Didier Deschamps made an extraordinary nine changes after the disappointing draw against Ukraine and was rewarded with an improved performance and three points in a 2-0 win against Kazakhstan. Anthony Martial and Ousmane Dembélé were involved in a slick move, started by Paul Pogba, that led to the opening goal and the Barcelona forward, who finished with a low right-footed shot, again showed that he is getting back to his best.
Joachim Löw praised his players’ “hunger and energy” after a hard fought but ultimately deserved 1-0 away win against Romania. The national coach said it was a marked improvement on the performance against Iceland and said he was pleased with most aspects of his team’s game, although added that they could perhaps have been more clinical. He reserved special praise for Emre Can, who performed well in an unfamiliar role at left-back after injuries and a Covid-19 case depleted the squad. Serge Gnabry scored the only goal of the game.
Roberto Martínez’s side rode their luck at times in the 1-1 draw with the Czech Republic, especially towards the end, and were not quite at their fluent best. True, Romelu Lukaku took his goal extremely well after a beautifully weighted through ball from Kevin De Bruyne, and the Manchester City midfielder hit the post, but one of the Euro 2020 favourites know they can play a lot better. “I am delighted with the performance of [Leandro] Trossard and [Jason] Denayer, but on Tuesday [against Belarus] it must be better,” Martínez told VTM.
Harry Kane was back in the starting lineup after being rested against San Marino and duly scored one goal and assisted the other in an ultimately comfortable 2-0 win against Albania. Gareth Southgate, however, was not completely satisfied. “I didn’t particularly like the way we managed the last 15 minutes. There were decisions that needed to be better in order to score more or not invite pressure,” he said. Phil Foden and Mason Mount impressed going forward and Luke Shaw had another good game.
Another impressive performance by Senol Gunes’s side, following up the 4-2 victory against Netherlands with a 3-0 win against Norway. Ozan Tufan led the way with two goals, the second a stunning long-range shot, and an effervescent display in midfield. The defence was equally impressive, though, with Leicester’s Caglar Soyuncu a rock who gave Erling Haaland few openings. “This is just the beginning of a journey,” said Gunes. “We have eight games left.”
Cristiano Ronaldo was furious after his 93rd-minute shot was deemed not to have crossed the line – it looked like it had, to be fair – meaning that the game against Serbia finished 2-2. Overall, though, it seemed like a fair result with Portugal dominating the first half, Diogo Jota scoring twice, and the hosts the second. The second half was uncharacteristically sloppy from Fernando Santos’s side and the coach will be criticised for waiting so long before making any changes.
Roberto Mancini had several reasons to be satisfied after a controlled 2-0 win against Bulgaria in Sofia. Italy defended resolutely, especially from set-pieces, were measured in possession and more dangerous in attack than in their previous game against Northern Ireland. Andrea Belotti and Manuel Locatelli got the goals and Mancini said: “I was very pleased with how we carried on attacking after the second goal. This is how we need to play.”
The Danes recorded their biggest ever win in World Cup qualifying, 8-0 against Moldova, and perhaps the most impressive thing about the victory was that the national team coach, Kasper Hjulmand, achieved the historic result while resting several of his more experienced players. The performance of the 20-year-old Mikkel Damsgaard – two goals and two assists – stood out but the 21-year-old Andreas Skov Olsen also impressed while Marcus Ingvartsen scored on debut.
The fact that the coach, Jaroslav Silhavy, felt disappointed after a 1-1 draw against the highest ranked team in the world, Belgium, says it all. This was another impressive performance by his team and they could have won it twice at the end, Jan Boril hitting the bar after 84 minutes and Tomas Soucek seeing his header cleared off the line four minutes into added time. “I am proud of my team,” said Silhavy, and so he should be.
Luis Enrique was indebted to a long-range Dani Olmo strike in the 92nd minute to beat Georgia and Spain are certainly not firing on all cylinders at the moment. They fell behind and it was only really in the last 20 minutes, after Jordi Alba and Diego Llorente came on in wide positions and Thiago Alcântara in the middle, that they created much. Barcelona’s Pedri had another good game and may now be first choice in midfield for the Euros, but Pedro Porro struggled on the right-hand side of defence.
After a slightly surreal start to the evening – the goals were found to be 10cm too tall and had to be replaced – Vladimir Petkovic’s side did a professional job against Lithuania. It ended 1-0 after a very early goal from Xherdan Shaqiri but they hit the woodwork twice and should have won by more. The Liverpool player was once again a dominant figure with Augsburg’s Rubén Vargas also impressing.
Two games and two wins for Sweden after Zlatan Ibrahimovic made his return to the national team, and Sunday’s 3-0 win against Kosovo was far more pleasing than the narrow 1-0 victory against Georgia on Thursday. Ibrahimovic ended up with three assists from the two games and, more importantly, his partnership up front with Alexander Isak showed signs of real promise.
