Friday, October 20, 2023

Early European arrivals


Belgium, France, Portugal, Spain, Scotland, Turkey, Austria and England became the first teams to join hosts Germany in next year’s Euros while in South American and Asia the World Cup qualifiers were being played.

Croatia were stunned 1-0 at home to Turkey before going down 2-1 to a Harry Wilson brace in Wales while Armenia were upset 2-0 by 10 men in Latvia and Lithuania’s Pijus Sirvys shocked 10 Bulgarians with a double in Sofia. Benjamin Sesko scored twice in Slovenia’s 3-0 win over Finland who took the lead on their return home but lost 2-1 to Kazakhstan for whom Bakhtiyor Zaynutdinov netted both goals while Taulant Seferi scored twice as 10 Czechs were taken apart 3-0 in Albania, who leapt up the rankings, and 2 goals from Milot Rashica helped Kosovo to a 3-0 win in Andorra. Greece celebrated a 2-0 win in Ireland as did Azerbaijan in Estonia while Dodi Lukebakio scored twice for 10-man Belgium who secured qualification with a 3-2 victory in Austria and Switzerland needed 2 last-minute goals to salvage a 3-3 draw at home to Belarus.

In World Cup qualifiers Brazil had a shaky week, drawing 1-1 at home to Venezuela before losing 2-0 in Uruguay while Peru lost 2-0 in Chile. In the Asia section Laos earned a 1-1 draw in Nepal while Pakistan held their Cambodian hosts to a goalless draw and Macau achieved the same against their visitors from Myanmar, but the most amazing result was Bhutan’s 2-0 home victory over Hong Kong.

In a CONCACAF Nations League match, Sint Maarten returned from St Kitts & Nevis with a 1-0 triumph.