World Cup qualifiers: Thursday’s scores and stats
Spain held as England, Germany, Italy and Sweden make winning starts
Tajikistan kicked off the day's qualifiers by sweeping aside Mongolia
Canada and Curaçao among the goals in Concacaf's qualifiers
FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022™ qualifying kicked off for numerous nations across the UEFA and Concacaf zones as action continued on Thursday.
There were few upsets in Europe as the likes of England, Italy and Germany impressed at home. Eyebrows were raised, however, as Greece collected a 1-1 draw in Spain against the 2010 World Cup champions.
The day started with a lone match in Asia as Tajikistan made light work of Mongolia with three unanswered goals. Concacaf action then provided the conclusion, with Guus Hiddink resuming his lengthy World Cup odyssey by guiding Curacao to a healthy win, while Canada were equally untroubled in their opening encounter.
FIFA.com wraps up all the results, action and stand-out statistics. Live coverage of Qatar 2022 qualifiers resumes on Saturday with a host of UEFA match-ups and six more matches in Concacaf.
UEFA (All matches)
Bulgaria 1-3 Switzerland
Switzerland opened Group C play with a fairly comfortable win over opponents Bulgaria in Sofia. Breel Embolo, Haris Seferovic and Steven Zuber put the Swiss three goals in front before the match was 15 minutes old, the fastest three-goal lead in the national team’s history. Bulgaria responded with a goal of their own when Kiril Despodov struck at the beginning of the second half. However, Vladimir Petkovic’s charges did enough to grab the three points. Switzerland have now lost just once in their last 31 World Cup qualifiers, with the sole defeat in that sequence a 2-0 loss against Portugal on 10 October 2017.
Israel 0-2 Denmark
Denmark laid down an early marker in Group F with an accomplished performance and deserved victory in Tel Aviv. The game's first goal came from Martin Braithwaite, and it was one to savour. The Barcelona striker spun and outpaced his marker, racing in on goal before coolly scooping the ball over the advancing Ofir Marciano. Jonas Wind grabbed a second midway through the second half, punishing hesitant defending from Hatem Abd Elhamed, and the Danes held Israel at bay to record their 11th clean sheet in their last 15 internationals.
Sweden 1-0 Georgia
Zlatan Ibrahimovic made a successful return to the international stage, intuitively setting up the only goal as Sweden beat Georgia. The Scandanavians struggled until the 39-year-old controlled a Mikael Lustig cross on his chest and flicked it on for Viktor Claesson, who took a touch and buried the ball past goalkeeper Giorgi Loria. Georgia gave their hosts several scares, especially in the second half, but were denied an equaliser by wasteful finishing and one fine save from Kristoffer Nordfeldt.
Germany 3-0 Iceland
Germany played some gorgeous football in a 3-0 win over a spirited, Gylfi Sigurdsson-less Iceland. The four-time world champions were 2-0 up inside seven minutes. First, Joshua Kimmich spotted the run of Serge Gnabry and dinked the ball over the defence to him. Gnabry cannily laid it back into the path of Leon Goretzka, who fizzed it into the bottom corner for his 13th goal in 30 internationals. Then Kimmich parted the defence with a sublime through-ball for Sane, who cut it back to Kai Havertz. The Chelsea man took a touch and fired it across goal into the bottom corner. After the break, the in-form Ilkay Gundogan shimmied his way inside a challenge and buried the ball into the bottom corner from just outside the box.
Moldova 1-1 Faroe Islands
Honours even in this one. Ion Nicolaescu pounced on a mistake by Sonni Nattestad, who dwelled on the ball at the back to long, and evaded Odmar Faero before slotting in a shot past Gunnaer Nielsen to give Moldova an early lead. But just when Moldova thought they would be putting all three points on the board, substitute Meinhard Olsen scored his first international goal for the visitors with a slightly-deflected shot just seven minutes from time.
Spain 1-1 Greece
Anastasios Bakasetas smashed home a penalty to grab Greece an admirable point away to Spain. Alvaro Morata had controlled Koke’s pass over the top on his chest and brilliantly volleyed it home to give Spain a 33rd-minute lead. Greece equalised after Giorgos Masouras was hauled down by Inigo Martinez shortly into the second half. Bryan Gil, 20, dazzled after coming on as substitute for Spain, but Greece held on for a draw.
Scotland 2-2 Austria
Scotland twice came from behind to earn a 2-2 draw with Austria at Hampden Park. Two-goal Sasa Kalajdic looked set to become the visitors’ match-winning hero, having opened the scoring with an opportunistic finish and followed that up with a superb soaring header. But the Scots fought back on each occasion, first when Grant Hanley powered home Stephen O’Donnell’s free-kick and then when John McGinn sealed a point with a spectacular overhead kick.
Romania 3-2 North Macedonia
Ianis Hagi grabbed his first international goal as Romania got their Qatar 2022 qualifying campaign off to a perfect start with a dramatic victory over EURO-bound North Macedonia. Mirel Radoi’s side were the more potent and dynamic for much of the match and took the lead when Vlad Chiriches threaded through for Florin Tanase to coolly side-foot into the bottom corner. Substitute Valentin Mihaila looked to have sealed the wun, capping his international debut with an unstoppable 25-yard strike. But after North Macedonia struck twice in the space of a minute late on, through Arijan Ademi and Aleksandar Trajkovski, it needed a late winner from Hagi to secure the points.
Andorra 0-1 Albania
Ermir Lenjani’s stunning half-volley just before the break secured Albania three points in Andorra. The Albanians monopolised possession, but goalkeeper Josep Gomes denied them on several occasions.
