World Cup Qualifiers - Europe

World Cup Qualifiers - Europe (60)

Hungary have been ordered to play two home games, one suspended for two years, behind closed doors following the racial abuse of England players during their World Cup qualifier.

A 4-0 thrashing by Gareth Southgate's side in early September was overshadowed by reports of racial abuse directed at Raheem Sterling and Jude Bellingham by the home fans.

Objects were seen flying in Sterling's direction after his opener, with alleged monkey chants also coming from inside the Puskas Arena, as England coasted to victory.

FIFA's Disciplinary Committee has also issued the Hungarian Football Federation (MLSZ) a fine of 200,000 Swiss francs (£158,000), with a qualifier against Albania on October 9 the game that will be played without spectators in Budapest.

A suspended penalty of a second game was imposed by the world's governing body for a probationary period of two years.

"After analysing and taking into consideration all the circumstances of the case, specifically the seriousness of the incidents (racist words and actions, throwing of objects, lighting of fireworks, blocked stairways), the Committee decided that the MLSZ would play its next two home matches in FIFA competitions without spectators, the second match being suspended for a probationary period of two years," a FIFA statement released on Tuesday read.

"FIFA's position remains firm and resolute in rejecting any form of racism and violence as well as any other form of discrimination or abuse. FIFA takes a clear zero tolerance stance against such abhorrent behaviour in football."

This is not the first time Hungary have been punished by football's governing bodies. In July, Hungary were ordered to play three UEFA home competition matches without supporters after incidents of racism and homophobia at Euro 2020.

The ban applies only to UEFA competitions and so will not come into effect until the next edition of the Nations League, which will be held between June and September 2022.

England manager Gareth Southgate defended his lack of substitutions in the team's 1-1 draw away to Poland in World Cup qualifying.

Southgate did not make a change as England's winning start to World Cup qualifying ended after Damian Szymanski nodded home a dramatic first Poland goal on Wednesday.

Szymanski's 92nd-minute equaliser cancelled out Harry Kane's second-half opener in Warsaw, though England remain top of Group I on the road to Qatar 2022.

It was the first time England did not make a sub since the Euro 1996 semi-final against Germany.

Afterwards, Southgate was asked about his decision not to introduce fresh faces midweek.

"We were in total control of the game and to bring players into that moment when everybody was performing to a good level, and we were in control of possession," Southgate told reporters.

"You can put players into the game who have had to sit in the stands and it's not so easy to come on in those latter stages, so there are a couple of times where we looked at it and said now that we're doing well, no, no problem.

"We're going to refresh the wide players right at the end, but really, that would have been to run the clock down as much as anything. But before we could get them in, we've conceded the goal and once we've conceded the goal, again, we didn't think that was a good moment to make a change, so that was that was why we did it."

For only the second time in their last 18 major tournament qualifying matches, England failed to register victory, also failing in October 2019 against the Czech Republic.

England have not lost any of their last 18 matches against Poland (W11 D7), a run that stretches back to October 1973.

Southgate's England, meanwhile, are unbeaten in their last 16 international matches (W13 D3) – their longest streak without defeat since a 16-game run between September 1995 and November 1996.

"We knew that today if we could win the game then we were pretty much in Qatar," Southgate said. "That isn't the case we've still got some work to do.

"We could have been in an even stronger position, so that is a disappointment, but I can't fault what the players have given over that period and the way they've responded to the summer."

Harry Kane described Poland's late equaliser as "a kick in the teeth" after England's winning run in World Cup qualifying was ended on Wednesday.

Gareth Southgate's side took the lead through Kane's stunner in Warsaw, but were pegged back by Damian Szymanski's header from Robert Lewandowski's cross.

The Three Lions still sit top in Group J, five points clear of Albania and six clear of Poland in the hunt for a spot at Qatar 2022.

"A kick in the teeth at the end there, it's never easy conceding in the last minute," Kane told BBC Radio 5 Live.

