The great European teams rise in a classification full of ambushes. England, Germany and Belgium stepped forward with comfortable wins and lead their respective groups. So does Italy, who drew (0-0) in Switzerland. The current European champion should have won. Switzerland was inferior, but managed a high-tension match in Basel and without throwing between sticks during the entire first half, they could get ahead with a header from Akanji that went close to the squad. Returning from recess, a blunder by Ricardo Rodríguez ended up in a penalty. But Jorginho, the great stuntman who uses the pre-hit jump technique, failed to fool Sommer.
Coach Roberto Mancini called the talent. Chiesa entered, who had stayed on the starting bench for the benefit of Berardi, and Zaniolo returned, who missed the last European Championship through injury. Control of the party never ceased to be Italian. Occasions of all colors came and goalkeeper Sommer was a giant. Switzerland resisted and remains four points behind its rival and with two games less to play. Everything indicates that the pass will be played between them next November in the duel they will face on Italian soil.
England has launched into the World Cup ready to take advantage of its excellent generation of footballers. Together with Denmark and Sweden – who have played two games less than the Danish and the English – make up the trio of teams that have a full of triumphs in the continental qualifying phase. The fifth victory came at Wembley in a placid duel against Andorra, a match that opened after a quarter of an hour with a goal from Lingard and that had no other history than to tear down the wall of the Pyrenean team.
In the final twenty minutes, Kane scored the second from a penalty and Lingard scored the third, giving Saka the fourth. England transits with 17 goals scored and just one received in five games, just halfway in a group in which Poland, who thrashed in San Marino (1-7), is second and will receive them on Wednesday. Albania and Hungary, who faced each other with the victory of the first (1-0), are behind.
Gareth Bale’s triplet
In Stuttgart, Germany left behind past doubts and rolled over Armenia, which came out shorn (6-0) from a match to which it arrived as leader and with the illusion of approaching its first World Cup, a dream for the modest team led by Joaquín Caparrós . Four goals before the break left them liquidated. With the group also on the equator, the Germans are leaders again. They only lost one match, at home to North Macedonia, who missed a two-goal lead on their visit to Iceland (2-2).
The Nordic team, present in the last World Cup, is on the verge of elimination, six points behind Armenia, five from Romania and four behind the Macedonians, and mired in a controversy that has sparked the federation due to a complaint of aggression sexual violence that removed striker Sigthorsson from the team.
Wales have only played one World Cup. It happened in 1958 in Sweden. A presence in Qatar would put the icing on the cake for Gareth Bale’s career with the team he loves the most. Everything points to the option to play the play-off against the Czechs, who lost (3-0) in Brussels to the Belgians, undisputed leaders of the group. After the remarkable performance four days ago, Madridista Hazard once again stood out and scored the second goal for Roberto Martínez’s team in a comfortable victory. The result opens the options for Wales, who hours before had come back from an adverse score against Belarus with three goals from Bale, two of them from penalties.
The match was played in the Russian town of Kazan, a neutral ground chosen by UEFA due to sanctions against the Belarusian government, and began with a goal by Bale after scoring a penalty committed on him. But Belarus came back with two consecutive goals at the edge of the half hour of play. When he was on the ropes, Bale reappeared. He tied thanks to another maximum penalty and in the third minute of the extension he scored the winning goal (2-3).
You can follow EL PAÍS DEPORTES in Facebook and Twitter, or sign up here to receive our weekly newsletter.