France start Euro qualifying campaign with 4-1 win

Saturday, 2019-03-23 07:14:29
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France's Antoine Griezmann scores their first goal. (Reuters)
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World champions France launched their Euro 2020 qualifying campaign with a no-nonsense 4-1 away win thanks to four different scorers against Moldova in Group H on Friday.

Antoine Griezmann, Raphael Varane and Olivier Giroud scored in the opening half and Kylian Mbappe struck late to put France top of the group ahead of Monday's home game against Iceland.

The Moldova fans erupted one minute from time when second-half substitute Vladimir Ambros got a consolation goal.

In the other Group H matches, Iceland won 2-0 in Andorra thanks to Birkir Bjarnason and Vidar Kjartansson while Turkey beat Albania 2-0 through Burak Yilmaz and Hakan Calhanoglu.

Kingsley Coman was meant to win his first France cap since November 2017 but he picked up a back injury in the warm-up and was replaced by Blaise Matuidi, who started on the left wing.

France got off to a slow start, but Paul Pogba flicked the ball over the Moldova defence and Griezmann volleyed the ball under the bar from point-blank range after 24 minutes.

Varane headed home from Griezmann's corner kick three minutes later as the home side started to become totally overwhelmed in their first meeting with France.

Giroud netted his 34th goal for Les Bleus with an angled volley from Blaise Matuidi's cross nine minutes from halftime, joining David Trezeguet in third place on the list of France's all-time top scorers.

Mbappe, who was having a frustrating night, netted from close range in the 87th to round off the victory.

France goalkeeper Hugo Lloris did not have a save to make until he was beaten by Ambros, who fired home with one minute left after some confusion in the French defence.

European champions Portugal were held to a 0-0 draw by Ukraine in their opening Euro 2020 qualifier on Friday as Cristiano Ronaldo returned for the first time since the World Cup.

Ukraine's veteran goalkeeper Andriy Pyatov kept Portugal at bay with several fine saves in the first hour before the hosts ran out of ideas in the Group B game.

England made a hugely impressive start to their Euro 2020 qualifying campaign as Raheem Sterling scored a hat-trick in a 5-0 Group A thrashing of a sorry Czech Republic side on Friday.

Sterling opened the scoring from Jadon Sancho's cross in the 23rd minute and Harry Kane's penalty put England in complete control on the stroke of halftime.

England's Raheem Sterling celebrates scoring England's fourth goal to complete his hat-trick. (Reuters)

There was a brief flurry from the Czechs at the start of the second half but normal service was soon resumed as Sterling curled home his second of the night just past the hour.

The Manchester City forward was unstoppable and he completed his first hat-trick for England seven minutes later with a deflected drive past Czech keeper Jiri Pavlenka.

The Czechs' misery was complete when Tomas Kalas bundled in an own goal in the 84th minute.

Bulgaria midfielder Todor Nedelev scored a dubious late penalty to help them earn a 1-1 home draw in their opening Euro 2020 Group A qualifier against Montenegro on Friday, after Stefan Mugosa opened the scoring five minutes into the second half.