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Germany are vulnerable and beware North Macedonia… TEN things we learned from World Cup qualifiers

Some of Europe’s most outstanding nations nonetheless have lots to consider forward of Euro 2020 following the final set of worldwide fixtures earlier than the event will get underway in June.

Germany suffered a primary residence World Cup qualifying loss in 20 years in opposition to a Goran Pandev-inspired North Macedonia, whereas world champions France had been sluggish of their current outings.

But there was higher information for the likes of Italy and Belgium, who confirmed their credentials and power in depth with convincing wins over the course of the final week.



Here, Sportsmail seems to be at among the key factors that may be taken away from the matches and what it may imply for the delayed Euros this summer time. 

Germany suffered their first World Cup qualifier residence defeat for 20 years vs North Macedonia

Germany present their vulnerable aspect

Not since a well-known 5-1 drubbing by England in Munich had Germany lost a World Cup qualifier on residence soil. But that run got here to a crashing finish in opposition to minnows North Macedonia.

Joachim Low’s aspect had been uninspiring in some durations of their first two qualifiers of the week, regardless of finally overcoming each Iceland and Romania. But there was to be no fortunate third escape on Wednesday night.

Poor ending from the likes of Serge Gnabry and most noticeably Timo Werner – with the £53million Chelsea striker spurning an unimaginable probability simply earlier than North Macedonia’s winner – appeared to indicate the shortage of leading edge that may rear its ugly head.

Timo Werner missed a glorious chance just before North Macedonia scored the winner

Timo Werner missed an excellent probability simply earlier than North Macedonia scored the winner

But extra worryingly for Germany boss Low – who leaves his publish after this summer time’s event – the defence left Pandev unmarked when there gave the impression to be little hazard and did not adequately observe the run of Napoli’s Eljif Elmas for his or her winner.

It was recreation administration that in the end failed the hosts in Duisburg, conceding in added time on the finish of the primary half and 5 minutes earlier than the full-time whistle, with a lot of these on the sector anticipated to type a key a part of Germany’s beginning XI on the Euros.

The potential return of extra skilled heads akin to Thomas Muller and Mats Hummels may assist resolve the latter points. But Low nonetheless has loads of work to do if he desires an excellent finish to his swansong as head coach of his nationwide aspect. 

Beware North Macedonia

While Germany’s issues had been clear for all to see, it was an eventful World Cup qualifying week for North Macedonia.

An entertaining recreation in Romania resulted in a 3-2 defeat, however confidence was then rebuilt with a 5-0 thrashing of fellow minnows Lichtenstein.

But few would have predicted inflicting the upset of the Qatar 2022 qualifiers thus far by changing into simply the second workforce after Sweden to attain two objectives previous Germany on their soil since England in 2001.

Veteran striker Goran Pandev led the line brilliantly against Joachim Low's men in Duisburg

Veteran striker Goran Pandev led the road brilliantly in opposition to Joachim Low’s males in Duisburg

Veteran ahead Pandev was nonetheless main the road strongly in Duisburg, and capitalised on being left utterly free by Antonio Rudiger and Co to equalise earlier than Elmas’ winner. 

‘These lads have made North Macedonia proud in opposition to the winners of 4 World Cup titles and three European Championships,’ the North Macedonia coach, Igor Angelovski mentioned. ‘We’ve by no means overwhelmed a workforce with so many titles. Now we should get some relaxation as what we have achieved nonetheless hasn’t sunk in.’ 

Angelovski will hope it has been digested by the point this summer time’s Euros come about, which his workforce certified for by way of the Nations League play-offs.

If they will produce equally environment friendly performances and rating when handed the alternatives, in addition to some luck alongside the best way, they may effectively spring surprises on Austria, Ukraine and Holland within the group levels. 

Italy ticking alongside 

Few main sides impressed fairly as a lot as Roberto Mancini’s Italy over the course of the worldwide break with three consecutive 2-0 wins.

Having missed out on the 2018 World Cup in Russia, Italy’s street to redemption received off to a superb begin with routine wins in opposition to Northern Ireland and Bulgaria, with the likes of Ciro Immobile and Manuel Locatelli heading in the right direction.

But when Mancini rang the modifications in opposition to Lithuania, there was no let up as they as soon as once more discovered the web by substitute Sensi and Immobile, to make sure they prime Group C forward of the Euros. 

Roberto Mancini rang the changes against Lithuania, but Italy made it three 2-0 wins in a row

Roberto Mancini rang the modifications in opposition to Lithuania, however Italy made it three 2-0 wins in a row

But the statistics show simply how a lot Italy have improved since their humiliation three years in the past, and how far the inspiration they’ve constructed could take them this summer time.

Italy are unbeaten of their final 25 matches in all competitions, successful all however 5 of these matches. Mancini mentioned after the Lithuania win that ‘you can’t be good on a regular basis’, however his aspect haven’t been far off.

They have additionally received every of their final six matches with out conceding a purpose, with the newest 5 matches ending 2-0 of their favour.

A few friendlies precede the beginning of their Euro Group A fixtures in opposition to Turkey, Switzerland and Wales, and with objectives from Immobile supported by a watertight defence, Mancini’s males are shaping up properly as they search for victory in a event for the primary time since 2006.

Spain nonetheless have keeper points

Regardless of who Luis Enrique and his predecessors have chosen as their goalkeeper, blunders by no means appear to be distant.

David de Gea has had his truthful share of errors for Spain, though Enrique mentioned in October blaming the Manchester United goalkeeper had turn into some folks’s ‘dangerous behavior’ after his questionable positioning for Ukraine’s purpose.

Chelsea flop Kepa Arrizabalaga has not had a lot of a glance in both, with Enrique showing to check the water with Athletic Bilbao’s Unai Simon.