"It was a good performance from the boys though, we controlled the game well.

"Of course [there was an 'edgy' atmosphere], we're playing for the opportunity to play in the World Cup. Poland clearly saw this as their last opportunity to take some points off us and get closer to us in the group.

"I thought we handled it well. The Hungary game and this game away from home were not easy to play in. The boys stepped up and put in good performances."

Kane also believed his goal - a superb effort from around 25 yards out - was one of the best he has netted in his international career, as he moved onto 41 England strikes (only four players have scored more).

"That's probably one of the best goals, probably the furthest out I've scored for England," added Kane, who has now netted in 15 consecutive such games across the World Cup and European Championship, tallying 19 goals.

"I caught it really nicely, it wobbled in the air and caught the keeper off guard. It was a nice one to get because it's a tough place to play and it broke the deadlock, putting us in a good position. Hopefully I can continue that going into the next camp."

A fracas broke out between the teams at half-time, with Kane explaining England's players had reported an incident to the Football Association.

"There was an incident just before half-time which has been reported to the FA guys," he said. "They're taking care of it and investigating it and we'll go from there.

"Allegedly it was something that was done, not said. We haven't had a chance to look at the footage and talk to the lad."

Southgate, meanwhile, was satisfied with England's performance in what he labelled the most difficult game of their qualification campaign.

"It was no surprise that this was the hardest game in the group. Early in the game, we were a little slow to move the ball and Poland pressed us well," he told 5 Live.

"In the second half we controlled the game. If there's a criticism it's that we didn't create enough clear chances from that possession and we didn't get enough players in the box.

"While it's 1-0 you run the risk of what happened at the end. We're clearly disappointed not to get the three points but I have to look at what the players have done across these three matches.

"Given that there was no way of telling how they would react after what happened in the [Euro 2020] final, I think their mentality and application has been really good."

Roberto Mancini was pleased with Italy's response to their weekend draw with Switzerland as they cruised past Lithuania 5-0 to set a new all-time record of 37 matches without defeat.

The Azzurri equalled Brazil's record with an underwhelming 0-0 draw against Switzerland on Sunday but they moved clear of the Selecao with a resounding win at Mapei Stadium on Wednesday.

Moise Kean was the star of the show, the Juventus man scoring twice in a pulsating first half that also saw an own goal from Edgaras Utkus and a Giacomo Raspadori strike – the Sassuolo man's first in international football.

Giovanni Di Lorenzo scored after the break as the European champions moved onto 14 points at the top of World Cup qualifying Group C, six points clear of second-place Switzerland after their goalless draw with Northern Ireland.

Mancini made eight changes from the side that drew with Switzerland and he was pleased with how his new-look starting XI acquitted themselves.

"Despite losing so many players over the last couple of days, the lads reacted well. Obviously, the opponents weren't of the highest quality, but you can't always score five or six goals, so they did well," he told RAI Sport.

"Anyone can make a mistake [the result with Switzerland], the important thing is to stay calm, not lose our heads, and it will be fine."

Kean and Raspadori took their chances to shine and Mancini insisted both players will be given more opportunities to impress.

"We already brought Raspadori to the Euros, we saw he has quality, but he is young and needs to gain experience," the Italy boss added.

"Of course, it's all in their minds and their feet. If they do what they need to do, work hard, remain organised on the field, then it depends on them, but they can have their chance."

 

Kean did not make the cut for Italy's triumphant Euro 2020 squad, but he shone in Reggio Emilia.

The 21-year-old scored with both his shots on target and was full of running as Italy swept their sorry opponents aside with ease.

Kean, who is back at Juventus after a torrid time in the Premier League with Everton, acknowledged it was not easy to watch his country's success from afar but said he is delighted to be back in the fold.

"It was important to get back in this shirt and give 100 per cent for the jersey, as it means so much to me every time," he said.