Hungary 3-3 Poland
Budapest played host to the day's most thrilling encounter. Hungary scored with their first attack of the game when Attila Fiola played a superb, long-range through-pass for the in-form Freiburg winger Roland Sallai, who guided the ball past a helpless Wojciech Szczesny. Veteran striker Adam Szalai stabbed home Hungary’s second of the evening early in the second half, but Paulo Sousa’s Poland came roaring back thanks to two of the coach's substitutes. Krzysztof Piatek scored with his first touch, getting on the end of a Kamil Jozwiak cross. Jozwiak grabbed a goal of his own just seconds later. Willi Orban scored his fifth international goal for Hungary with his knee to restore the hosts' advantage. However, The Best FIFA Men’s Player 2020 would have the final word. Robert Lewandowski scored with his first meaningful chance of the evening, thundering in a powerful strike with his left foot, which ultimately saw the sides share the spoils.
Liechtenstein 0-1 Armenia
Persistence paid off for Armenia as they struck late to earn a thoroughly deserved win away to Liechtenstein. The visitors dominated possession throughout and peppered their hosts’ goal, and were only denied a more handsome victory by a combination of wasteful finishing and fine goalkeeping. Ultimately, it took an own-goal for them to triumph.
Italy 2-0 Northern Ireland
Italy’s remarkable unbeaten streak extended to 23 matches with victory over Northern Ireland in Parma. Domenico Berardi opened the scoring for Roberto Mancini’s Azzurri, scoring from an acute angle past Bailey Peacock-Farrell. Ciro Immobile doubled Italy’s lead with his first sight of goal, finishing at the near post with a powerful left-footed shot after a blisteringly-quick counter-attack.
England 5-0 San Marino
England kicked off their Group I camaign with a predictably comfortable win over San Marino. Dominic Calvert-Lewin bagged a double after James Ward-Prowse had opened the scoring with his first international goal – a fine, first-time, left-foot finish. Raheem Sterling and debutant Ollie Watkins were also on target as the Three Lions extended to 22 matches their unbeaten run in qualifying matches.
European qualifiers: 25 March
Italy v Northern Ireland - FIFA World Cup 2022 Qatar Qualifier
PARMA, ITALY - MARCH 25: Domenico Berardi of Italy (R) celebrates with teammate Lorenzo Insigne after scoring the opening goal during the FIFA World Cup 2022 Qatar qualifying match between Italy and Northern Ireland on March 25, 2021 in Parma, Italy. Sporting stadiums around Italy remain under strict restrictions due to the Coronavirus Pandemic as Government social distancing laws prohibit fans inside venues resulting in games being played behind closed doors. (Photo by Claudio Villa/Getty Images)
Spain v Greece - FIFA World Cup 2022 Qatar Qualifier
GRANADA, SPAIN - MARCH 25: Alvaro Morata of Spain celebrates with (L-R) Eric Garcia, Rodri, Sergio Ramos, Marcos Llorente and Dani Olmo after scoring their side's first goal during the FIFA World Cup 2022 Qatar qualifying match between Spain and Greece on March 25, 2021 in Granada, Spain. Sporting stadiums around Spain remain under strict restrictions due to the Coronavirus Pandemic as Government social distancing laws prohibit fans inside venues resulting in games being played behind closed doors. (Photo by Fran Santiago/Getty Images)
AFC (All matches)
Tajikistan 3-0 Mongolia
Tajikistan moved to within two points of Japan at the top of Group F, albeit having played twice more than the leaders, with an impressive and thoroughly merited 3-0 win over Mongolia. Manuchehr Dzhalilov delighted the noisy home support with an excellent headed opener inside the first few minutes and, after several more spurned chances, Alisher Dzhalilov – Manuchehr’s cousin - slid in to fire home the second shortly after the restart. Mongolia’s misery was completed in the dying minutes when their dominant hosts added a deserved third, with Samiev Shahrom rounding off an impressive Takijikistan performance.
Concacaf (All matches)
Haiti 2-0 Belize
Although the first half was action-packed, the breakthrough in Port Au Prince didn’t arrive until early in the second half. Both of Haiti’s goals were scored by defenders and came from corner kicks. Ricardo Ade grabbed the opener within five minutes of the restart when he found space in the penalty area and headed in from just over six yards. The second came with ten minutes left and was far scrappier. Belize failed to deal with the delivery and Steven Seance scrambled the ball over the line to ensure the Haitians began Group E with three points.
Curaçao 5-0 St Vincent/Grenadines
Guus Hiddink began the latest chapter in his World Cup journey with a confident win as his Curaçao side crushed St. Vincent and the Grenadines. Juninho Bacuna bagged a double as the home side scored four times during the first half, before substitute Elson Hooi added a fifth late on. Curaçao now face a tricky challenge against Cuba in neutral Guatemala City on Sunday.
Trinidad and Tobago 3-0 Guyana
Trinidad & Tobago kicked-off their Qatar 2022 campaign with a comfortable 3-0 win over Guyana. The Germany 2006 participants netted three first-half goals to ensure the contest in neutral San Cristobal was virtually over by the midway point.
Panama 1-0 Barbados
2018 FIFA World Cup debutants Panama needed a late winner from substitute Jair Catuy to see off a gritty challenge from Barbados in neutral Santo Domingo. Their next match in the Dominican Republic will be against Dominica on Sunday.
Canada 5-1 Bermuda
Cyle Larin bagged a hat-trick as Canada opened their 2022 World Cup charge with a hefty 5-1 win over Bermuda in Orlando. The Canucks fielded a strong line-up including young gun Alphonso Davies and held a 2-0 lead at the break, with Richie Laryea and Theo Corbeanu netting during the second half.
El Salvador 2-0 Grenada
Goals in each half proved enough for El Salvador to pick up a home win over a resilient Grenada. Maximum points could prove crucial for the two-time World Cup finalists against one of their main competitors in Group A.