Damian Szymanski has headed in a stoppage time equaliser as Poland drew 1-1 with England to end the visitors’ perfect record in World Cup qualifying Group I.
An exciting night of World Cup qualifiers in Europe was tainted by offensive racist behaviour from some Hungarian fans as their side were pummelled 4-0 by England in Budapest.
England will be glad to get in and get out of Budapest quickly with four more goals, a clean sheet and another three points for their qualifying campaign. The authorities however need to hang around in the Hungarian capital and figure out who was involved in the racist chanting and bottle throwing and make sure the Hungarian authorities genuinely do something about this persistent cancer.
From a performance point of view, England looked good and continued the form that saw them come so close to winning Euro 2020 in the northern summer
Raheem Sterling was crucial again to England and he broke the deadlock with his 16th goal from his past 24 England games on the 55 minute mark – dedicating his opener to a close friend who passed away earlier this week.
Sterling then gave Harry Kane and assist for England’s second goal and from there the game was beyond doubt.
England went on to score two more through Harry Maguire, who headed in a third, and Declan Rice, who wrapped up the win with just a few minutes to go sliding in a nice shot from about 25 metres out.
Unfortunately the game was a reminder that despite all the positive moves from teams, the media and national associations, there is still a strong racist movement in parts of the sport that keep impacting matches and people.
The Hungarian Ultras are well known to the authorities with UEFA forcing Hungary to play three games behind closed doors following their behaviour at Euro 2020, but with this game under FIFA jurisdiction the crowds were allowed in and a terrible atmosphere was felt by the England players and support staff.
It definitely wasn’t a good look when the Hungarian players applauded and took applause at the end of the game from the same fans who minutes earlier had been making monkey sounds and hurling abuse, and debris, at England players. FIFA must act quickly and come down hard.
Hungary's fans threw trash at Raheem Sterling while he paid tribute to friend and streamer Steffie Gregg, who died this week of COVID ????
It didn't take long for #ENG to strike again, this time through Harry Kane.
— Optus Sport (@OptusSport) September 2, 2021
The other big news from the night was the shock defeat of Spain by Sweden 2-1 with the Spanish losing their first World Cup Qualifier since in 1993. This 66 unbeaten game run seemed certain to continue when Carlos Soler scored after 4 minutes but Sweden struck back straight away through Alexander Isak and then took the lead in the 57th minute with Viktor Claesson scoring and they never let the Spanish back in the game.
This win sees Sweden take number one spot in Group B with a perfect record from three games whilst Spain are now facing the very real situation that they will have to battle through a play-off to earn a spot at the 2022 World Cup.
Sweden end Spain's 28-year, 66-game unbeaten World Cup qualifying run with two gorgeous goals ????
Alexander Isak's thumping finish to Dejan Kulusevski setting up Viktor Claesson.
— Optus Sport (@OptusSport) September 3, 2021
In Florence, Euro 2020 Champions Italy couldn’t keep the party going as they drew 1-1 with a scrappy Bulgarian side. The Italians will be frustrated with the draw but they are four points clear at the top of Group C and their unbeaten run has stretched out to 35 games.
Meanwhile it took Germany more effort than expected to get a win over Liechtenstein. In Hansi Flick’s first game in charge, his team had 29 shots but were only able to get two past Benji Buchel – first it was Chelsea’s Timo Werner just before half time and then Leroy Sane scored a lovely solo effort deep into the second half to wrap up the win.
Despite the victory, Germany are still sitting in second place in Group J and will have been glad to see that Armenia could only manage a draw against North Macedonia, meaning their lead on the Germans is down to one point.
Over in Group E, Belgium were able to shake off an early scare and beat Estonia 5-2 away from home.
Chelsea’s Romelu Lukaku added another two goals to his international tally that now stands at 66 from 99 appearances.
The number one ranked side in the world are three points clear of the Czech Republic in Group E as the second place team keep up the pressure with a 1-0 win over Belarus. Belgium and the Czech Republic go head to head on Sunday which should be an exciting one to watch.
Elsewhere in the European qualifiers, Poland picked up a big win over Albania 4-1 and moved to second in Group I, Romania beat Iceland away from home 1-0 and Kosovo scored a memorable away win against Georgia 1-0. Northern Ireland picked up an important win 4-1 over Lithuania that gives their qualification hopes a very slight glimmer of hope.
In the days ahead there are other crucial games including Switzerland v Italy where a Swiss win would see them move to just one point behind the Italians and with a game in hand. In Group H the whole thing is wide open with just three points separating Croatia in first and Cyprus in last place. With all of them in action over the weekend it’ll be interesting to see how the group shapes up.