2018 FIFA World Cup Russia™

2018 FIFA World Cup Russia™

14 June - 15 July

2018 FIFA World Cup™ 

A historic goal on a day of battles

Belgium's forward Christian Benteke (L) celebrates his goal

*THE DAY REPLAYED – *The gaps are closing in European football, with smaller sides improving and big victories increasingly rare. Nevertheless, the underdogs sometimes just have to accept their fate when they come across a talented player making his debut, or someone determined to make history. Just ask Faroe Islands or Gibraltar. Elsewhere, hard work was required in order to win, as France, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Sweden found out. *FIFA.com *rounds up Monday's results in European zone 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia™ qualifying.


Group A: Belarus 1-1 Luxembourg, Sweden 3-0 Bulgaria, Netherlands 0-1 France

Group B: **Faroe Islands 0-6 Portugal, Andorra 1-2 Switzerland, Latvia 0-2 Hungary

*Group C: *Estonia 0-2 Greece, Bosnia and Herzegovina 2-0 Cyprus, Gibraltar 0-6 Belgium

**Match of the day

*Netherlands 0-1 France, Paul Pogba (30')

France moved to the Group A summit after overcoming the Netherlands in Amsterdam thanks to a moment of brilliance from Paul Pogba, whose thundering strike from 30 metres caught goalkeeper Maarten Stekelenburg off guard. The absences of Arjen Robben and Wesley Sneijder blunted the hosts' attack, and they suffered a further setback after just 16 minutes when the promising Quincy Promes went off injured. France dominated proceedings without sparkling, their display punctuated by some wayward finishing up front and a couple of defensive errors that could have proven costly. Indeed, in the 89th minute Hugo Lloris pulled off a wonderful save to keep out a good chance from Memphis Depay. The Dutch are now third in the group standings. *

The other matches

**They are there because Sweden moved into second spot after defeating Bulgaria 3-0. It was an evenly balanced game until the hosts forced a breakthrough just before half-time with goals from Ola Toivonen and Oscar Hiljemark. With the wind in their sails, Victor Lindelof added a third for Sweden to seal the points.

In the final Group A encounter, Belarus and Luxembourg drew 1-1. The latter played with ten men from the 44th minute onwards after 18-year-old Dick Carlson was sent off, the youngster crying tears of regret as he left the pitch. Nevertheless, the hosts needed until the 80th minute to find the net through Pavel Savitski's header. However, Aurelien Joachim equalised when his free-kick took a fortunate deflection off the wall.

Switzerland recorded a 2-1 victory away to Andorra and lead Group B with a three-point advantage over Portugal, who rounded off their second game of the international break with a goal glut in the Faroe Islands. Rising star Andre Silva hit a hat-trick in the 6-0 thrashing, with further efforts from Cristiano Ronaldo, Joao Moutinho and Joao Cancelo completing the triumph. Aside from the three points, the performances of the youngsters provided extra good news for the reigning European champions. Hungary are in third place following a 2-0 win in Latvia.

Belgium and Greece are the dominant forces in Group H, each with a perfect record so far. The Red Devils top the table due to their superior goal difference, although much of that is due to their 6-0 win over Gibraltar on Monday. Christian Benteke not only scored a historic goal in the encounter in Faro, he went on to net a hat-trick. Axel Witsel, Dries Mertens and Eden Hazard also added their names to the scoresheet.

Greece earned maximum points away to Estonia, with Vasileios Torosidis' early goal paving the way for the success. Konstantinos Stafylidis made sure of the victory, scoring from a free-kick that deceived the goalkeeper with a wicked bounce.

Bosnia and Herzegovina struggled to get the better of Cyprus but were eventually rewarded for their efforts, as Miralem Pjanic and Edin Dzeko teamed up twice to fire their side into third place.

**Player of the day

**In his second outing in the Portuguese starting line-up, Silva needed just 25 minutes to score a treble. The FC Porto youngster, who turns 21 on 1 November, netted his maiden goal at senior level last Friday against Andorra. He was first called up by coach Fernando Santos for the friendly against Gibraltar on 1 September, marking his debut with an assist while wearing the number seven shirt. An injury to Ronaldo meant he was able to wear the prestigious number on home soil. Could that be a sign of things to come?

**The stat

8.1 **– The number of seconds it took Benteke to find the net against Gibraltar, setting a new record in the process, It was the fastest goal ever recorded in an international match, beating the previous best mark - set by San Marino's Davide Gualtieri in a World Cup qualifier against England in 1993 - by 0.2 seconds. The Belgian striker's achievement is all the more remarkable considering Gibraltar kicked off. After just two touches of the ball, Benteke robbed them of possession and made history.

**Did you know?

**A few months ago Alex Martinez made a confession to his local newspaper. His dream was to score on his senior debut for the national side, a comment he perhaps remembered today while blowing out the candles on his 18th birthday cake. He achieved his aim. Martinez donned the Andorra shirt for the first time against Switzerland and scored an outstanding goal to commemorate the occasion. After receiving the ball directly from his own goalkeeper outside the opposition penalty area, he unleashed a shot across goal that flew into the far corner, leading to celebrations as if they had won. A debut, a goal and a very happy birthday.

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