UEFA World Cup qualifying scores: Romelu Lukaku scores on 100th cap for Belgium; Italy drop points – CBS Sports - Techy Hunters


Sunday, September 5, 2021

UEFA World Cup qualifying scores: Romelu Lukaku scores on 100th cap for Belgium; Italy drop points – CBS Sports

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The likely World Cup qualifiers from Europe are beginning emerge as UEFA’s 10 groups reached the halfway stage this weekend. For some, qualification looks to be an increasing certainty with England now five from five in Group I and Belgium romping their way through Group E. However there is plenty of drama to be had elsewhere with European champions Italy struggling to keep their momentum going from the summer and Spain in a tussle with Sweden for Group B’s top spot.

Here are the results from Sunday:

UEFA World Cup qualifying scores

Group B
Spain 4, Georgia 0
Kosovo 1, Greece 1

Group C
Bulgaria 1, Lithuania 0
Switzerland 0, Italy 0

Group E
Belarus 2, Wales 3
Belgium 3, Czech Republic 0

Group I
England 4, Andorra 0
Albania 1, Hungary 0
San Marino 1, Poland 7

Group J
Iceland 2, North Macedonia 2
Romania 2, Liechtenstein 0
Germany 6, Armenia 0

Lukaku marks his century in style

A player of Romelu Lukaku’s excellence would never let an occasion as significant as his 100th cap pass by without offering a healthy reminder of the quality that has seen him reach a century of Belgium appearances scarcely more than six months after his 28th birthday. The Chelsea striker continued his excellent start to the new season inside eight minutes, his 67th international goal a classic of his genre.

Timing his run to a tee, he darted down the inside right channel to collect Hans Vanaken’s through ball. Opening up his body he shaped to bend the ball inside Tomas Vaclik’s far post but instead lifted it high into the top corner. 

To make a tough task all the more challenging for the visiting team goalkeeper Vaclik was forced off after 13 minutes, unable to shake off the injury he had suffered in a collision with Lukaku just 30 seconds into the game. The No. 9 was a constant menace to the Czech defense but he was not alone on an impressive night from Belgium, whose passing moves cut through the opposition swiftly and crisply.

The game was over four minutes before the break, Youri Tielemans and Vanaken combining to tee up Eden Hazard for his first international goal since November 2019. Alexis Saelemaekers would add a third just after the hour, both of the earlier scorers teeing him up with one touch flicks that put him in position to sidefoot the ball past substitute goalkeeper Jindrik Stanek.

The victory opened up a six-point lead for Belgium at the top of Group E and was celebrated no less enthusiastically in Cardiff with Wales now only a point behind the Czech Republic having played two games fewer.

Italy drop more points

Italy’s slow start to life since winning Euro 2020 continued as they followed their 1-1 draw at home to Bulgaria with a goalless draw in Basel. Roberto Mancini’s side had their chances early on against a Switzerland side that with key figures missing through injury and COVID and new management bedding in needed time to settle into the game. Their slow start should have been punished, not least by Domenico Berardi. One on one with the Swiss goalkeeper he somehow contrived to roll the ball at his arms.

That was rather the story of the match, Italy — who set a record with their 36th match in a row without defeat — getting themselves into good positions but not really testing Yann Sommer, a shot stopper who proved at Euro 2020 that he only lets the best shots go beyond him. There were not many of them from the European champions.

Lorenzo Insigne curled wide just after the hour from the sort of spot on the left edge of the penalty area where he so often pings the ball in at the far post. As the half wore on, however, Switzerland settled into the game and Manuel Akanji’s header from a set piece flew wide in what might have been a decisive moment for the home team.

Italy’s profligacy continued into  the second period when a pair of errors by Ricardo Rodriguez in quick succession went unpunished. First the left back miscued his clearance then made matters worse by diving in to bring down Berardi. Sommer ensured his teammates clumsy defending went unpunished, letting Jorginho try his hop and skip from the penalty spot but refusing to commit until the Chelsea midfielder tamely rolled a shot to his left. 

Spain, Germany retake top spots with impressive wins

Having begun their qualification campaigns in somewhat cumbersome fashion with dropped points against teams they might have expected to beat there was suddenly little room for further slip ups if perennial qualifiers Germany and Spain were to book their spots in Qatar. Neither looked to be in the mood to take risks as they romped to convincing wins over Armenia and Georgia.

For Spain the challenge has been turning good football into goals, familiar foibles that had been on full display as they dominated possession and shots in a 2-1 defeat to Sweden that saw them slip off top spot in Group B. They are back there for now — albeit having played two more games than the Swedes and with one more point to their name — after an imposing win in Badajoz that began in scruffy fashion when Jose Gaya’s shot deflected off Guram Kashia in the 14th minute. By half time Luis Enrique’s side were three goals to the good, Carlos Soler scoring his second goal in as many caps before Ferran Torres’ miscued third.

