Summary of World Cup qualifiers played across the world on Thursday
England moved five points clear at the top of World Cup qualifying Group I after a comfortable 4-0 win over Hungary at the Puskas Arena on Thursday.
Raheem Sterling put England ahead in the 55th minute, after a frustrating first half, slotting home a low pull-back from Mason Mount.
Sterling was the provider for England's second eight minutes later, when his deflected cross was headed in by a stooping Harry Kane.
Harry Maguire made it 3-0 in the 69th minute with a header from a Luke Shaw corner and Declan Rice added the fourth with a shot from outside the box which got through the body of keeper Peter Gulacsi.
Hungary, already facing two games behind closed doors in UEFA competition after incidents at their national stadium during Euro 2020, could face sanctions from FIFA after fans threw objects at England players on two occasions.
British broadcaster ITV also said racist "monkey noises" were aimed at Sterling and England substitute Jude Bellingham from the hardcore "ultras" behind the goal.
Sweden hand Spain first WC qualifying defeat since 1993
Sweden recovered from a goal down to hand Spain their first World Cup qualifying defeat for 28 years with a shock 2-1 victory on Thursday.
Alexander Isak and Viktor Claesson produced sumptuous finishes to cancel out Carlos Soler's early goal for the Euro 2020 semi-finalists and move Sweden top of Group B.
"It's a shame, we went for the win, and probably in our best period of the game they scored their second goal," Spain captain Sergio Busquets said.
"The group is a lot more complicated now and we don't have things in our own hands. We were going well, but perhaps lacked a bit of luck, but we have to continue - there's still a number of games to go, even if right now the scenario isn't the best."
Sweden moved onto nine points with three wins from three games, while Spain dropped to second with seven points having played a match more.
The game was barely five minutes old when Spain debutant Soler put the visitors ahead with a smart half-volley from Jordi Alba's cross.
The lead did not last long, however, as a minute later Isak, who plays in Spain for Real Sociedad, capitalised on Busquets's error on the edge of the box to equalise.
Both sides tested the goalkeepers as the frantic opening half continued.
Claesson latched onto Kulusevski's centre after fine work from the Juventus midfielder to fire home the winner after 57 minutes.
Ferran Torres and Adama Traore were denied equalisers by fine Robin Olsen stops, while Robin Quaison should have sealed the win for the hosts in the third minute of stoppage time, only to lift the ball over the onrushing Unai Simon and wide after Eric Garcia's misplaced header.
Italy equal European unbeaten record in draw with Bulgaria
Italy made it 35 games unbeaten to equal the European record run set by Spain but were ultimately disappointed as they were held to a frustrating 1-1 draw by Bulgaria in their Group C World Cup qualifier on Thursday.
In their first match since winning the European Championship in July, Federico Chiesa wasted no time in putting Italy ahead, arrowing home a fine finish with 16 minutes on the clock.
However, Atanas Iliev struck an equaliser against the run of play five minutes before the break, the first goal Italy have conceded in their World Cup qualifying campaign to date.
It was one-way traffic in the second half as the home side went in search of a winner but, apart from Ciro Immobile's effort from a tight angle that was cleared off the line, Roberto Mancini's side did not look like scoring again.
Despite the draw, Italy remain in a strong position to reach next year's World Cup in Qatar, sitting top of the group on 10 points from four matches, four points clear of Switzerland in second albeit having played two games more.
"We had opportunities to win, we were too hasty and a bit wasteful in possession," Italy captain Leonardo Bonucci told Rai Sport.
"We wanted to celebrate the new start with a victory in front of our fans."
Fifty-three days after their Euro 2020 triumph over England, Italy started with nine of the players who took to the field on that famous night at Wembley and showed no sign of letting up against Bulgaria as Chiesa stroked them in front early on.
The livewire forward played a neat one-two with Immobile before finding the bottom corner, and Italy stayed in the ascendancy following their breakthrough.
The Azzurri looked on course to equal the record set by Spain from 2007-09 in style, with only Brazil between 1993-96 having a longer unbeaten run, of 36 games, but Iliev silenced the crowd with Bulgaria's only real attack of the half.
