FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022™ qualifying resumed on Wednesday
World champions France held as UEFA qualifying kicked-off
Road to Qatar 2022 also commenced in the Concacaf region with five matches
After a long wait, FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022™ qualifiers finally kicked-off in the UEFA and Concacaf zones on Wednesday. There were some surprising scorelines in Europe, with France held 1-1 at home by Ukraine, Croatia losing to Slovenia and Turkey outgunning three-time World Cup runners-up the Netherlands. There were also important wins for Serbia and Belgium.
FIFA.com summarises all the results, action and standout statistics. Live coverage of Qatar 2022 qualifiers will resume on Thursday with a lone AFC match and more action from the UEFA and Concacaf regions.
Burak Yilmaz celebrates putting Turkey 2-0 up against the Netherlands.
**IMAGO / Newspix24** Miralem Pjanic (C), Bosnia and Herzegovina and Teemu Pukki, Finland during their the football FIFA World Cup, WM, Weltmeisterschaft, Fussball qualifying round Group D match between Finland and Bosnia and Herzegovina at the Olympic Stadium on 24 March 2021 in Helsinki, Finland.
A 36th-minute own-goal proved enough for Portugal to beat Azerbaijan. Only an excellent performance from Shahruddin Mahammadaliyev kept the visitors in the game in the first half, with Cristiano Ronaldo denied on multiple occasions. Azerbaijan delivered a spirited second-half performance, giving their opponents a couple of scares on the counter-attack. Portugal extended their record winning streak in World Cup qualifiers to ten games.
The Irish, without a goal in their last seven matches, ended that drought through Alan Browne's towering back-post header. Dusan Vlahovic levelled for the hosts with a smart left-foot finish into the bottom-right corner before substitute Aleksandar Mitrovic put them ahead with a glorious chip from 30 yards. Mitrovic then completed the turnaround with a soaring leap and header to become his country's joint all-time leading scorer, with James Collins' scrappy late effort a mere consolation for the visitors.
Antoine Griezmann curled in a beautiful goal to open the scoring, moving him level with David Trezeguet in joint-fourth in the list of France's all-time scorers on 34 goals behind leader Thierry Henry, Olivier Giroud and Michel Platini. Serhii Sydorchuk equalised for Ukraine after his shot just inside the penalty area took a massive deflection off Presnel Kimpembe before nestling into the corner of the net.
After a goalless first half, the match burst into life in the second with Bosnia's star man Miralem Pjanic tucking away a close-range effort after Finland goalkeeper Jesse Joronen saved his initial penalty kick. However, Finland's star striker Teemu Pukki replied soon after, reacting after a shot hit off the crossbar. Pukki then completed his brace, finishing off a counter-attack for the Finns by calmly slotting past Ibrahim Sehic, before Miroslav Stevanovic equalised for the visitors.
Wales took a shock lead when Gareth Bale split the Belgium defence with a gorgeous through-ball for Harry Wilson, who slotted home. Belgium responded admirably though, with a fine Kevin De Bruyne strike and a Thorgan Hazard header putting them in front. Romelu Lukaku extended the advantage from the spot in the 73rd minute.
A 16-minute Tomas Soucek hat-trick powered Czech Republic to a 6-1 win in Estonia. The West Ham United midfielder went into the game having scored just four times in 30 caps. In-form Bayer Leverkusen forward Patrik Schick continued a goal and two assists.
Hosts Turkey took a 15th-minute lead when Burak Yilmaz's toe-poke flashed past Tim Krul via a cruel deflection off Mathijs de Ligt. The Netherlands pushed hard for an equaliser but were once again caught out on the break, with Yilmaz doubling his tally from the penalty spot, wrong-footing Krul after Donyell Malen had been penalised for a clumsy late challenge. Hakan Calhanoglu stunned Frank de Boer's team with a third within seconds of the restart, firing a low 25-yard shot beyond the flat-footed Krul. Just as the Dutch appeared to be running out of ideas, substitute Davy Klaasen pulled a goal back with a superb turn and finish and, seconds later, Luuk de Jong scrambled the ball home from close range. But Yilmaz completed his first international hat-trick - and settled Turkish nerves - with a glorious free-kick, whipped into the top-right corner from 20 yards.
Norway cruised to a 3-0 win away to Gibraltar. Alexander Sorloth, Kristian Thorstvedt and Jonas Svensson got the goals. Only a brilliant performance from goalkeeper Dale Coleing prevented a bigger defeat for the hosts. Norway have won four of their last five World Cup preliminaries, all without conceding.
A stunning opener for the hosts saw Janis Ikaunieks lash home a left-foot volley, but Stevan Jovetic poked Montenegro level seconds later. Jovetic then settled the outcome with a glorious second as the clock ticked down, dribbling across field before curling a 20-yard shot in off the underside of the crossbar.
Sandi Lovric was the hosts' hero, scoring to secure Slovenia a shock victory against the 2018 World Cup finalists in Ljubljana.
The 2018 World Cup hosts got their 2022 qualifying campaign under way with goals from front man Artem Dzyuba and right-back Mario Fernandes. Dzyuba turned provider for the second, with each effort squeezing past Maltese goalkeeper Henry Bonello. Joseph Mbong got one back for the hosts, scoring his first international goal in some style by thundering a shot past Anton Shunin from an acute angle. But Alexander Sobolev sealed the victory for Stanislav Cherchesov's side just minutes after coming off the bench, with his shot proving too powerful for Bonello.
The night's only goalless game in Europe saw visitors Slovakia dominate possession but their Cypriot hosts carve out arguably the better of the chances. A point apiece was ultimately a fair outcome.
A gritty victory for Guatemala over visiting Cuba thanks to Luiz Martinez’s goal approaching the hour mark. The win gives the Guatemalans a strong opening platform ahead of the other Group C match tomorrow between Curacao and St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
A lone strike just after half-time from Fran Nunez proved enough for Dominican Republic to edge victory over Caribbean neighbours Dominica and collect three important points. It is a first World Cup win for Los Quisqueyanos since their strong Brazil 2014 campaign.
Vinceroy Nelson's goal towards the end of the first half proved to be the difference in San Cristobal. They now have four wins in 11 World Cup qualifying matches, meaning they have only lost two of their last 11 since the start of the 2014 qualifying campaign. It is also St Kitts and Nevis' fourth clean sheet in their last five meetings with Puerto Rico in all competitions.
Montserrat (183) grabbed a crucial point against Antigua and Barbuda (126), who are ranked 57 places above their opponents in the FIFA/Coca-Cola World Ranking. Lyle Taylor was the hero of the day for Montserrat, bagging both goals in the first half, while Eugene Kirwan and D'Andre Bishop scored the goals for the hosts.
Suriname proved to be too strong for Ben Pugh and his side in the end. Goals from Shaquille Pinas, Ryan Donk (penalty) and Gleofilo Vlijter saw Dean Gorre's charges put three points on the board as they opened proceedings in Group B with a victory in Paramaribo.