia-Herzegovina while Spain lost in Sweden and Euro champions Italy were held at home by Bulgaria. Unfortunately, racism once again reared its ugly head as England thumped Hungary in Budapest.

Some takeaways from the past two days.

Ronaldo breaks a record for Portugal

A late Cristiano Ronaldo brace broke Irish hearts and records on Thursday as the Portuguese superstar overtook Ali Daei with 111 international goals in a 2-1 win over Republic of Ireland. The win keeps Portugal top of Group A, and the Manchester United man is now the all-time men’s international goals leader.

Mbappe released for France duty

Kylian Mbappe has returned to Paris Saint-Germain after picking up a right calf injury during France’s 1-1 draw at home to Bosnia and Herzegovina in Group D. Antoine Griezmann cancelled out Edin Dzeko’s opener in Strasbourg before Jules Kounde was later sent off as Didier Deschamps’ men continue to struggle after flopping at this summer’s Euros.

Racism from Hungary fans mars England win

England beat Hungary 4-0 in Group I on Thursday, but racist abuse of the Three Lions’ players dominates the Friday headlines as FIFA launch an investigation into the abuse received by Raheem Sterling and Jude Bellingham in particular. The Manchester City man opened the scoring in Budapest before Harry Kane, Harry Maguire and Declan Rice completed a second half blitz for Gareth Southgate’s men.

Sweden stun Spain

In Group B, Sweden went one better than during the Euros and managed to beat Spain 2-1 to go top of the pile. Alexander Isak and Viktor Klaesson goals were enough for the Scandinavians who are next in competitive action against Greece on September 8.

Euro champions Italy held by Bulgaria

There was a surprise in Group C as newly crowned European kings Italy drew 1-1 with Bulgaria which extends their unbeaten run to 35. Federico Chiesa’s superb strike gave the Azzurri the lead in Florence, but Atanas Iliev’s equalizer secured a memorable result for the Bulgarians.

Lukaku lesson

Belgium’s Romelu Lukaku was in top form as he hit a brace in the Red Devils’ 5-2 thrashing of Estonia in Group E. The Chelsea man was joined on the score sheet by Hans Vanaken, Axel Witsel and Thomas Foket as Roberto Martinez’s men remain three points in front of Czech Republic.

Van Gaal returns

Louis Van Gaal’s return as Netherlands coach saw Oranje draw 1-1 with Norway as Erling Haaland scored for the hosts in Oslo while Group G rivals Turkey conceded a late equalizer to Montenegro after Cengiz Under and Yusuf Yazici had opened up a two-goal lead.

Flick era begins

Germany’s rebirth under Hansi Flick got underway with a 2-0 win away at Liechtenstein with Timo Werner and Leroy Sane getting the goals to hand their new boss the winning start he needed. However, the Germans remain one point behind Armenia in Group J.

Elsewhere

There was a 4-1 win for Poland over Albania in Group I as Robert Lewandowski was on target while Russia and Croatia shared a goalless draw in Group H, Denmark beat Scotland 2-0 in Group F and Austria were also victorious in Moldova.



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