A second-half onslaught was expected from the European champions but it never came. They did have 27 shots in total, but could not create that killer chance as the visitors dug in for a well-earned point.
Italy next face Switzerland on Sunday in Basel, while Bulgaria host Lithuania.
Lukaku at the double as Belgium recover to outclass Estonia
Romelu Lukaku scored twice as Belgium overcame an early scare to crush Estonia 5-2 away on Thursday and solidify their position at the top of World Cup qualifying Group E.
Lukaku took his record to 66 goals for his country on his 99th appearance after Belgium were shocked when Estonia captain Matthias Kait stole the ball in midfield and thundered home a powerful shot to put the hosts ahead in the second minute.
But FIFA’s top-ranked team fought back to reach 10 points ahead of second-placed Czech Republic on seven points also from four games. Estonia are bottom without a win from three games.
Hans Vanaken, Axel Witsel and substitute Thomas Foket also scored for Belgium while Erik Sorga got a consolation for the home side.
"With the first goal, all credit should go to Estonia,” said Belgium coach Roberto Martinez.
“It was a great shot. That happens in football. But I'm pleased that we remained calm and the five goals we scored ourselves give satisfaction."
Estonia’s dream start lasted 20 minutes before Vanaken equalised with a close-range header from captain Eden Hazard’s perfect chip.
The 28-year-old Lukaku put Belgium ahead just before the half-hour mark, using his strength to work a rebound off the defence onto his left foot and into the corner of the net.
He had his back to goal and was given time and space to turn and shoot as he made it 3-1 to Belgium in the 52nd minute.
The goal allowed the visitors to settle into a comfortable rhythm after Estonia had proved more than a handful in the first half and might have had more goals had they been more clinical.
Witsel converted a close range tap-in after 65 minutes when Yannick Carrasco had dribbled his way into the penalty area and the latter was the provider again as Foket scored his first international goal 10 minutes after coming on.
Estonia got a consolation seven minutes from time as Michael Lilander teased his way into the penalty area to provide Sorga with an easy finish to bring the loudest cheer of the night.
Belgium have a much tougher assignment against the Czech Republic in Brussels on Sunday, while Estonia’s next qualifier is away to Wales on Wednesday.
Germany grind out 2-0 qualifying win over Liechtenstein
New Germany coach Hansi Flick got his reign off to a winning start as Timo Werner and Leroy Sane scored in a 2-0 win over Liechtenstein in their World Cup Group J qualifier on Thursday, but once again the Germans struggled in front of goal.
Former assistant Flick took over following Germany's Euro 2020 exit after a 2-0 last-16 defeat by England and the departure of manager Joachim Loew, but the inconsistency that has been his side's hallmark of late remained.
After they suffered a shock loss to North Macedonia in March, the Germans are second in the group on nine points after four games, one behind leaders Armenia. Liechtenstein are bottom with no points and one goal scored with 12 against.
"It took us too long to score the first goal, but it's also a process. I won't let the first game unsettle me. We have a long way to go," Flick said.
Germany's Robin Gosens hit the post with a header in the 19th minute but it took until the 41st before Werner finally got the first goal of the Flick era, latching on to a superb pass from Jamal Musiala before slotting home with his right foot.
Liechtenstein showed no inclination to chase an equaliser but continued to frustrate the Germans, massing their players behind the ball and making the occasional foray forward.
Aron Sele almost did the unthinkable for Liechtenstein, but his long-range attempted lob in the first half had too much power and sailed over the bar.
After the break the Germans huffed and puffed but lacked the guile to open up Liechtenstein, who had chosen to play their home tie at St Gallen in Switzerland, a 40-minute drive across the border from their regular home ground in Vaduz.
Having skipped Euro 2020 to rest after a long season with Borussia Dortmund, Marco Reus ended his brief international exile by coming off the bench on the hour and provided some of the incisive passes his side had been missing.
Sane put the game out of reach in the 77th minute as he was finally rewarded for his industry, dancing to his left in the box before rattling home a low shot but the Germans will be unhappy that their dominance did not lead to more goals.
Liechtenstein striker Daniel Kaufmann almost embarrassed the Germans with a late effort, but their blushes were spared when his header flashed across the face of goal before going wide.
