England, surprising Armenia stay perfect; Germany stumble

Sports Desk, Mar 31 (efe-epa).- England, Italy, Denmark and upstart Armenia won on Wednesday to stay perfect three matches into the European qualifiers for the 2022 World Cup, while once-mighty Germany tumbled to third in their group.

Reigning champions France eked out a result against Bosnia-Herzegovina to go 4 points clear atop Group D and Spain bested Kosovo to stay first in Group B, albeit by a just a point over Sweden.

The day’s biggest story unfolded at Schauinsland-Reisen-Arena in Duisburg, Germany, where the hosts conceded with five minutes left in regulation to lose 1-2 against North Macedonia in coach Joachim Löw’s final qualifier as coach of Die Mannschaft.

After hoisting the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, Germany crashed out early at the 2018 tournament in Russia and now face an uphill battle even to qualify for Qatar 2022.

The home side went to the dressing room trailing 0-1 after 37-year-old Goran Pandev scored in first-half stoppage time.

Ilkay Gündogan equalized from the penalty spot in the 63rd minute and Germany looked set to secure a draw that would assure them of second place, but Eljif Elmas scored in the 85th minute to claim all 3 points for the Balkan side, who trail Armenia by 2 points.

Armenia nipped Romania on Wednesday to grab first place in Group J. After a scoreless first half, the two teams exploded for five goals in 33 minutes in the second before 4,000 boisterous fans at Republican Stadium in Yerevan.

Eduard Spertsyan put the home side ahead in the 56th minute, but Alexandru Cicaldau scored twice in the following 16 minutes to give Romania a 1-2 lead.

Despite going down to 10 men in the 78th minute with the expulsion of George Puscas, the Romanians remained ahead until the 86th minute, when Varazdat Haroyan brought Armenia level.

Tigran Barseghyan converted a penalty in the penultimate minute of regulation to win it for the hosts.

Bosnia, without a victory in their last 11 games, tested the champions, who need a pair of stops from goalkeeper Hugo Lloris to stay in the contest long enough for Antoine Griezmann to score the eventual winner at the hour mark.

With 7 points, France lead Group D by a comfortable 4 points over Ukraine, who drew 1-1 with Kazakhstan.

After a less-than-convincing win over Georgia last Sunday, Spain were better Wednesday in a 3-1 victory against Kosovo. Dani Olmo and Ferran Torres staked La Roja to a 2-0 lead before Besar Halimi clawed one back for the visitors with 20 minutes left.

Gerard Moreno scored in the 75th minute to settle the contest and lift Spain to 7 points, 1 more than Sweden, who have a game in hand.

Group I leaders England welcomed Poland on Wednesday knowing that they had to win to be sure of staying ahead of Hungary.

The game started well for the Three Lions, as Harry Kane converted a questionable penalty in the 19th minute for a 1-0 advantage over a Polish side missing injured super-striker Robert Lewandowski.

But a defensive miscue allowed Poland’s Jakub Moder to steal an equalizer in the 58th minute and England needed a goal by Harry Maguire in the 85th to win for the third time in three outings and remain 2 points better than Hungary, who crushed Andorra 1-4.

Albania, 0-2 winners Wednesday against San Marino, are third with 6 points.

Italy likewise remained perfect, topping Lithuania 0-2 to take command in Group C. Switzerland are second on 6 points from two matches.

An 0-4 rout of Austria boosted Denmark to 9 points and first place in Group F, where Scotland are second with 5 points. EFE

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