"It was not easy to be at home watching the Euros, but I was always in front of the television cheering on my team-mates. They brought home the trophy for Italy and that's what matters.

"It's all about hard work, how professionally I approach it. My team-mates gave me a warm welcome, I am working every day and returned with new objectives, a new mentality, and I'm always ready to help my team-mates."

Germany captain Manuel Neuer says it was important for his side to "set an example again" after winning each of their first three games under new head coach Hansi Flick.

Die Mannschaft eased to a 4-0 win over Iceland in Wednesday's World Cup qualifier to open up a four-point lead at the top of Group J with four matches to play.

That routine victory in Reykjavik followed on from wins over Liechtenstein and Armenia over the past week, with Flick's side scoring 12 goals and conceding none across that spell.

Flick is only the second Germany boss to win his first three games without conceding after Joachim Low, the man he succeeded following his nation's Euro 2020 last-16 exit to England.

On the back of a morale-boosting week for Germany, Neuer believes a marker has now been laid down.

"It's important that we set an example again," he told RTL. "We were dominant and defended well, so of course we are extremely satisfied.

"After these three games we now want to work on our game and set a trend. You have seen across these matches that there is an upward trend. We want to continue like this.

"The teams we have played do not compete in knockout games at major tournament, but you have to set yourself goals as a team and as a professional.

"Of course we have a long way to go, but we have started to send out a positive message."

 

Serge Gnabry's tap-in and Antonio Rudiger's header had Germany two goals ahead inside 24 minutes and Leroy Sane killed off the contest early in the second half.

Timo Werner added a late fourth to make amends for a horror miss earlier in the game as Germany moved a giant step closer to sealing automatic qualification for Qatar 2022.

While happy with what he has seen during his first international window at the helm, former Bayern Munich coach Flick insists there is still more to come from his side.

"Nine points from these games was our goal and we succeeded," he told RTL. "The way we have played is a step forward, though not everything is at one hundred per cent.

"Still, you can't expect that. I am satisfied with what I have seen, but there are a few things we will try to do even better next time."

Rudiger's goal – a powerful header after being picked out by a Joshua Kimmich delivery – was his second for Germany on his 47th appearance.

Not only did Rudiger get on the scoresheet, he also gained possession a joint-high 10 times for his side, level with left-back Thilo Kehrer.

Reflecting on this week's triple-header, Rudiger said: "It was important we got nine points and improved our goal difference.

"Keeping out the opposition each time gives us confidence. But there should have been more goals today. Overall it has been a good week and a half for us."

Luis Enrique claimed Spain are among the top teams in the world, but insisted they have to improve if they want to be the best.

La Roja defeated a plucky Kosovo side 2-0, making it consecutive wins to top Group B after Sweden ended their 66-game unbeaten run in World Cup qualifying that stretched back to 1993.

Pablo Fornals was on target for his first international strike, while Ferran Torres scored to become the first player to score six goals in a calendar year for Spain since David Silva (seven) in 2017.

Second-place Sweden slipping up against Greece opened a four-point gap but Luis Enrique implored his team to improve if they are to challenge to be the world's number-one outfit.

"We have made many mistakes, we have had many inaccuracies and we have suffered because of that," Luis Enrique told reporters post-match.

"It was a great relief to score the second goal, which ended the match and see the result that we all hope.

"This group is excellent and eager to improve, accept everything that they are told with the idea of being a stronger team. [We] made changes, six or seven new players coming in but the idea and philosophy stays the same.

"But we are not the best in the world even though we are among the best. Anyone can beat us and there is no one who wins every game."

The Spain head coach also bemoaned the quality of the pitch in Pristina, a sentiment echoed by Aymeric Laporte, who recorded a game-high 139 touches and completed another game-leading 96.9 per cent of his 129 passes.

"It was a highly contested game, we got [the win] at the end and it relieved us," Laporte said post-match.

"The pitch was not optimal. We kept our idea of playing and with a pitch like this, it is complicated.