Lewandowski leads Poland to convincing win over Albania
Robert Lewandowski led Poland to an emphatic 4-1 win over Albania on Thursday as Paulo Sousa's side climbed to second in World Cup qualifying Group I.
Talismanic captain Lewandowski opened the scoring in the 12th minute with a close-range header, but Albania equalised 13 minutes later when a long pass from Klaus Gjasula found striker Sokol Cikalleshi and he put the ball past Wojciech Szczesny.
Poland regained the lead against the run of play just before halftime through a header from New England Revolution forward Adam Buksa, who scored on his debut.
Nine minutes into the second half, Grzegorz Krychowiak tapped in a pass from Lewandowski, after the Bayern Munich striker had dribbled past three Albania players.
Just before the final whistle, Karol Linetty fired the ball in off the crossbar to secure a convincing win for Poland.
The victory, only the second one under Sousa since he took charge in January, sent Poland up to second place in Group I after four games alongside Hungary on seven points, five behind leaders England.
Argentina enjoy comfortable win over Venezuela in World Cup qualifier
Argentina extended their unbeaten run to 21 games on Thursday with a comfortable 3-1 win over Venezuela in their World Cup qualifier in Caracas.
Venezuela had beaten Argentina only once in 14 previous World Cup qualifiers and their hopes of doing it again on Thursday were snuffed out when Luis Adrian Martinez was shown a straight red card for a foul on Lionel Messi after half an hour.
Argentina then took complete control and got the opener just seconds before half time when Lautaro Martinez took a neat pass from Giovani Lo Celso and slipped the ball under the advancing keeper.
With a man advantage the visitors had most of the ball in the second half and added two more goals in the 71st and 74th minutes through substitutes Joaquin Correa and Angel Correa.
Yeferson Soteldo scored a consolation penalty for Venezuela in stoppage time.
“I think we had a great first half, even before they were left with a man less,” said striker Lautaro Martinez.
“After the goal we had more space to work in and we are taking all three points home.”
Messi started his first match since the final of the Copa America on July 10 and his flicks and jinks frequently ended with him being fouled as Venezuela struggled to contain him.
Messi, who has played just 24 minutes this season with his new club Paris St Germain, was on the field for the whole game and only some fine saves by Wuilker Farinez kept his name off the scoresheet.
Argentina are second in the 10-team South American qualifying group for next year's World Cup behind Brazil, who are facing Chile on Thursday.
The top four teams qualify automatically for Qatar and the fifth-placed side goes into an inter-regional playoff.
Venezuela is the only one of the South American countries never to qualify for the World Cup and their chances of breaking that duck appear slim as the defeat left them with just four points from seven matches.
In earlier games, Bolivia drew 1-1 at home to Colombia and Ecuador scored two late goals to beat Paraguay.
Ribeiro's second-half goal gives Brazil 1-0 win over Chile
Everton Ribeiro came off the bench to score the goal that gave Brazil a barely deserved 1-0 win over Chile on Thursday and maintained their 100% record in 2022 World Cup qualifying.
Chile matched Brazil for most of a bad-tempered match but Ribeiro fired home after 64 minutes to give the visitors all three points.
Brazil have won all seven of their qualifiers so far and the five-times world champions are six points clear of Argentina in the 10-team South American group.
The top four qualify automatically for Qatar and the fifth-placed side goes into an inter-regional playoff. Only five points separate fourth-placed Uruguay from last-placed Venezuela.
Brazil’s preparations for the match were thrown into turmoil by some clubs’ decision not to release their players due to concerns over the lengthy quarantine on their return.
Nine players from England did not join the squad as expected and two of those called up in their place from Zenit St Petersburg arrived in Brazil but were recalled to Russia before the Chile game.
And while Brazil could still count on the likes of Neymar, Casemiro and Marquinhos they were second best for most of the first half and had goalkeeper Weverton to thank for a series of saves that kept the game goalless.
Coach Tite introduced Ribeiro and Gerson for Vinicius Jnr and Bruno Guimaraes at halftime and Ribeiro justified his inclusion when he seized on a parried Neymar shot to fire home in a packed penalty box.
