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Europa League

Lacklustre France held by Ukraine in opening World Cup qualifier despite Antoine Griezmann goal

France kicked off their World Cup qualifying campaign in unconvincing fashion as they were held to a 1-1 home draw by Ukraine on Wednesday.

Antoine Griezmann put the world champions in front in the first half with a brilliant strike, only for defender Presnel Kimpembe to hand the visitors a point with an own goal after the break.

The result left Didier Deschamps’s side and Ukraine level with Finland and Bosnia in Group D after they drew 2-2 in the other game.

World Cup Qualification UEFA

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Les Bleus next face Kazakhstan and Bosnia away, on Sunday and Wednesday.

A Tomas Soucek hat-trick helped Czech Republic to storm back from an early deficit to thrash Estonia 6-2 on Wednesday and kick off their World Cup qualification campaign in style. Belgium beat Wales 3-1 in the other game in Group E.

Russia beat Malta 3-1 on Wednesday, ending a six-match winless streak, to kick off their 2022 World Cup qualifying campaign.

Captain Artyom Dzyuba opened the scoring in the 23rd minute of the Group H match at Malta’s Ta’Qali National Stadium with a low drive from the centre of the box.

Brazilian-born Mario Fernandes put Russia up 2-0 at half-time with a drive from the right side of the box that breezed under Maltese goalkeeper Henry Bonello’s left arm in the 35th minute. Malta’s Joseph Mbong narrowed Russia’s lead in the 56th minute, but substitute Alexander Sobolev sealed the win.

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Slovenia celebrated a 1-0 home win over Croatia in their opening 2022 World Cup Group H qualifier after Sandi Lovric struck in the 15th minute to sink the 2018 tournament’s runners-up. Cyprus and Slovakia played out a 0-0 draw in Group H.

Portugal produced a rusty display in their opening World Cup qualifier at home to Azerbaijan on Wednesday but still made a winning start with a 1-0 victory in Turin. Maksim Medvedev turned the ball into his own net after a mix-up with goalkeeper Shahrudin Mahammadaliyev to break the deadlock in the 37th minute of a game moved to Juventus’ stadium due to Covid-19 restrictions on travel to Portugal. Serbia beat Republic of Ireland 3-2 in the other game in Group A.

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