Ger­many win again, Eng­land stum­ble

Kuwait Times - - SPORTS -

With a third straight win in qual­i­fy­ing, de­fend­ing cham­pion Ger­many is en­joy­ing a com­fort­able ride on the road to the 2018 World Cup in Rus­sia.

Things just got a bit tougher for Eng­land, though. While Eng­land’s win­ning start to Group F ended with a poor dis­play in a 0-0 draw at Slove­nia on Tues­day, Ger­many main­tained its 100 per­cent record af­ter three rounds by beat­ing North­ern Ire­land 2-0. Only three other teams - Bel­gium, Greece and Switzer­land - have opened Euro­pean qual­i­fy­ing with three suc­ces­sive vic­to­ries.

Goals in the first 17 min­utes from Ju­lian Draxler and Sami Khedira gave Ger­many a com­mand­ing lead that was never re­ally threat­ened in Han­nover. Joachim Loew tied Sepp Her­berger’s record of 94 wins as Ger­many coach and it couldn’t be go­ing much bet­ter for the world cham­pi­ons’ set­tled team: Three wins from three games, eight goals scored and none con­ceded.

Eng­land also leads its group but the dis­plays are hardly en­cour­ag­ing for its fans. Three days af­ter a te­dious 2-0 win over Malta, Eng­land re­quired a bril­liant per­for­mance from goal­keeper Joe Hart to earn a point in Ljubl­jana. One of Hart’s saves was sen­sa­tional, when he tipped Jas­min Kur­tic’s header onto the bar off a cor­ner and then clawed the loose ball away from the line in his next move­ment. Hart also de­nied Slove­nia in two one-on-one chances, gifted by slack Eng­land back-passes.

Eng­land’s na­tional team is in a state of flux, just a few months af­ter an em­bar­rass­ing last-16 loss to Ice­land in the Euro­pean Cham­pi­onship. Gareth South­gate is in in­terim charge af­ter Sam Al­lardyce left as coach last month - af­ter just 67 days in the job - fol­low­ing a news­pa­per sting, and cap­tain Wayne Rooney was dropped against Slove­nia be­cause of poor form.

Eng­land’s young team is still the fa­vorite to qual­ify from Group F and has a two-point lead af­ter three games. Here’s a look at the rest of the ac­tion on the fi­nal night of qual­i­fiers in this lat­est pe­riod of in­ter­na­tion­als.

The only team close to Ger­many is Azer­bai­jan, which set­tled for a 0-0 draw against the Czech Repub­lic in Os­trava af­ter open­ing with two wins.

In the other match, Nor­way de­feated San Marino 4-1 in Oslo for its first points in qual­i­fy­ing. There was still time for cel­e­bra­tions for the 201st-ranked vis­i­tors, who scored their first away goal in World Cup qual­i­fy­ing since 2001 when Mattia Ste­fanelli equal­ized nine min­utes into the sec­ond half. Nor­way scored three goals in the fi­nal 13 min­utes, through Adama Diomande, Martin Sa­muelsen and Joshua King.

GROUP F

Slove­nia stayed two points be­hind Eng­land af­ter three games and was joined on five points by Lithua­nia, which beat Malta 2-0 for its first win in the group.

Fiodor Cernych and Arvy­das Noviko­vas, from the penalty spot, scored in the fi­nal 14 min­utes to leave Malta with­out a point so far.

In the other game, Robert Mak scored two goals and set up the third for Adam Ne­mec as Slo­vakia beat Scot­land 3-0 to earn its first points in qual­i­fy­ing. It was Scot­land’s first loss, com­ing three days af­ter a dis­ap­point­ing 1-1 draw at home to Lithua­nia.Only two na­tions, Por­tu­gal in 1985 and Eng­land in 2001, have recorded wins over the Ger­mans in their 86 World Cup qual­i­fiers. — AP

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