Chile have won just one of their seven games and face two testing away matches against Ecuador on Sunday and Colombia next week.
In the other late game on Thursday, Peru drew 1-1 with Uruguay in Lima. Renato Tapia gave the home side the lead after 24 minutes but Giorgian de Arrascaeta equalised five minutes later for Uruguay.
Stunning strike earns point for Bolivia in World Cup qualifier
Substitute Fernando Saucedo scored a stunning late goal to give home side Bolivia a 1-1 draw against Colombia in their World Cup qualifier in La Paz on Thursday.
Colombia had not lost to Bolivia for 10 games and they will feel aggrieved at not leaving with all three points after taking the lead in the 69th minute when Roger Martinez cut in from the right and slipped the ball into the far corner of the net.
The goal, however, roused Bolivia and Saucedo fired home from 30 meters to level the scores with seven minutes left on the clock.
The result left Bolivia, who have reached the World Cup finals only once, third bottom of the South American qualifying group with six points from seven games.
Colombia have nine points and sit in fourth place, although the other eight teams in the group all play later on Thursday.
The top four sides in the 10-team group qualify automatically for Qatar 2022 and the fifth-placed side go into an interregional playoff.
Late goals give Ecuador 2-0 win over Paraguay
Ecuador scored two late goals to beat Paraguay 2-0 on Thursday, a result that keeps them firmly in the running for an automatic qualifying spot for Qatar 2022.
The Andean side bounced back from a poor Copa America, where they did not win any of their five games, with two late goals against an unambitious Paraguayan side.
Felix Torres headed home at the back post with two minutes remaining then Michael Estrada scored a nice solo goal in injury time to seal the victory for the home side.
The win lifts them into second place in the 10-team South American qualifying group, ahead of Argentina on goal difference, although the Argentines take on Venezuela later on Thursday.
Brazil, who play Chile later on Thursday, lead the group with six wins from six games.
The top four sides in the 10-team group qualify automatically for Qatar 2022 and the fifth-place side goes into an interregional playoff.
Earlier in the day, Bolivia drew 1-1 at home with Colombia. Another three games are scheduled for later on Thursday.
US opens World Cup qualifying with 0-0 draw at El Salvador
A young U. men's national team played a 0-0 tie with El Salvador in the first CONCACAF World Cup qualifier on Thursday in San Salvador, El Salvador.
There will be 13 more qualifiers leading to the 2022 World Cup in Qatar. The top three teams in the region go to Qatar, and the fourth-place teams enters a playoff in June 2022.
The best chance to end the deadlock came in the 76th minute when the United States' Kellyn Acosta had a shot from the left side of the 6-yard box that forced a strong save by Mario Gonzalez. The Salvadoran goalie made two saves in the match.
Matt Turner of the New England Revolution had to make only one save as the U.S. outshot the hosts 13-7.
The US was missing several key players and fielded one of its least experienced teams for an official competition in history.
Midfielder Christian Pulisic did not travel as he is recovering from testing positive for COVID-19 on August 19. He was vaccinated and did not have any symptoms. The Chelsea star may be available when the U.S. hosts Canada in Nashville on Sunday.
Also absent due to injuries were forwards Tim Weah and Gyasi Zardes and goalkeeper Zack Steffen.
The US starting line-up averaged 19 international appearances and seven in official competition. Nine of the starters made their World Cup qualifying debuts, tying the men's national team modern era record in a qualifier.
The only other time it happened was Nov. 3, 19996, against Guatemala in Washington.
With the tie, the US is 18-1-6 all-time vs. El Salvador. However, the United States' streak of nine straight wins was ended.
Honduras, which played Canada to a 1-1 draw on Thursday in Toronto, travels to face El Salvador on Sunday.
Four-goal Slimani equals Algeria record in 8-0 rout of Djibouti
Islam Slimani scored four goals as African champions Algeria hammered minnows Djibouti 8-0 in their World Cup qualifier in Blida on Thursday to make a winning start to their bid to reach next year’s finals in Qatar.
Burkina Faso and Benin both won away while Morocco, who were one of the five African countries at the last finals in Russia, posted a 2-0 home triumph over Sudan on Thursday.
