THE DAY REPLAYED – November's first European qualifiers the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia™ saw the favourites keep their focus to either go top of their groups or extend their leads at the summit. FIFA.comrounds up Friday's action.
*Group A: France 2-1 Sweden
Group C: San Marino 0-8 Germany, Northern Ireland 4-0 Azerbaijan, Czech Republic 2-1 Norway
Group E: Armenia 3-2 Montenegro, Romania 0-3 Poland, Denmark 4-1 Kazakhstan
Group F: England 3-0 Scotland, Malta 0-1 Slovenia, Slovakia 4-0 Lithuania
*Match of the day *England 3-0 Scotland
*Goals: 1-0 Daniel Sturridge (24'), 2-0 Adam Lallana (50'), 3-0 Gary Cahill (61')
Given the huge rivalry between England and Scotland, there were plenty of pre-game column inches dedicated to this clash. Yet at Wembley it developed into a largely one-sided affair, with the hosts celebrating victory thanks to headers from Sturridge, Lallana and Cahill. The result leaves interim coach Gareth Southgate's side undefeated on ten points at the top of Group F, with six goals scored and none conceded. Scotland, meanwhile, are second from bottom on four points.
The other matchesIn the group's two other games, Slovenia had a tougher time than expected in their 1-0 victory over a winless Malta side, while Slovakia left Lithuania no chance and eased to a comfortable triumph.
Germany once again underlined their status as defending champions on the road to Russia, brushing San Marino aside 8-0 to register a fourth win in as many games and boasting a goal difference of 18 for and none against. That leaves Joachim Low's charges as undisputed leaders of Group C on 12 points. Elsewhere, Northern Ireland moved to second spot after defeating third-placed Azerbaijan 4-0 in Belfast, while Czech Republic can dream again after climbing to within touching distance of the two, beating Norway to record their first qualifying win and move on to five points.
In *Group E, *Poland are leaning on captain Robert Lewandowski, who fired a brace in a 3-0 win in Romania. The Bayern Munich striker has now found the net in nine consecutive World Cup qualifying matches. Second-placed Montenegro suffered a surprising 3-2 defeat in Armenia, despite leading 2-0, eventually going down to Gevorg Ghazaryan's 94th-minute winner at the Republican Stadium. It was the hosts' first qualifying victory in coach Artur Petrosyan's first game in charge, while it was a maiden defeat for Montenegro.
France, runners-up at this year's EURO, had their hands full with a Sweden side they were level on points with going into their Group A encounter. The Swedes went ahead at the start of the second half through Emil Forsberg, but quickfire efforts from Paul Pogba (58th minute) and Dimitri Payet (65th minute) turned the game on its head.
Player of the dayDenmark's Christian Eriksen was long considered one of his country's brightest talents. His close control, elegance, vision and excellent shooting ability were all attributes that led to comparisons with the legendary Michael Laudrup early in his career. The Tottenham Hotspur midfielder, now 24, has matured into the team's leader and has more than fulfilled his youthful promise. Against Kazakhstan, he once again shouldered responsibility from the penalty spot in the 36th minute, and netted his second of the evening to make the final score 4-1. With three goals in four matches, Eriksen is now Denmark's top scorer in qualifying.
Did you know?Joachim Low has now won 95 matches in charge of Germany, meaning he has overtaken previous incumbent Sepp Herberger as the coach with most victories for the reigning world champions. No other national team boss anywhere on the globe has posted as many triumphs as Low, with the 56-year-old needing just 142 matches to reach the tally, drawing 24 and losing 23. His winning ratio of 67 per cent is also unparalleled in Germany; Herberger won 94 times in 167 matches.
The words"A lot of teams just defend against us. We discovered that against the Netherlands. It shows that our opponents fear us, and we have to find solutions to that. I wasn't expecting an easy game, so it's great that we've won all three points. Nothing has been decided yet, but this result is important for us." France coach Didier Deschamps