"In the end, the important thing is the result. We have the determination to win everything, we are Spain and now we have to win everything."

Spain consolidated their spot at the top of Group B with a narrow 2-0 win over Kosovo in Wednesday's World Cup qualifying clash.

Pablo Fornals' first international goal from a tight angle and Ferran Torres' late strike proved the difference as Milot Rashica and Vedat Muriqi were made to rue missed chances for the hosts.

The visitors' loss against Sweden was their first in World Cup qualifying since 1993 and ended a 66-match unbeaten run but wins against Georgia and Kosovo have got them back on track.

Luis Enrique's men sit four points clear of Janne Andersson's side, who were beaten 2-1 by Greece on Wednesday, although they have two games in hand.

After Koke's deflected shot brought the first save from Arijanet Muric, Elbasan Rashani fired narrowly wide with a curling left-footed effort as the hosts dominated the opening stages.

Fornals punished Kosovo for not making their dominance pay, the West Ham man blasting a left-footed strike past Muric after a smart turn following Alvaro Morata's offload.

Morata almost doubled the lead with a long-range attempt before Carlos Soler's speculative free-kick forced the Kosovo goalkeeper to parry away.

Rashica offered Spain first-half warnings running in behind but they did not learn their lesson, Muriqi racing through one-on-one with Unai Simon after the break before dragging into the side-netting.

Torres then attempted a cute free-kick, arrowing under the wall but the wrong side of the left-hand post before Simon produced a low reflex save against Zymer Bytyqi as Spain clung onto their lead.

Torres added a late finish of his own, racing through and finding the bottom-left corner, with the goal standing after VAR reversed an initial offside decision.

What does it mean? Spain by no means cruising in Group B

Luis Enrique's men had won only one of their previous nine away fixtures, including friendlies, in all competitions but Wednesday's performance ended that poor run of form on the road.

Spain have coasted past Kosovo and Georgia by an aggregate score of 6-0 and now hold a four-point advantage over second-place Sweden, who now have Greece just three points behind them.

Kosovo, in contrast, responded well to a timid start in World Cup qualifying but failed to extend their unbeaten run to three games, leaving them in fourth with four points.

Super Soler

Despite being withdrawn in the 58th minute, Soler stood out as one of the visitors' key performers.

Against Georgia, he became only the second player since 2006 to score in their two opening games for Spain and he followed up in similar fashion, recording a game-high five key passes.

The Valencia midfielder also misplaced just three of his 43 passes, while also winning a team-high three fouls alongside Sergio Busquets.

Misfiring Muriqi

Muriqi wasted Kosovo's best chance as he slammed wide when set free one-on-one with Simon and after scoring in back-to-back games he will have been frustrated to not convert.

The forward also misplaced half of his 18 passes, losing possession 17 times as he completed just 27.3 per cent of his 11 opposition-half passes.

What's next?

Spain face Italy in the Nations League semi-final in October before travelling to Greece for their next qualifier the following month. Kosovo make the trip to Sweden on October 9.

Damian Szymanski nodded a dramatic first Poland goal to end England's winning start to World Cup qualifying in a 1-1 draw, although the Three Lions remain firmly in pole position.

Gareth Southgate's side still hold top spot in Group I, yet they were moving eight points clear of Poland courtesy of Harry Kane's second-half blast until Szymanski's intervention.

The substitute headed past Jordan Pickford in the 92nd minute to secure a precious point in Warsaw.

It was a result England might have taken beforehand, but the late leveller will send the Euro 2020 finalists home frustrated after five straight victories.

Germany made it three wins from three under Hansi Flick and tightened their grip on top spot in World Cup qualifying Group J with a routine 4-0 victory over Iceland.

After putting eight unanswered goals past Liechtenstein and Armenia in their opening two games under Flick, Die Mannschaft kept up their positive start in Reykjavik.