There was also a draw away for Uganda at neighbours Kenya and for Congo against Namibia while Tanzania surprised by holding the Democratic Republic of Congo in Lubumbashi.
The four goals for Slimani took his total for his country to 36 as he equalled Abdelhafid Tasfaout’s record for Algeria, who have played in four previous World Cup tournaments.
Rami Bensebaini, Baghdad Bounedjah, Riyad Mahrez and Dutch-born debutant Ramiz Zerrouki also added goals in a one-sided thrashing.
Algeria share Group A of the African qualifiers with Burkina Faso, who beat Niger 2-0 earlier on Thursday.
They had to play the tie in Marrakesh, Morocco because Niger had their home ground declared unsuitable for international football by the Confederation of African Football.
Burkina Faso also suffered the same punishment and host Algeria next on Tuesday in Marrakesh.
Striker Steve Mounie scored the winner for Benin away in Madagascar in Group J, where DR Congo were the fancied team but made a disappointing start under new coach Hector Cuper at home to Tanzania.
Veteran striker Dieumerci Mbokani put them ahead but Tanzania’s Simon Msuva thundered home a first-half equaliser.
Kenya and Uganda ended goalless in Group E Nairobi while Namibia centre back Charles Hambira took centre stage for his country as they hosted Congo in a Group H game in Johannesburg.
Hambira headed home for a 1-0 halftime lead, only to then be credited with an own goal in the second half as he unsuccessfully attempted to clear Guy Mbenza’s shot, hitting it against the upright and into the net.
Morocco were ahead after 10 minutes in Rabat through defender Nayef Agued with Ilias Chair adding a second in the 53rd minute.
There are seven African qualifiers on Friday with heavyweight contenders Cameroon, Ghana, Ivory Coast and Nigeria all getting their campaigns underway.
Saudis fight back to avoid Vietnam shock, Australia down China
Saudi Arabia survived a major scare to hand 10-man Vietnam a 3-1 defeat in Group B of the final round of Asia's preliminaries for the 2022 World Cup as Australia beat China 3-0 on Thursday.
The Saudis, who appeared at their fifth World Cup finals in Russia in 2018, needed a penalty from Salem Al Dawsari after Do Duy Manh's red card to draw level against a Vietnam side making the country's first appearance at this stage of qualifying.
Nguyen Quang Hai had given Park Hang-seo's side a third- minute lead with a sweet left-foot shot that silenced the Mrsool Park crowd in Riyadh.
The Vietnamese held out despite concerted Saudi pressure until the 54th minute when Duy Manh was judged to have handled while sliding in to block Salman Al Faraj's shot at goal.
The offence earned the defender a second yellow card and, after Al Dawsari rolled his spot-kick past Bui Tan Truong, a Saudi victory always looked likely.
Yassir Al Shahrani headed home in the 67th minute and Saleh Al Shehri's Panenka penalty 10 minutes from time wrapped up the points.
Meanwhile, two goals in two first-half minutes gave the Australians the upper hand after China had controlled the opening exchanges at the Khalifa International Stadium in Doha.
Awer Mabil put the Socceroos in front from close range as Tyias Browning failed to clear Martin Boyle's lofted ball into the box.
Boyle doubled the lead when the Hibernian winger beat Yan Junling with a low shot and substitute Mitchell Duke added the third.
Australia and Saudi Arabia joined Oman at the top of Group B after Branko Ivankovic's side handed Japan a surprise 1-0 defeat earlier in the day.
Iran lead Group A thanks to Alireza Jahanbakhsh's deflected strike, which earned Dragan Skocic's side a 1-0 win over Syria in Tehran.
The Feyenoord forward met Mehdi Taremi's layoff with a right-foot strike before the ball ricocheted off the outstretched leg of Thaer Krouma and beat Ibrahim Alma.
With South Korea drawing 0-0 against Iraq in Seoul and the United Arab Emirates held to a scoreless draw by Lebanon, the Iranians top Group A with three points.
The top two in each of the six-team groups are guaranteed to progress to the World Cup finals in Qatar with the teams in third place entering a series of playoffs for a possible fifth Asian berth.