THE DAY REPLAYED – Reigning world champions Germany and England - who had a new face on the touchline - each emerged unscathed in European qualifying for the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia™ on Saturday evening, while Norway and Denmark both disappointed. Elsewhere, there was joy for Azerbaijan, Northern Ireland and Scotland, who are in the mix at the top.
FIFA.comshines the spotlight on an eventful day in European zone World Cup qualifying.
*Results Group C: *Germany 3-0 Czech Republic, Azerbaijan 1-0 Norway, Northern Ireland 4-0 San Marino
*Group E: *Armenia 0-5 Romania, Montenegro 5-0 Kazakhstan, Poland 3-2 Denmark
*Group F: *England 2-0 Malta, Slovenia 1-0 Slovakia, Scotland 1-1 Lithuania
Match of the day*Germany 3-0 Czech Republic
*The reigning world champions had a score to settle with Czech Republic, having lost their last meeting on home turf 3-0 in 2007 during qualifying for the European Championship. That was Germany's second heaviest ever defeat en route to a major tournament. They put in a commanding display in Hamburg, though, and secured a second win in as many matches thanks to goals from Thomas Muller (13', 65') and Toni Kroos (49') to go top of the Group C standings. Muller took his tally to four goals in the current qualifying campaign.
The other matchesJust behind Germany are two undefeated surprise packages: Azerbaijan, who beat Norway 1-0, and Northern Ireland, who thrashed San Marino 4-0.
In Group E, Romania and Montenegro are neck and neck at the summit, with both on four points and a goal difference of six for and just one against. The two sides drew 1-1 in their opening fixture and then eased to comfortable 5-0 wins over Armenia and Kazakhstan, respectively. Incidentally, all ten goals were scored by different players.
In Group F, England picked up a 2-0 win against Malta on interim coach Gareth Southgate's debut to leave them as the only side in the pool to have maximum points so far. Scotland are just behind in second place after James McArthur's 89th minute equaliser against Lithuania cancelled out Fiodor Cernych's opener for the visitors just before the hour mark.
Player of the day
With a hat-trick for Poland in a 3-2 triumph over Denmark, Robert Lewandowski is to his side what Cristiano Ronaldo (four goals) is to Portugal and Mario Mandzukic (three goals) is to Croatia. The Bayern Munich forward struck in the 20th, 36th and 47th minutes – the second coming from the penalty spot – to give Poland their first victory of this qualifying campaign.
The number 6– Azerbaijan have collected six points from their first two matches on the road to Russia 2018, meaning this is already the team's best ever campaign. They set what at the time was a new national record by finishing fourth in Brazil 2014 qualifying, but have already surpassed that achievement.
Did you know?Joachim Low took charge of his 140th game for Germany in their match against Czech Republic, overtaking Helmut Schon (139) in second place in the all-time standings. Only Sepp Herberger, who guided Germany to the 1954 World Cup title, has more games under his belt as Germany coach (167). Having won 66 per cent of all assignments (93 from 140), the 56-year-old has the best win ratio of any of his predecessors.
"Obviously, we'd have liked to have scored four or five goals for our fans, but you can't forget that in the last qualifying campaign, Malta only lost 1-0 to Croatia and Italy. It's my job to defend top spot. We managed that. I know that people want more but now we're going to Slovenia in order to win." England coach Gareth Southgate after his winning debut