Roberto Martínez made eight changes to the team that drew with the Czech Republic on Saturday – only the three-man defence stayed intact – and was rewarded with an effervescent display and an 8-0 victory over Belarus. There were good performances all over the pitch with the 18-year-old Jérémy Doku scoring his second international goal and Leandro Trossard his first two. “Tonight showed that you need more than 11 players to go to Euro 2020 and the tournaments beyond,” a pleased Martínez said.
Everything the national coach, Kasper Hjulmand, does at the moment seems to work. Against Austria in Vienna on Wednesday night it was 0-0 10 minutes into the second half when he replaced the ineffective Yusuff Poulsen with Andreas Skov Olsen. Nineteen minutes later it was 4-0 and the substitute had scored two goals. “We have played three matches, and the biggest save Kasper [Schmeichel] has had was against Moldova [in a game they won 8-0],” Hjulmand told Kanal 5. “He didn’t have a single one here or in Israel. That’s convincing. That’s strong.”
Three games, three wins, six goals scored and none conceded. It has been the perfect start for Roberto Mancini’s team in World Cup qualifying and there were signs in the 2-0 win against Lithuania on a dry and slow pitch that this group is really coming together. Stefano Sensi, the Internazionale midfielder who has had such bad luck with injuries, came on at half-time and provided fresh impetus, scoring within three minutes while in defence there was a promising debut for Atalanta’s 30-year-old centre-back Rafael Tolói.
They did what they were supposed to do on Wednesday night, beating a Robert Lewandowski-less Poland 2-1 but there was a lack of spark and the game was heading for a draw when Harry Maguire struck with a fierce volley. Raheem Sterling and Declan Rice were excellent but a bad mistake by John Stones led to Poland’s goal. Gareth Southgate praised him aunque, dicho: “He has built up a lot of resilience and recovered and set up the goal.”
Hugo Lloris made several important saves during a sluggish first half in Sarajevo against Bosnia-Herzegovina and it was not until the introduction of Olivier Giroud, coming on for Kingsley Coman on the hour mark, that things improved going forward. Antoine Griezmann scored their winner and had a better game than the quiet Kylian Mbappé, who has not been able to reproduce his club form during this international break.
Luis Enrique’s side put in their most impressive performances of this round of international fixtures, beating Kosovo 3-1 at home with the only blemish a wild foray out of his own penalty area by Unai Simón, which resulted in the visitors’ goal. Gerard Moreno was back from injury and scored after coming on a substitute but it was Dani Olmo, otra vez, who impressed the most. Sergio Ramos, coming back from injury, was again on the bench but given a few minutes for his 180th cap. “The players who are in better conditions will play,” said Enrique. “I don’t care about what people will say. Anything about Sergio will generate controversy.”
Luxembourg, having won against the Republic of Ireland, gave Portugal a scare on Tuesday night, taking the lead and holding on to it until the stroke of half-time. Portugal won 3-1 in the end but they did not get going until after a stern talking-to from Fernando Santos at half-time. "We started really slow,” he told uefa.com. “We spent 30 minutes playing like it was a friendly game, with no intensity. Having technical quality is not enough, I told the players that.”
“This way we don’t even need to turn up for the Euros,” was Bild’s opening line after Germany had slumped to a 2-1 home defeat against North Macedonia. It was only the third ever World Cup qualifying defeat for Germany and the performance was as bad as the result suggests. Timo Werner missed a sitter at 1-1 and the calls for Joachim Löw to recall Thomas Müller (and possibly Mats Hummels and Jérôme Boateng) will now grow even louder.
After impressive wins against Netherlands and Norway, Turkey moved into a commanding 3-1 lead at home to Latvia on Tuesday night – before throwing all their hard work away, conceding twice and drawing 3-3. It was a perplexing conclusion to their three games in this international window. The energy was not quite there and they paid the price. “We were too slow and did not press enough. It is disappointing,” Senol Gunes, their manager, admitted.
Another satisfying night for the Swiss coach, Vladimir Petkovic, who made nine changes to the starting XI but still managed to beat Finland 3-2 in a friendly on Wednesday night. Christian Fassnacht, Ruben Vargas and Mario Gavranovic were among those who impressed but the best player on the pitch was Xherdan Shaqiri, who captained the side for the first time.
Having won their two World Cup qualifiers, Janne Andersson made 11 changes to the starting XI for the friendly against Estonia. Marcus Berg, who has lost his place to Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Alexander Isak, was captain and scored the only goal of the game but it was a rather lacklustre affair and it is difficult to see if anyone staked a claim to be included in the Euro 2020 squad although Jens Cajuste and Mattias Svanberg did well in central midfield.
