France and Belgium advance to World Cup; Dutch stumble

Sports Desk, Nov 13 (EFE).- Reigning champions France and 2018 third-place side Belgium punched their tickets for World Cup 2022 on Saturday with wins over Kazakhstan and Estonia, respectively, but the Netherlands conceded two late goals against Montenegro to complicate their road to Qatar.

Les Bleus led the Kazakhs 3-0 at the break on Paris Saint-Germain star Kylian Mbappe’s first international hat trick and things only got worse for the visitors in the second half.

Real Madrid stalwart Karim Benzema had a brace and Adrien Rabot scored from open play before Antoine Griezmann converted a penalty in the 84th minute to make it 7-0.

Mbappe got a fourth goal with three minutes left in regulation to complete the rout as France claimed the Group D World Cup berth on 15 points, 4 more than second-place Finland with one match left to play.

The Finns are just 2 points ahead of Ukraine in the battle for a chance to reach Qatar via playoff.

In Brussels, Christian Benteke put the home side up in the 11th minute and Yannick Carrasco doubled the advantage with a spectacular goal 10 minutes into the second half, only to see Erik Sorga claw back a goal for Estonia in the 70th minute.

But Thorgan Hazard – who came in the 63rd minute for older brother Eden – restored the two-goal margin just four minutes later and the final score was 3-1.

Belgium are top of Group E with 19 points, 5 ahead of Wales, who clobbered Belarus 5-1 on Saturday and are vying with the Czech Republic for a spot in the playoffs.

The Dutch, who missed World Cup 2018, looked poised to clinch their berth for 2022, up 2-0 against Montenegro on a pair of goals by Barcelona’s Memphis Depay.

But the visitors gave up two goals in the final 10 minutes, a result that leaves the Netherlands first in Group G on 20 points, just 2 more than Turkey and Norway with one game to play.

If the Norwegians prevail over the Dutch in Amsterdam next week and Turkey beat Montenegro, the Orange will find themselves watching World Cup 2022 on television. EFE


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