Zlatan Ibrahimovic was generally decisive on his return to international football, creating Viktor Claesson’s only goal in Sweden 1-0 victory Georgia in their first qualifying match for the Group B World Cup.
Returning after an absence of almost five years, 39-year-old Milan striker Ibrahimovic has become the oldest player to represent Sweden. The visitors threatened from the start of the break, but the Swedes gradually progressed into the game as their attacking quarterbacks of Ibrahimovic, Claesson, Alexander Isak and Dejan Kulusevski took over. They took the lead 10 minutes before the break when Ibrahimovic knocked a ball back into the box and sent it back at a tight angle for Claesson to take a touch and a pack at home.
With the often sloppy Swedes in possession, Georgia created a few decent chances and the best of them fell to substitute Levan Shengelia in the 82nd minute, but Kristoffer Nordfeldt made a superb save to keep his clean sheet intact. Ibrahimovic failed to add to his total of 62 international goals before being replaced by Robin Quaison, but not until he was booked for apparently arguing with the referee.
“I’m new to this system of play,” Ibrahimovic said afterwards. “It will come. We have made too many simple mistakes. If we can reduce them, we can become more dangerous in the attacking game. It will get better. “
Robert Lewandowski pulled off a thunderous equalizer in the 83rd minute as Poland fought back to win a 3-3 draw with Hungary in a thrilling Group I qualifier at Puskas Arena. Hungary took the lead in the sixth minute when Roland Sallai grabbed Attila Fiola’s deep ball, hurtled down the right and fired a low shot inside the near post of Wojciech Szczesny. Marco Rossi’s side doubled their advantage in the 53rd minute when Adam Szalai came in from inside the box. Poland had failed a shot on target but Paulo Sousa made a triple substitution and two of those introduced, Krzysztof Piatek and Kamil Jozwiak, had an instant impact.
Piatek connected with a low cross from Gregorz Krychowiak to beat Peter Gulacsi with a confident finish and moments later Hungary’s defense collapsed, allowing Jozwiak to burst into the box and put the ball in. in the net. Hungary regrouped, reestablishing their lead as Szalai crossed from the left and Willi Orban returned the ball to the back post. But Lewandowski earned his side a point with fierce training in the top corner after being found in the box by Bartosz Bereszynski. Fiola was sent off for Hungary in the stoppage time after landing a second yellow card.
Germany did a light job of their first World Cup qualifying game as goals from Leon Goretzka, Kai Havertz and Ilkay Gündogan secured a 3-0 victory Iceland in the group J. Goretzka and Havertz pulled Germany to a 2-0 lead in the first seven minutes before Gündogan sealed the victory with a stunning low shot in the second half. The match took place after two German players, Jonas Hofmann and Marcel Halstenberg, were quarantined earlier Thursday as Hofmann tested positive for Covid-19 and Halstenberg was identified as a category one contact. But Joachim Löw, who is resigning after this year’s European Championship, was delighted with his team’s victory.
“It wasn’t our most amazing performance, but it was very important to start the new year off right and that’s what we did tonight,” he said. “We knew they were going to sit deep and we knew we were going to have to force them to move to create space.”
Jonas Wind created a goal for Martin Braithwaite and scored another himself to get Denmark got off to an encouraging start in Group F as they headed to a 2-0 away win for Israel. Braithwaite wasted a face-to-face with goalkeeper Ofir Marciano in the 10th minute, but he was right three minutes later, collecting a assist from Wind and lobbing Marciano to put the Danes ahead. Wind got his name on the scoresheet in the second half, reacting the fastest to a poor clearance from Hatem Abd Elhamed to shoot at home and double the lead.