Serge Gnabry's tap-in and Antonio Rudiger's header had Germany two goals ahead inside 24 minutes and Leroy Sane killed off the contest early in the second half.

Germany passed up a number of further opportunities before Timo Werner added a late fourth to seal a win that moves his side four points clear of second-place Armenia, who were held to a surprise 1-1 draw by Liechtenstein earlier on Wednesday.

Gnabry opened the scoring after six minutes in the 6-0 win over Armenia three days ago and needed just four minutes to get off the mark against Iceland at Laugardalsvollur.

Joshua Kimmich played in Sane with a pass on the spin and the Bayern Munich winger laid the ball on a plate for club-mate Gnabry to convert from close range.

That goal was allowed to stand after a VAR check for offside and the visitors had a second when Rudiger powerfully headed Kimmich's delivery away from Hannes Halldorsson.

Germany were then given a scare when, moments after Werner missed a one-on-one, Johann Berg Gudmundsson struck the post and Albert Gudmundsson's follow-up was ruled out for offside.

Kai Havertz, brought on for Gnabry at half-time, was next to miss a glorious chance as he slotted wide with just Halldorsson to beat, but Sane thumped a third into the rood of the net to seal the points.

After Leon Goretzka had a goal ruled out for offside it was left to Werner to complete the rout, the Chelsea attacker's shot trickling over the line as he made amends for an earlier horror miss from six yards out.

 

What does it mean? Flick's flying start continues

As far as starts to international coaching go, three wins from three with 12 goals scored and none conceded is just about as good as it gets for Flick.

The calibre of opponent may not have been all that daunting, but Germany have done what was asked of them to overtake Armenia and open up a healthy lead at the top.

Tougher tests lie ahead for Flick, but the transition from the disappointing end to Joachim Low's long tenure has been seamless and Germany's place in Qatar is almost assured.

Kimmich runs the show

Gnabry, Rudiger, Sane and Werner will receive the plaudits for getting their names on the scoresheet, though Kimmich was once again superb for Germany in central midfield.

He was pivotal in the opening goal with his vision, set up the second and played more key passes (four) than any other player on the field.

Wasteful Werner

Werner undoubtedly has his qualities, but he is arguably now better known for his collection of horror misses than world-class goals.

The Chelsea man did manage to score his 19th international goal on his 45th cap, but only after failing to convert a one-on-one and what was effectively an open goal from his four shots in total.

What's next?

Germany host Romania in their next Group J match on October 8, the same day that that Iceland welcome Armenia to Laugardalsvollur.

Belgium took another big stride towards assuring their automatic qualification for the 2022 World Cup with a routine 1-0 win over Belarus.

The Red Devils – ranked number one in the world – made it three wins from three in this batch of qualifiers to all but ensure their place at Qatar.

With 16 points to their name, Belgium need just one win from their remaining two fixtures to seal top spot in Group E, with Dennis Praet's goal the difference on Wednesday.

Shorn of Romelu Lukaku and Kevin De Bruyne, Belgium did not make the most of their dominance, yet Belarus never threatened a comeback.

Toby Alderweireld played in a cross De Bruyne would have been proud of from the right-hand channel in the 20th minute – the ball falling to Batshuayi, who dragged his attempt wide.

Batshuayi headed in the rebound from Dedryck Boyata's effort against the crossbar soon after, only for the offside flag to cut short his celebrations.

Belgium had their lead two minutes later, however – Praet sweeping home across Sergey Chernik.

Dodi Lukebakio stretched his legs early in the second half, though made a poor decision to shoot from the edge of the area rather than slide in Leandro Trossard.

Batshuayi's search for a goal continued to prove fruitless as he saw an effort kept out by Chernik, Belgium missing the cutting edge to make the scoreline as comfortable as their performance warranted.

Artem Bykov tried to make them pay with a hopeful long-range attempt, but it never came close to testing Koen Casteels as Belgium eased to victory – Eden Hazard seeing a late free-kick saved well by Chernik at the other end.

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