BEVERLY HILLS, March 29, (THEWILL) – As the battle for spaces in the 2022 FIFA World Cup heats up across Europe, matches continued at the weekend with several goals’ feasts, such as Denmark’s 8-0 drowning of Moldova, thanks to players who excelled at their clubs coming to brighten the chances of their countries’ qualifying.
One of such players was Ousmane Dembele, one of the choice forwards for La Liga title chasers Barcelona. Dembele was on target as a much-changed France team recorded their first win of the Qatar 2022 qualifying series against Kazakhstan. Les Blues’ coach Didier Deschamps made nine alterations to the team that drew 1-1 at home with Ukraine last time out.
It happened to be inspired changes because the two players brought in, Anthony Martial and Dembele, combined for the Barca man to smash home a 20th-minute opener. The points were all but secured just before half-time, when Kazakhstan’s Sergiy Maliy, in wrestling with Paul Pogba at an Antoine Griezmann corner, inadvertently headed past his own keeper for an own-goal.
The French team could have added more in the second half but superstar substitute Kylian Mbappe, striker for leading French champions Paris Saint-Germain, was denied from the penalty spot by a fine save by Kazakhstan’s keeper, Aleksandr Mokin, after Nuraly Alip was penalised for bringing Mbappe down in the box.
But the two goals France already bagged were enough to see them take all points on offer and spare Mbappe’s blushes for his penalty miss.
The upset came in Yerevan as the world’s 99th-ranked national side Armenia beat the 2018 FIFA World Cup™ debutants and a team ranked 53 places above them Iceland, 2-0 in the first ever World Cup qualifying football match between both countries. An inch-perfect Tigran Barseghyan finish opened the scoring for Armenia, as his shot curled away from the experienced keeper Hannes Halldorsson to find the net.
Goal-scorer Barseghyan turned provider for his country’s second when he laid the ball to substitute Khoren Bayramyan with a lofted pass for Bayramyan to expertly lose his marker before finishing into the far corner. Their goals saw Armenia create a new country record of winning their first two qualifiers of a campaign for the first time in history.
On the other hand, Iceland fell to a seventh successive defeat in all competitions.
There were no upsets for England, however, especially as Harry Kane turned in a proper shift by scoring one and setting up another on his return to the England line-up. The goals kept the 2018 semi-finalists maintaining their perfect start to the qualifying series.
Even though England’s opponents Albania provided some resolute opposition for Gareth Southgate’s side, they were finally undone as half-time approached when Kane threw himself at Luke Shaw’s inviting left-footed cross to power in a superb header for the opener. The England captain helped secure the points midway through the second half when he threaded through a precise pass for a Mason Mount goal. The victory took England’s unbeaten qualifier games to 23 matches.
In the Spain versus Georgia qualifying match, Dani Olmo dramatically gifted the Spaniards a come-from-behind 2-1 victory that sent them on to four points from two games in Group B. Spain expectedly dominated possession but Georgia was dangerous on the counter-attack. They were rewarded for their brilliance just before the interval when Khvicha Kvaratskhelia thumped the ball into the bottom corner.
However, Spanish youngster Ferran Torres slid home a 56th-minute equaliser from a Jordi Alba’s cross, before the same provider set up Olmo for an injury-time winner to break Georgian hearts after their resolute display. It was only made worse when Nika Kvekveskiri was then sent off for the hosts at the death of the match.
The match with the most one-sided result in Sunday’s qualifiers came when Denmark recorded their biggest ever World Cup qualifying win with an impressive 8-0 demolition job on their Moldovan opponents. Despite making several changes to the team that defeated Israel, the Danes were slick and effective from the opening whistle. It was a blitzkrieg that was already 5-0 by the interval.
The Danes were having a carnival as goals came by the minute. Mikkel Damsgaard opened his international account with a brace on his first competitive start. Kasper Dolberg imitated him with a double of his own. Goals also came from Jens Stryger Larsen, Mathias Jensen, Robert Skov and Marcus Ingvartsen to see the Danes stretch their unbeaten run in World Cup qualifiers to 11 matches.