Scotland revives its hopes; Portugal, the Netherlands stay on track
Reigning champion France beat Finland 2-0 in a World Cup qualifier on Tuesday thanks to Antoine Griezmann’s double strike to snap a five-game winless streak while Scotland kept its hopes alive with a 1-0 win in Austria.
In other action, Portugal and the Netherlands stayed on track to reach the finals in Qatar next year, with Memphis Depay grabbing a hat-trick for the Dutch in a 6-1 demolition of Turkey.
France was roared on by 57,000 passionate spectators in Lyon where Griezmann — who ended an unhappy spell at Barcelona with a loan move back to Atletico Madrid in the transfer window — combined well with Karim Benzema as their side overcame a disjointed start.
Benzema’s delightful backheel released Griezmann inside the box and he supplied a smooth finish after 25 minutes.
Griezmann made it 41 goals for his country when he beat Finnish ‘keeper Lukas Hradecky at the near post to make it 2-0 in the 54th minute.
After a frustrating 1-1 draw with Ukraine in their last game, the victory was a welcome boost for the French who are still smarting after crashing out of Euro 2020 at the last 16 stage this summer.
“We did not do everything well but we have rediscovered our confidence,” said France coach Didier Deschamps.
“This puts our fate in our hands and we must finish the job in November.”
Scotland grabbed a valuable three points in its bid to qualify for Qatar with a 1-0 win against the Austrians in Vienna as Australian-born Lyndon Dykes’ VAR-awarded penalty proved the difference.
The victory moved the Scots up to second in Group F, seven points behind Euro 2020 semifinalists Denmark which is cruising with a 100 percent record after thrashing Israel 5-0.
“Some people in (Scotland) don’t believe in this group of players, but I do,” Scotland manager Steve Clarke told Sky Sports. “I love my players. We’re a good team.”
The Netherlands was ruthless against Turkey as Depay’s hat-trick took the Barcelona forward’s international goal tally to 33.
The Dutch led 3-0 by half-time and any remaining chance for the Turks vanished when Leicester defender Caglar Soyuncu was sent off for a second bookable offence shortly before the break.
Louis van Gaal’s side moved into top spot in Group G by virtue of goal difference above Norway which outclassed minnows Gibraltar 5-1, with Erling Braut Haaland notching a hat-trick.
Serbia’s bid to qualify for a second successive World Cup finals suffered a setback as Nikola Milenkovic’s late own goal and a superb display from teenage goalkeeper Gavin Bazunu gave the Republic of Ireland a battling 1-1 draw in Dublin.
Lazio midfielder Sergej Milinkovic-Savic had put Serbia ahead in the first half.
The Serbs trail Portugal — which was a 3-0 winner in Azerbaijan — by two points in Group A.
The Portuguese did not miss the suspended Cristiano Ronaldo as Bernardo Silva scored a sparkling opener on 26 minutes before Andre Silva added a second five minutes later in Baku.
Liverpool forward Diogo Jota completed the job with a second-half header to continue his bright early season form.
The results: Group A: Azerbaijan 0 lost to Portugal 3 (Bernardo Silva 26, Andre Silva 31, Diogo Jota 75); Ireland 1 (Milenkovic 86-og) drew with Serbia 1 (Milinkovic-Savic 20).
Group D: France 2 (Griezmann 25, 53) bt Finland 0; Bosnia 2 (Pjanic 74-pen, Menalo 85) drew with Kazakhstan 2 (Kuat 51, Zaynutdinov 90+5).
Group F: Faroe Island 2 (Olsen 68, Vatnsdal 71) bt Moldova 1 (Milnceanu 84); Denmark 5 (Poulsen 28, Kjaer 31, Olsen 41, Delaney 57, Cornelius 90+1) bt Israel 0; Austria 0 lost to Scotland 1 (Dykes 30-pen).
Group G: Norway 5 (Thorsvedt 22, Haaland 27, 39, 90+1, Sorloth 59) bt Gibraltar 1 (Styche 43); Montenegro 0 drew with Latvia 0; the Netherlands 6 (Klaassen 1, Depay 16, 38-pen, 54, Til 80, Malen 90) bt Turkey 1 (Under 90+2).
Group H: Russia 2 (Smolov 10, Bakaev 84-pen) bt Malta 0; Slovakia 2 (Schranz 54, Koscelnik 77) bt Cyprus 0; Croatia 3 (Livaja 33, Pasalic 66, Vlasic 90+4) bt Slovenia 0.
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