PARIS, October 12: A Timo Werner double on Monday helped Germany stamp their ticket for the 2022 World Cup with a 4-0 win over North Macedonia, but Belgium will have to wait until next month after Wales carved out a narrow win in Estonia.
Hansi Flick’s men avenged a shock 2-1 home loss to the Macedonians earlier this year to claim their seventh win in eight qualifiers and take an unassailable eight-point lead at the top of Group J, with two matches remaining.
“We now have five wins from five this season,” Germany coach Hansi Flick told RTL.
“You have to compliment the team on their attitude. Of course, the first half was a bit wild, but we can be happy that we won and qualified.”
Germany went into their match in Skopje knowing that they could secure their passage if they won and Armenia failed to beat Romania.
After a goalless first half, Kai Havertz broke the deadlock five minutes after the interval before Chelsea’s Werner struck twice in three minutes to clinch the tie for the Germans.
His first came on 70 minutes when Thomas Mueller, who had teed up Havertz, flicked the ball into the path of Werner who crashed the ball past Stole Dimitrievski in the Macedonian goal.
Three minutes later, substitute Florian Wirtz got the touch through for Werner to curl his shot past Dimitrievski and chalk up his fifth goal in his last five qualifiers.
Jamal Musiala, 18 years and 227 days old, rounded things off with his first goal in international football, becoming the youngest person to score for Germany since Marius Hiller, then 17, scored against Switzerland in 1910.
More importantly, Musiala sealed the win that sees the Germans become the first team, other than hosts Qatar, to qualify for the 2022 finals.
The second part of the bargain which secured their place in Qatar in 2022 came in Bucharest where Alexandru Mitrita’s goal on 26 minutes gave Romania a 1-0 win at home against the Armenians.
Kieffer Moore’s early goal in Tallinn gave Wales a slender 1-0 win over Estonia which keeps their hopes alive of catching Group E leaders Belgium, who were not in action after their involvement in the Nations League finals.
Wales are five points behind Belgium with two games to play and can still claim top spot and automatic qualification.
The Czech Republic won 2-0 in Belarus to remain in the running for second place in the group. They are level on points with the Welsh but have played one match more.
Wales are all but certain to drop into the playoffs even if they finish below the Czechs, courtesy of winning their 2020-21 Nations League group.
“It was one of those performances we needed to dig in and grind out a result,” said Wales captain Aaron Ramsey.
“It was just important to come here and get the three points. We’ve managed to do that and now we can prepare for the games in November. It’s all in our hands.”
Russia and Croatia guaranteed themselves a top-two finish in Group H but top spot remains open.
First-half goals from Igor Diveev and Georgi Dzhikiya gave the Russians a 2-0 cushion in Slovenia and, in spite of Josip Ilicic’s strike just before half-time, the visitors held on to claim the three points.
Russia are two points ahead of Croatia who needed Luka Modric’s 71st-minute equaliser to claim a 2-2 draw at home to Slovakia.
The Russians can secure their qualification when they travel to Croatia on November 14.
Memphis Depay scored twice for the Netherlands as they thrashed Gibraltar 6-0.
The Dutch, who missed the 2018 World Cup, top Group G but Burak Yilmaz’s 99th-minute penalty which gave Turkey a 2-1 win in Latvia means they must wait until next month to secure a top-two finish.
Norway, without the injured Erling Haaland, are two points behind the Netherlands in second place after beating Montenegro 2-0.
Mohamed Salah helps Egypt to crucial World Cup triumph in Libya
Liverpool star Mohamed Salah helped Egypt to a 3-0 World Cup qualifying triumph over closest rivals Libya on Monday that puts them on the brink of winning Group F and reaching the final elimination round.
The two-time African Footballer of the Year was a constant threat in Benghazi as the Pharaohs completed a double over the Mediterranean Knights having won 1-0 in Alexandria three days ago.
Ahmed el Fotouh broke the deadlock on 40 minutes, Mostafa Mohamed added a second goal in first-half added time and substitute Ramadan Sobhi netted after 72 minutes.
Egypt have 10 points, four more than second-place Libya, after four rounds and need one win from fixtures against Angola and Gabon in November to be sure of making the play-offs.
The 10 group winners will be split into five pairings, and the winners of the two-legged ties in March will represent Africa at the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.
In Group D, Ivory Coast retained a one-point advantage over Cameroon in what is widely regarded as the toughest of the 10 mini-leagues with the two nations boasting 10 World Cup appearances between them.
Ivory Coast edged Malawi 2-1 in Cotonou and Cameroon pipped Mozambique 1-0 in Tangier to turn the section into a two-team race to finish first.
The qualifiers were played in Benin and Morocco because hosts Ivory Coast and Mozambique lack international-standard stadiums.
Arsenal forward Nicolas Pepe gave three-time World Cup participants Ivory Coast a great start by scoring within two minutes as he punished a defensive mix-up.
Malawi levelled on 20 minutes through Khuda Muyaba, who rifled a low shot from outside the box past Sylvain Gbohouo into the corner of the net.
The match-winner came on 67 minutes as AC Milan midfielder Franck Kessie gave goalkeeper Brighton Munthali no chance with a rising strike from the penalty spot.
Several flight delays due to Covid-19 cases among the airline crew meant Cameroon arrived in Morocco only 11 hours before the kick-off.
After an understandably lacklustre first-half performance by the Indomitable Lions, whose seven World Cup appearances is an African record, Portuguese coach Toni Conceicao gambled.
He took off Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting and Karl Toko Ekambi at half-time and replaced his third forward, Vincent Aboubakar, early in the second half.
Minus three of their best known players, Cameroon struggled at times to contain the lively Mozambican Mambas, with forward Geny Catamo a constant threat.
But Cameroon defender Michael Ngadeu-Ngadjui succeeded on 68 minutes where the attackers had failed, nodding the ball into the net after a weak punched clearance off a corner by goalkeeper Hernani Siluane.
Meanwhile, Burkina Faso replaced reigning African champions Algeria as Group A leaders thanks to a narrower than expected 2-0 win over whipping boys Djibouti, the lowest ranked of the 40 group-phase sides.
Having scored four times against the minnows last week, the Stallions had to settle for goals from Issoufou Dayo and Abdoul Tapsoba in the second meeting.
Algeria, who boast an African record 30-match unbeaten record, will regain top spot on goal difference if they follow up a 6-1 home win over Niger by beating the west Africans again on Tuesday in Niamey. (AFP)