In Europe, the qualifying tournament for the FIFA World Cup, which will be held in 2022 in Qatar, continues. Zlatan Ibrahimovic scored an assist in the first leg after returning to Sweden, while Raheem Sterling scored his 150th career goal and helped England defeat San Marino. Spain lost points at home in a meeting with Greece, and goals from substitutes Krzysztof Piętek and Kamil Yuzvjak helped Poland take points from Hungary.
Return of Ibrahimovic
One of the main events of the qualifying tournament for the World Cup took place in Stockholm, where Zlatan Ibrahimovic played his first match for the national team since June 2016. Then “tre krunur” lost to the Belgians at the European championship, after which the legendary striker announced the end of his performances for the national team. Recently, however, the player has found a second youth and decided that it may well be useful to compatriots and head coach Janne Andersson.
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The mentor did not beat around the bush, but immediately put the striker in the starting lineup for the match with Georgia, thereby helping him become the oldest footballer in the history of the Swedish national team (39 years 173 days). According to this indicator, Ibrahimovic bypassed Thomas Ravelli (38 years 60 days). And already in the 35th minute, Zlatan was marked by a productive action. The forward performed a spectacular pass from the air and assisted Krasnodar midfielder Viktor Klasson.
It is noteworthy that in the end this goal remained the only one in this meeting, and Ibrahimovic managed to distinguish himself with a minus sign. In the 53rd minute, he received a yellow card, and in the end gave way to Robin Quaysson. Another Krasnodar midfielder also earned a warning. Kristoffer Olsson received a yellow card, which did not prevent him from entering the three best midfielders of the team according to WhoScored (7.0). Only Klasson deserved a higher mark – 8.0. At the same time, the Georgian representative of the RPL was not so successful. Khvicha Kvaratskhelia did not strike a single blow and was marked with only four successful strokes.
Failure of Spain
The main sensation of the day took place in Granada, where the Spanish national team lost points in the confrontation with the Greek team. Luis Enrique’s charges had a colossal territorial and playing advantage: they surpassed their opponents in possession of the ball almost four times (79.9% – 20.1%) and delivered nine times more shots on goal. Nevertheless, the meeting ended with a score of 1: 1, and the “red fury” was unable to achieve success in the fourth of the last five matches. Before that, they lost to Ukraine, parted with the Netherlands and Switzerland, but defeated Germany (6: 0).
In the first half, Alvaro Morata opened the scoring after Koke’s filigree throw, but failed to build on the success. At the same time, there were chances, and the closest to the goal was Dani Olmo, who hit the post. The second half of the meeting was remembered by the controversial work of the referee rather than by the game itself. At first, the Italian Marco Guida did not put a penalty kick after the ball hit the hand in the Greek penalty area, and three minutes later he appointed the 11-meter kick against the Spaniards. Substitute Iñigo Martinez was definitely the first on the ball and carried him out of his own penalty box in the subcategory, but after that he drove into the opponent’s leg. However, the judge still pointed to the “point”. Anastasios Bakasetas scored with an accurate shot.
In the end, Guida could restore justice, but again did not notice the violation on the footballer of the “red fury”. The Spanish national team stumbled in the confrontation with Greece, but this did not prevent it from extending its unbeaten streak in qualifying tournaments for the World Cup to 64 matches. She lost to Denmark for the last time in the selection process in March 1993. At the same time, she did not leave without a goal in 36 games in a row.
Thriller in Budapest
The most thrilling was the confrontation between the national teams of Hungary and Poland, which took place at the Puskas Arena. By the 52nd minute, the former opponents of the Russian national team in the League of Nations secured a comfortable advantage for themselves – Roland Schallai and Adam Salai scored alternately. It might seem that the outcome is a foregone conclusion, but the mentor of the guests, Paulo Sousa, showed a coaching flair and at the same time released Krzysztof Piatek and Kamil Yuzvyak on the field. And already two minutes later, both had a goal in their assets. Moreover, Grzegorz Krychowiak took an active part in the first effective attack.
The opponents did not stop there and upset the goalkeepers one more time before the final whistle. Willie Orban’s accurate header for the second time brought the Hungarians ahead, but four minutes later, Robert Lewandowski restored parity. Taking into account the performances for the club, the Bayern striker distinguished himself in the ninth meeting in a row.
It is noteworthy that in the history of the national teams of Hungary and Poland only once shared points – in March 2003 the teams never scored in qualifying for the European Championship. In addition, they scored more than six goals only once in the head-to-head confrontation. In May 1987, the Magyars took over with a score of 5: 3.
North Macedonian comeback failed
The events of the meeting in Bucharest developed according to a similar scenario. Florin Tanase and Valentin Mihale took the Romanian national team to the fore. And the second goal turned out to be a feast for the eyes. The Parma winger grabbed the ball 30 meters away from the goal, moved a little to the center and shot exactly into the far upper corner. Thus, the 21-year-old scored in the first match for the national team.
This time the answer from the opponent had to wait much longer, but this only made the ending even more dramatic. In the period from 82nd to 83rd minute, Ariyan Ademi and Aleksandar Trajkovski, who came on as substitutes, repeated the feat of Pötek and Yuzvyak, but Lewandowski was not included in the team. Two minutes later, Janis Hadzhi lit his name on the scoreboard and scored three points for the hosts.
The leaders of world football have not experienced problems with inferior rivals in the class. The England national team left no chances for San Marino, sending five unanswered goals into the goal. Moreover, in the first half, the “three lions” struck 22 hits – more than their opponents in all the games of the qualifying tournament for the World Cup in Russia. Dominic Calvert-Lewin scored a double, James Ward-Prause, Ollie Watkins and Raheem Sterling scored a goal. For the Manchester City midfielder, he became the jubilee, 150th in his career. It is worth noting that Kirill Levnikov worked as the chief arbiter, unlike his compatriot Sergei Karasev, who knelt down as part of a well-known action.
Germany had a little more difficulty, although it was opposed by a much stronger Iceland. Joachim Loew’s wards won 3-0, setting the national record for the number of consecutive victories in qualifying for the World Cup (17). At the same time, Leon Goretzka and Kai Havertz could also write themselves in the history of the tournament, already by the seventh minute they were marked with accurate strikes. They did not have enough to surpass the achievement of Gerd Müller and Wolfgang Overat, who twice scored against the Cypriots already by the fifth. Ilkay Gundogan put the point, and Jamal Musiala appeared on the field at the end and became the youngest Bundesmannschaft footballer in history (17 years 345 days).
The Italians did not experience any serious difficulties either, twice upsetting the Northern Irishmen. Moreover, even here it was not without individual achievements. So, Leonardo Bonucci entered the field in the national team jersey for the 100th time and climbed to the eighth place in terms of this indicator in the history of the “Azzurra squadra”. And Domenico Berardi became the first player to score in three games in a row under the leadership of Roberto Mancini. The mentor also has something to brag about. Under his leadership, the team did not concede in 23 meetings in a row. The last time something like this was done by Marcello Lippi (25). The unbeaten run of 15 matches at home is also impressive.
Source site russian.rt.com