Paulo Sousa’s team did what they had to against Andorra, winning 3-0, but afterwards all the focus was on Robert Lewandowski’s knee injury which, it turned out, means he will miss the game against England on Wednesday. A blow for the newly appointed Portuguese but he was pleased with the performance against Andorra and especially the right hand side, telling uefa.com: “Our right side was really very good tonight. Bartosz Bereszynski cooperated with Kamil Jozwiak very well.”
Faroe Islands took a shock lead at the Ernst Happel Stadium in Vienna but a repeat of their famous win against Austria in 1990 never looked likely and the home side turned things around to finish 3-1 winners. Christoph Baumgartner and Sasa Kalajdzic were among the standout performers for the hosts. Both were on the scoresheet with the latter now having three goals in four games for Austria.
“Looking at the stats before the game it was a little bit scary,” admitted the coach, Rob Page, after Wales had beaten a Mexico side that had only lost one of their previous 22 games. But an inexperienced Wales side came out of the friendly with a 1-0 win and Page was able to test several youngsters, including Rhys Norrington-Davies and Ben Cabango. Up front, Kieffer Moore scored the only goal of the game and may have earned himself a starting place against the Czech Republic on Tuesday.
A step in the right direction after the 4-2 defeat in Turkey with Steven Berghuis and Luuk de Jong scoring in a 2-0 defeat of Latvia. Berghuis’s goal was a stunning left-footed strike from outside the area but Frank de Boer’s side were profligate, hitting the woodwork twice and missing several other good opportunities. The captain, Georginio Wijnaldum, was unimpressed at being taken off after 79 minutes and Memphis Depay likewise after 89. All is not well in the Oranje camp.
Stanislav Cherchesov was pleased to have ended Slovenia’s nine-game unbeaten run in Sochi on Saturday with a 2-1 win, pointing out that his team had played well for the full 90 minutes rather than just a half, which was the case against Malta in the previous game. Cherchesov opted for a three-man defence this time and it worked: Slovenia looked blunt. The in-form Artem Dzyuba scored another two goals.
Zlatko Dalic’s men did what they had to against Cyprus, winning 1-0, but this was another disjointed performance by the World Cup finalists. The coach made four changes from the defeat against Slovenia and played with a target man up front, Ante Budimir, but they created few chances. Luka Modric became Croatia’s most capped player with 135 appearances.
It was not the most fluent of performances but Hungary got the job done against San Marino, winning 3-0, scoring two penalties and missing one. Adam Szalai got the first goal after 13 minutes but then they had to wait until deep into the second half before the game was put out of San Marino’s reach. The continued absence of the injured Dominik Szoboszlai is troubling for the coach, Marco Rossi.
It almost felt as if all the hard work that went into the 1-1 draw in France last Wednesday were thrown away in another 1-1 draw, this time at home against Finland. Andriy Shevchenko’s side dominated but there was not enough energy or creativity to break down the hard-working visitors. They would still have taken all three points but for an inexplicably rash challenge from Vitaliy Mykolenko on Teemu Pukki in the 89th minute which led to a penalty and a red card.
A rather insipid first 45 minutes did for Steve Clarke’s men in Israel on Sunday, his team unable to get the three points despite improving in the second half. The game finished 1-1 and the Scots already face an uphill task qualifying for the 2022 World Cup having started their campaign with two draws. “We didn’t start well but the group showed character,” said Clarke. “It is what it is, we take the point and move on.”
It took an 89th-minute Teemu Pukki penalty for Finland to get a point away against Ukraine. The Finns worked extremely hard and the 5-3-2 formation worked well defensively but the Norwich forward admitted that the overall performance had not been good enough. “We can’t be pleased with the way we played,” he said. “We didn’t manage to keep the ball. Ukraine were in control and we had to defend a lot.”
It was only Liechtenstein but North Macedonia won 5-0 and scored some exquisite goals along the way, including a cheeky ‘Panenka’ penalty by Ilija Nestorovski in the 82nd minute. The coach, Igor Angelovski, was also able to rest some players completely and took others off around the hour mark with the game against Germany on Wednesday in mind. North Macedonia are now unbeaten in seven games at home.
This has been a terrible start to World Cup qualifying for Stefan Tarkovic’s side, following up a draw against Cyprus with a draw against Malta on Saturday night. Remarkably, they were 2-0 down after 20 minutes, and although they fought back in the second half through goals from David Strelec and Milan Skriniar. It was difficult to argue with Strelec, the young Slovan Bratislava forward, when he said: “Instead of six points we have two. We feel sad and disappointed.”