SAN MARINO: England opened their World Cup Qualifying campaign with a victory on Thursday evening while Scotland rescued a draw thanks to a spectacular equaliser.
Ollie Watkins scored on his international debut as England cantered to a 5-0 victory against San Marino, but Gareth Southgate’s men should have made more of their dominance against the world’s worst side in this World Cup qualifier.
While a shot at European glory on home soil is just months away, the main focus right now is the road to Qatar and the 2018 semi-finalists took a simple first step towards next year’s tournament on Thursday.
It was always going to be a case of how many England would score against San Marino rather than the outcome at empty Wembley, where Southgate did not get the ruthless edge he called for despite running out 5-0 winners.
Southampton skipper James Ward-Prowse opened the scoring – and his international account – against the side ranked 210th and last in the world before Everton striker Dominic Calvert-Lewin headed home.
Raheem Sterling, captaining the side in the absence of the rested Harry Kane, added a deflected third, which would be all England managed in the first half despite getting away 22 shots.
Poor finishing and fine saves from inspired San Marino goalkeeper Elia Benedettini kept the scoreline down, just as it did in the second half.
Rejuvenated Jesse Lingard marked his international return with an assist for Calvert-Lewin, whose replacement Watkins coolly opened his international account as the clock wound down.
John McGinn’s superb overhead kick rescued a point for Scotland in the 85th minute of their opening World Cup qualifier against Austria.
Steve Clarke’s side twice came from behind at Hampden to seal a 2-2 draw following a thrilling second half.
Norwich defender Grant Hanley headed Scotland’s first goal in his first international for three years but Sasa Kalajdzic headed his second goal of the night in the 80th minute.
McGinn’s inspired piece of play earned Scotland a point their play merited after a slow start and they might have had more with Ryan Christie denied a strong penalty claim.
Both Hanley and Jack Hendry made their first international appearances since 2018 in the back three with Scott McTominay moved forward into his natural midfield role following his recent goalscoring form for Manchester United.
Italy’s positive start
Italy opened their campaign with a 2-0 win over Northern Ireland in Parma on a night when visiting captain Steven Davis matched Peter Shilton’s British record of 125 international appearances.
The goals scored by Domenico Berardi and Ciro Immobile were both preventable and proved decisive with Northern Ireland unable to capitalise on opportunities to get back into the game.
Five-times world champions Germany defeated Iceland 3-0 but 2010 champions Spain were held 1-1 at home by Greece.
German players wore T-shirts to show support for Qatar migrant workers before the game. The starting players each wore a black shirt with one letter in white on it that spelled out ‘Human rights’.
This followed Norway’s players wearing T-shirts bearing the message ‘Human rights on and off the pitch’ before facing Gibraltar on Wednesday.
The World Cup is scheduled to get under way in Qatar on 21 November next year.
Midfielder Goretzka said: “We have the World Cup coming up and there will be discussions about it. We wanted to show we are not ignoring that. We have a large reach and we can use it to set an example for the values we want to stand for.”
FIFA has said that Norway will not face “disciplinary proceedings”, adding that it “believes in the freedom of speech, and in the power of football as a force for good”.