Italy falter, England and Belgium on track for Euro 2024
Paris, Sept. 11: Defending European champions Italy drew 1-1 with North Macedonia in a Euro 2024 qualifier on Saturday to suffer a blow in their hopes of making it to next year’s finals from Group C where leaders England took a valuable point in a 1-1 away draw against Ukraine.
England lead the group on 13 points with Ukraine on seven. Italy and North Macedonia both have four points. Italy next face a crucial qualifying test against Ukraine on Tuesday.
Luciano Spalletti took charge of Italy for the first time following Roberto Mancini’s shock resignation but his team flopped against the side which dumped them out of the last World Cup in the play-offs.
Ciro Immobile put Italy ahead but Enis Bardhi smashed in a free-kick for the hosts with nine minutes remaining in Skopje. Ukraine hosted England in Poland and marched out onto the pitch in Wroclow with national flags draped over their shoulders in front of around 40,000 of their own fans.
“Very tough place to come. You could feel the atmosphere, a unique occasion,” said England manager Gareth Southgate after his team’s run of four consecutive wins in the group came to an end. Oleksandr Zinchenko put Ukraine in front with a thundering shot after a sweeping drive through midfield on 26 minutes.
England, however, hit back in the 41st minute when Harry Kane played a ball over the top and Kyle Walker slipped the ball home for his first international goal on his 77th appearance.
Belgium went joint top of Group F with a 1-0 away win at Azerbaijan, lifting them level on 10 points with Austria.
Yannick Carrasco scored the only goal in Baku as new manager Domenico Tedesco extended his run to five games without defeat. Sweden are third in the group on six points after they thumped Estonia 5-0.
Switzerland lead Group I by two points after a see-saw 2-2 draw with Kosovo for whom La Liga based Vedat Muriqi scored twice.
In the same group, Romania and Israel drew 1-1 and are locked in a struggle for second place, separated by a point on nine and eight points respectively.
The top two teams in each group qualify for the finals.
As hosts, Germany are playing only friendly internationals but they are a team in crisis and their problems worsened in a 4-1 humiliation at the hands of Japan in Wolfsburg. Junya Ito and Ayase Ueda scored either side of a Leroy Sane strike in the first half, with Japan scoring twice in the final five minutes as home fans jeered.
Likewise, 2026 World Cup co-host Mexico had to fight back from two goals down to earn a 2-2 draw to Australia in a friendly match at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas on Saturday. (AFP)/The Rising Nepal