Pablo Sarabia added further lustre to the scoreline in the second half, leading and finishing a searing counterattack with smart work from Pablo Fornals in between, whilst Luis Enrique was sufficiently secure in the result to hand Brighton goalkeeper Robert Sanchez his international debut as a substitute.

Germany’s win in Stuttgart was even more emphatic, a 6-0 victory that made it two wins from two under new manager Hansi Flick. Serge Gnabry got Die Mannschaft off to a flying start with two goals in the first 15 minutes before Marco Reus and Timo Werner took the scoreline to 4-0 before the interval, the latter netting his second in as many international games.

Jonas Hofmann had performed impressively in a full back role for Flick and was rewarded with a goal before two of the great young hopes of German football combined for the sixth in added time, Florian Wirtz giving the ball to Karim Adeyemi, darting on for the pass back to him before teeing up the Red Bull Salzburg striker for a goal on his international debut.  

England make heavy weather of Andorra win

England were always going to beat Andorra, the sixth-lowest ranked nation in Europe. Really the only issue to be decided in the Wembley sun was how many they’d score, whether they could really cut loose and who would make the most of the minutes afforded to them as Gareth Southgate made 11 changes from the side that won in Hungary.

Ultimately they got a comprehensive win that ensures they are five from five in Group I but this was hardly a great watch for home supporters in England’s first match since the Euro 2020 final. The hosts moved the ball neatly enough but no matter the quality of opponents it will rarely be easy to break down opposition that will put 10 or 11 men behind the ball.

Though it is sometimes hard to assess performances in what is a glorified attack versus defense training drill, the shining light might have been Jude Bellingham. The Borussia Dortmund midfielder is used to a higher class of opponent in the Bundesliga and seemed to relish the chance to delve deep into his box of tricks, drawing Andorran defenders to him and then brushing by them.

That was how England’s opener came about. As the opposition gravitated towards him Bellingham had the vision to switch the play to Saka on the left. The cross was not exactly to the standard that Arsenal fans have come to expect of the youngster they call their starboy but Marc Vales’ clearing header only went as far as Lingard, who dragged the ball out from beneath his feet with a low drive into the bottom corner.

That was nothing compared to when Lingard put the ball in the net for the second time, a lob that seemed to float out of Wembley’s orbit before dropping into Josep Gomes’ net. He was a fair few feet offside when debutant Patrick Bamford played him in, perhaps the linesman just wanted to see what Lingard would do. It was worth letting him play on.

It was to Andorra’s credit that they stayed in the contest for as long as they did, though England wasted their share of chances including a Conor Coady bicycle kick over the bar. It was the sort of day where the Wolverhampton Wanderers center back was allowed to try those sorts of shots. Making his debut on his birthday, Bamford was rather starved of the service he needed to mark that special moment with a goal. Indeed not until he made way for Harry Kane did the second arrive, fellow substitutes Jack Grealish and Mason Mount combining to win a penalty that their captain converted for his 39th international goal.

Lingard soon added the third, Saka cutting infield and teeing up the No. 10, whose top-spin shot bounced awkwardly in front of Gomes and reared over the Andorra goalkeeper. Roles were reversed for the fourth as Trent Alexander-Arnold took a quick corner to Lingard, a drilled cross flicked in by Saka as he celebrated his birthday — and return to Wembley after his miss in the Euro 2020 final penalty shootout — in style.

Bale the hero in vital Wales win

England may not be the only one of the “home nations” to reach Qatar next winter with Wales firmly in the hunt for a top-two berth in their group after a thrilling late win over Belarus in Kazan, Russia. As has so often been the case in their recent footballing history Gareth Bale was the Welsh hero, his hat trick turning what threatened to be a damaging defeat for Rob Page’s side into a vital win.

Bale’s first two goals came from the penalty spot, opening the scoring in the sixth minute and drawing the nominally away side level in the 69th minute after goals from Vitali Lisakovich and Pavel Sedko put the Belarussians ahead in a thrilling period around the half hour. It seemed like Wales, without four injured starters including Aaron Ramsey and with several players unable to make the trip to Russia due to visa issues, were set for a damaging loss in what is shaping up to be a tightly contested group as the clock ticked beyond the hour mark.

However a clumsy foul by Max Ebong as Ben Davies flew through the air gave Bale a chance to draw the game equal, one he took with composure. If the first two goals had not tested the Real Madrid man’s technique his late winner asked plenty of Wales’ record scorer.  Substitute Mark Harris forced the issue in added time, finding space in the left side of the box and squirming an effort that was just cleared in front of the goal line by a recovering defender. Belarus could not have wished for a worse opponent to see waiting for the rebound. Off balance and moving away from goal, Bale did superbly to hook his left foot around the ball with sufficient pace to beat Sergei Chernik as he scrambled back. 

He had not scored an international goal in two years but it was worth waiting for that trio; with Belgium thumping the Czech Republic in Brussels later on in the day Wales found themselves a point off second having played two fewer games. A win or even a draw in Plzen next month would put a top-two berth within Welsh control.

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