Friday, March 31, 2023

First steps after Qatar


The winning penalty in the 2022 World Cup was probably a distant memory for all but Argentinians when England recorded a 2-1 victory away to European champions Italy as the campaign for the 2024 Euros kicked off and France picked themselves up from their final defeat in Qatar to give the Netherlands a 4-0 pummelling in Paris with a double from Kylian Mbappe while Romelu Lukaku shocked his Swedish hosts with a hat-trick for Belgium who began to move up in the rankings. Rade Krunic scored twice as Bosnia and Herzegovina sent Iceland away 3-0 losers, but the Icelanders bounced back to belittle Liechtenstein 7-0 in Vaduz with a hat-trick from Aron Gunnarsson a few days later while Bosnia and Herzegovina lost 2-0 in Slovakia.  Bulgaria were stunned 1-0 by Montenegro who returned home to lose 2-0 to Serbia while Wales earned a last-gasp 1-1 draw in Croatia, who went on to win 2-0 in Turkey with a double from Mateo Kovacic, and Cristiano Ronaldo helped himself to 2 goals as Portugal scored 6 in Luxembourg while Spain lost to a Scott McTominay brace in Scotland. Rasmus Højlund gave Denmark a 2 goal lead but Kazakhstan hit back with late goals to celebrate a 3-2 victory in Astana while the Czechs, who had disposed of Poland 3-1 in Prague, drew blanks in Moldova and Kosovo could only manage a 1-1 draw against Andorra in front of their home crowd.

In the Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers, Nigeria were stunned 1-0 at home to Guinea Bissau but reversed the result in the return match 3 days later while Cameroon, who could drew 1-1 at home to Namibia, lost the return fixture 2-1 in South Africa and Madagascar were defeated 3-0 by Central African republic with Louis Mafouta scoring twice for the visitors. Congo suffered a 2-1 home loss to 10-man South Sudan but defeated the South Sudanese 1-0 with a last-minute goal in Tanzania a few days later while the Tanzanians themselves, who had beaten Uganda 1-0 in Egypt, lost the return match by the same scoreline on home soil. Guinea scored twice against Ethiopia in Casablanca while DR Congo defeated Mauritania 3-1 and Egypt put 4 past their Malawian hosts. Liberia levelled late in South Africa to cancel out a Lyle Foster double and Sierra Leone salvaged a 2-2 draw after Luis Leal had scored twice for São Tomé & Príncipe in Morocco where Mali were stunned 1-0 by Gambia. Eswatini held hosts Cape Verde to a goalless draw. Jamaica lost a friendly match 1-0 at home to Trinidad & Tobago while in the CONCACAF Nations League Sint Maarten battered Bonaire 6-1 in the US Virgin Islands.