The road to Qatar for the 2022 World Cup started for European teams on Wednesday with a mistake by France to open its title defense, a big loss for the Netherlands and a declaration of human rights from the Norway.
The French were held 1-1 by Ukraine inside an empty Stade de France outside Paris as an own goal from defender Presnel Kimpembe called off Antoine Griezmann’s opener in the 19th minute for the hosts.
A hat-trick from 35-year-old striker Burak Yilmaz earned Turkey a 4-2 victory over the Netherlands, whose qualifying record for major international tournaments has been sketchy in recent years.
The Dutch failed to make it to Euro 2016 or the 2018 World Cup in Russia and failed to show great form under new coach Frank de Boer, who only won two wins in seven matches since replacing Ronald Koeman.
They are in a tricky Group G which also includes Norway, who preceded their 3-0 win over Gibraltar by lining up ahead of kick-off wearing t-shirts over their national team jerseys bearing the message ” HUMAN RIGHTS ”followed by“ Respect on and off the field. ”
It was an apparent statement on human rights violations in Qatar, which is under scrutiny due to its discriminatory laws and conditions for migrant workers who help build infrastructure for the FIFA World Cup. world.
There were wins for top-ranked Belgium, 3-1 over Wales, and reigning European champions Portugal, 1-0 over Azerbaijan. Portugal are one of the teams competing for their opening qualifiers in neutral territory – in their case, the Italian city of Turin – due to coronavirus travel restrictions.
Griezmann joined David Trezeguet in fourth place on France’s scorers list, with 34 goals, after completing a left-footed shot in the far corner of the right edge of the penalty area.
However, forwards Olivier Giroud and Kylian Mbappe struggled to enter the game and Ukraine fought back, although there was an element of fortune in the equalizer in the 57th.
Sergii Sydorchuk’s shot went off target before cutting Kimpembe as he was about to close off the midfield, and the ball went badly on goalkeeper Hugo Lloris before slowly rolling down the line.
Also in Group D, Bosnia and Herzegovina scored in the 84th minute to secure a 2-2 draw against Finland, whose goals came from Teemu Pukki.
A Dutch defense missing its captain and mainstay, the injured Virgil van Dijk, could not handle Yilmaz, who was in good shape for the French title Lille this season.
The forward struck twice before the break and again late in the second half to secure victory in Group G as the Dutch threatened to come back after goals from substitutes Davy Klaassen and Luuk de Jong.
AC Milan midfielder Hakan Calhanoglu scored the other goal at Ataturk’s Olympic Stadium for Turkey, which has not qualified for a World Cup since its third place in 2002.
Gibraltar managed to keep Norwegian Borussia Dortmund star Erling Haaland calm but still conceded goals to Alexander Sorloth, Kristian Thorstvedt and Jonass Svensson.
Montenegro beat Latvia 2-1 in Riga in the other group match.
A long-term stunner from Kevin De Bruyne and two defensive errors allowed Belgium to end a four-game winless streak against Wales dating back to 2013 which included a quarter-final defeat at Euro 2016.
Wales took the lead thanks to a well-worked team move which was finished by Harry Wilson, but De Bruyne equalized by taking a throw-in before smashing a deflected shot into the 25-yard corner.
Thorgan Hazard took advantage of a slip from Welsh defender Connor Roberts to lead Thomas Meunier’s cross for 2-1 before Romelu Lukaku converted from the penalty spot after Chris Mepham’s savage hack on Dries Mertens.
A hat trick from West Ham free midfielder Tomas Soucek helped the Czech Republic beat Estonia 6-2.
The Belgians will travel to the Czech Republic on Saturday in Group E.
Cristiano Ronaldo could become the all-time top scorer in men’s international football by the end of qualifying.
The Portuguese star, however, remains stuck on 102 goals – seven behind record holder Ali Daei, the former Iranian striker – after an unsuccessful evening against Azerbaijan where he only managed a few free kicks.
Instead, Portugal relied on an own goal in the 36th minute, when Azerbaijani goalkeeper Shahruddin Mahammadaliyev attempted to kick the ball out of the box only to ricochet into captain Maksim Medvedev’s net.
In the other Group A game, substitute Aleksandar Mitrovic scored twice as Serbia came from behind to beat Ireland 3-2 in Belgrade.
France’s finalist at the 2018 World Cup, Croatia lost their first qualifying match for the 2022 tournament as Slovenia took a surprise 1-0 victory in Ljubljana thanks to Sandi Lovric’s 15th-minute goal. Also in Group H, Russia won 3-1 in Malta while Cyprus and Slovakia drew 0-0.