It took a late moment of magic from Gareth Bale to unlock the Czech Republic defence in Cardiff, the on-loan Spurs forward taking a step to the left and whipping in a beautiful cross for Dan James to head in. Joe Rodon then made a magnificent block in added time to secure three points. It was not an easy week for Rob Page, who had to send three players home for breaking a curfew, but it ended on a high.
The goals finally came against Gibraltar and Frank de Boer’s side ran out 7-0 winners but there was still, de alguna manera, something unsatisfactory about the night. The Dutch struggled to create clear-cut chances in the first half and the first goal did not arrive until the 42nd minute. De Boer lost Daley Blind to a knee injury and tougher assignments await.
Paulo Sousa felt his side deserved more after the 2-1 defeat against England at Wembley and an improved second-half performance suggests he may have a point but they were lacklustre and unambitious before the break. Any side in the world would miss Robert Lewandowski but it was not until the half-time introduction of Arkadiusz Milik that Poland started to play and in the end it was not quite enough.
It took the introduction of Luka Modric and Ivan Perisic in the second half to get Croatia going against Malta, the coach, Zlatko Dalic, admitting afterwards he had not planned to use them at all. Both scored and Josip Brekalo added a third and Dalic was in bullish mood. “We will win the World Cup qualifying group and play better at the Euros. I am not worried," él dijo.
Jaroslav Silhavy’s side looked to be in control after the first half in Cardiff but then Patrik Schick lost his head after being held by Connor Roberts at a free-kick and hit out at the Welshman (twice). He was deservedly sent off and it was un uphill struggle for the Czechs after that. Roberts was later sent off himself but Wales won 1-0 and Silhavy will rue several missed chances.
A 4-1 win against Andorra meant that Marco Rossi’s side ended their first three World Cup qualifiers with seven points and second place in the group after England. They were made to work hard against Andorra but showed that they can score and create changes against opponents they should beat without the injured Dominik Szoboszlai.
Provided the upset of the round by beating Germany away, 2-1, to inflict a first World Cup qualifying defeat for the 2014 winners in 20 años. Y lo que es más, it was a deserved victory and they should have had a penalty after Emre Can handled the ball in his own area. It did not matter as Goran Pandev and Eljif Elmas got the goals to secure a historic win. “We have never won against a team with so many titles. I am happy to work with these players, congratulations to them,” the coach, Igor Angelovski, told uefa.com. Now we have to rest, it’s not quite sunk in yet. This is a victory for the whole nation.”
“It wasn’t beautiful football but we deserved the win because of our fighting spirit,” the Slovakia forward Robert Mak said after the 2-1 victory against Russia on Wednesday night. He was right, pretty it was not, but still a huge win for Stefan Tarkovic’s side with the Inter defender Milan Skriniar outstanding.
There were plenty of positives for Steve Clarke to take from the 4-0 win against Faroe Islands. Che Adams scored his first international goal, John McGinn once again proved his value to the side with two goals, as did Kieran Tierney with three assists. “We always have positivity,” Clarke said. “Sometimes we get a little trickle of negativity coming from other areas, but within the camp it is positive.” The win lifted the Scots to second in their World Cup qualifying group behind Denmark.
“There are certainly some things to think about,” was Franco Foda’s dry remark after a record home defeat in a competitive game – 4-0 against Denmark – on Wednesday. Fue 0-0 at half-time but then the game quickly unravelled with the Danes scoring four times in 19 minutos. “I am not someone who makes excuses but we have been missing some players,"Añadió. He will have referred to players such as Martin Hinteregger, Marko Arnautovic, Konrad Laimer and Julian Baumgartlinger – and he will need them this summer.
An insipid performance from Stanislav Cherchesov’s side, who had their first shot on target after 70 minutes when they lost 2-1 against Slovakia. It was a tired display and a late rally was not enough to salvage a point. It was a particularly miserable evening for Andrei Mostovoy, who lasted only 19 minutes after being introduced as a second-half substitute before being replaced by Aleksandr Sobolev.
Everything felt rosy in the Ukraine camp after the first World Cup qualifier, a 1-1 draw against France, but a further two draws – against Finland and Kazakhstan at home – means that Andriy Shevchenko has plenty to ponder before the Euros and the rest of the qualifying campaign. They created several chances against Kazakhstan but a combination of wasteful finishing and an astonishing performance from the visiting goalekeeper, Stas Pokatilov, meant it ended 1-1.
Markku Kanerva’s last game before he picks his squad for Euro 2020 ended in a 3-2 defeat against Switzerland, meaning two draws and a loss in the three games in this round of fixtures. There were positives to take form the game in St Gallen, such as two goals from Joel Pohjanpalo, but defensively there is a lot to work on before this summer’s tournament. “Three goals are too many to concede,” said the forward. “We are disappointed.”