France and Por­tu­gal back on track

Eng­land main­tain per­fect record in Euro 2020 qual­i­fiers

Global Times US Edition - - SPORTS -

France and Por­tu­gal got their Euro 2020 qual­i­fi­ca­tion cam­paigns back on track with im­pres­sive wins over Balkan pair Al­ba­nia and Ser­bia that boosted the world and Euro­pean cham­pi­ons’ chances of mak­ing next sum­mer’s tour­na­ment.

France moved back top of Group H with a 4-1 thump­ing of Al­ba­nia thanks to Kings­ley Co­man’s first in­ter­na­tional goals in more than three years and further strikes from Olivier Giroud and sub­sti­tute Jonathan Ikone at the Stade de France.

Iceland briefly led the stand­ings af­ter beat­ing Moldova 3-0 ear­lier in the day, but were joined on 12 points by Di­dier Deschamps’ side and Tur­key, who needed a last-minute Ozan Tu­fan strike to edge An­dorra 1-0, with the French on top on goal dif­fer­ence.

“The bal­ance sheet is very pos­i­tive. We could have won by more,” said Deschamps.

“We did what we had to do, even if we re­laxed a bit at the end.”

The easy win was a good end to a night that started off in bizarre fashion, with the match kick­ing off late af­ter the hosts mis­tak­enly played the An­dor­ran an­them, leading to the be­mused Al­ba­nian play­ers re­fus­ing to play un­til the right tune was played.

“It was a big thing. The play­ers said they wouldn’t start with­out the right an­them,” said Al­ba­nia’s Ital­ian coach Edoardo Reja.

Euro­pean cham­pi­ons Por­tu­gal, mean­while, are sec­ond in Group B on five points from three games af­ter they also struck four times in Bel­grade, with Wil­liam Car­valho, Goncalo Guedes, Cris­tiano Ron­aldo and Bernardo Silva giv­ing Fer­nando San­tos’ side a 4-2 vic­tory that was also their first win of the qual­i­fy­ing cam­paign.

They are eight points be­hind lead­ers Ukraine, who top the group un­beaten hav­ing played five times af­ter their 3-0 drub­bing of Lithua­nia.

How­ever Por­tu­gal had a much trick­ier time than the French, with Nikola Milenkovic and Alek­san­dar Mitro­vic twice pulling goals at a loud Sta­dion Ra­jko Mitic back before Silva fi­nally made sure of the three points four min­utes from the end.

On Tues­day, Por­tu­gal have a chance to con­sol­i­date their po­si­tion in the group when they head to win­less Lithua­nia, while Ser­bia travel to lowly Lux­em­bourg with both a point be­hind Ron­aldo and co.

Ear­lier Eng­land main­tained their 100 per­cent qual­i­fy­ing record as Harry Kane’s hat trick in­spired a 4-0 de­mo­li­tion of Bul­garia at Wem­b­ley.

Kane has now scored 25 goals in 40 Eng­land ap­pear­ances af­ter a 25th-minute tap-in and two sec­ond-half penal­ties which keep his side top of Group A with nine points from three matches, a point ahead of Kosovo who stunned the Czech Repub­lic with a 2-1 win.

Cap­tain Kane also laid on Ra­heem Ster­ling for his strike 10 min­utes af­ter the break, high­light­ing his abil­ity beyond just goalscor­ing.

Eng­land will have a chance to open up a gap at the top of the group when they host Kosovo at St Mary’s sta­dium in Southamp­ton on Tues­day.

Photo: VCG

Cris­tiano Ron­aldo (No.7) of Por­tu­gal cel­e­brates with team­mates af­ter win­ning the UEFA Euro 2020 qual­i­fier be­tween Ser­bia and Por­tu­gal on Satur­day in Bel­grade, Ser­bia.

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