Unai Simon went charging out of his box and then lost the ball to Kosovo's Besar Halimi

Unai Simon went charging out of his field and then lost the ball to Kosovo’s Besar Halimi

But it was the 23-year-old’s flip to endure an embarrassing second on the pitch, galloping out of his purpose to chase his personal clearance down earlier than being robbed by Kosovo’s Besar Halimi, who completed from round 40 yards.

Simon additionally conceded three objectives from the 4 pictures mixed taken by Greece, Georgia and Kosovo within the newest spherical of worldwide fixtures. 

He was nonetheless given a vote of confidence by Enrique who mentioned after the sport: ‘Unai simply has to maintain doing what he is doing as a result of he is given me quite a lot of confidence. I do not choose my gamers on their errors. They are a part of sport. Learning to keep away from making these little errors is a part of participant growth. ‘

But Iker Casillas and De Gea’s errors on the 2014 and 2018 World Cups made any type of significant progress at main tournaments extraordinarily troublesome, and Enrique must discover a resolution quickly if his aspect are to compete on the latter levels of the Euros. 

Giroud stays key to French success 

He could not prefer it at the perfect of occasions – and why would he when he’s France’s second-highest goalscorer of all time – however Olivier Giroud’s affect off the bench seems unrivalled in Europe.

In Didier Deschamps personal phrases, his World Cup holders had been ‘under par’ within the first half in opposition to Bosnia and Herzegovina.

But the 34-year-old changed Kingsley Coman simply earlier than the hour and not for the primary time in his membership or worldwide career, the Chelsea ahead’s affect was fast.

Bosnia’s central defenders had been too occupied with Giroud’s aerial presence that they allowed Antoine Griezmann a free header in the one purpose of the sport in Sarajevo.

Olivier Giroud (left) occupied Bosnia's defenders allowing Antoine Griezmann to score

Olivier Giroud (left) occupied Bosnia’s defenders permitting Antoine Griezmann to attain

Giroud has performed 106 occasions and scored 44 objectives for his nation, and solely Thierry Henry has extra objectives for the France nationwide aspect with 51 strikes.

Deschamps’ males may effectively face plenty of low blocks and five-man defences, with Hungary specifically prone to attempt and stifle the tempo of Kylian Mbappe and Ousmane Dembele. 

And ought to different sides purpose to frustrate France and look to hit them on the break, Giroud could effectively present the proper resolution to that dilemma in the summertime. 

Portugal struggling to search out their greatest attacking repair

An eventful week for Portugal left the Euro 2016 winners with loads of questions on tips on how to extract the perfect performances from their star males.

Cristiano Ronaldo distracted among the steady speak about his outburst in opposition to Serbia – which noticed him throw the captain’s armband onto the ground – with a purpose to assist spare his aspect’s blushes in opposition to Luxembourg.

But his anger on the resolution to not ward a last-gasp purpose in opposition to the Serbs hid the frustration of not solely throwing away a two-goal lead, but additionally of extra personal frustration following current underwhelming performances in opposition to the likes of Croatia and France too.

Cristiano Ronaldo and Bruno Fernandes were largely unable to make an impact for Portugal

Cristiano Ronaldo and Bruno Fernandes had been largely unable to make an affect for Portugal 

The identical seems to use for Bruno Fernandes, who has 23 objectives in all competitions for Manchester United this season however has simply two objectives and 4 assists in 27 appearances for his nation.

Liverpool star Diogo Jota seems to be flying after his brace in opposition to Serbia and his purpose in opposition to Luxembourg.

But if Portugal are to repeat their heroics of 5 years in the past, then they are going to want Ronaldo and Fernandes firing on all cylinders, which is one thing that isn’t at present the case underneath Fernando Santos. 

England must deliver tempo again into aspect

In the primary half in opposition to Poland, Gareth Southgate’s aspect – apart from a couple of extra objectives – demonstrated precisely why they are thought of such an thrilling crop of gamers.

But the second interval highlighted precisely the shortage of tempo and verve out extensive that England endure from with out the likes of Jadon Sancho, Marcus Rashford and Bukayo Saka.

England dominated the primary half and dictated play effectively in midfield specifically earlier than Harry Kane had put his aspect into the lead from the penalty spot.

England too often relied on Raheem Sterling as their pacey option down the left against Poland

England too typically relied on Raheem Sterling as their pacey possibility down the left in opposition to Poland

But too typically within the second half Raheem Sterling was the one pure outlet out extensive, and having received the penalty within the first half he was effectively marshalled by the Poland defence and thwarted by Wojciech Szczesny.

Southgate solely turned to the likes of Reece James and Jesse Lingard as soon as Harry Maguire had restored England’s lead 5 minutes from time, however the likes of Croatia and Scotland could also be much less forgiving in that sense on the Euros.

Injury prevented the trio of Sancho, Rashford and Saka from that includes, and regardless of England’s good return from the most recent qualifiers, Southgate would require the skillset of these three sooner or later and should name on them this summer time when essential.

Poland can nonetheless operate with out Lewandowski 

They could have in the end come up brief at Wembley on Wednesday night, however Poland gave England an almighty fright. The guests had hardly appeared within the recreation within the first half and deservedly went into the break behind.

But the workforce that emerged from the altering rooms was barely extra daring and had been rewarded by John Stones’ poor defending, with Jakub Moder smashing previous Nick Pope after a one-two with Arkadiusz Milik.

They appeared comfy till Maguire rifled residence and competed with out injured star Robert Lewandowski, with the Bayern Munich ahead anticipated to overlook the following month. 

The 32-year-old ought to have recovered by the point they face Slovakia, Spain and Sweden in Group E, however even when their star man is unavailable, they’ve proven by the likes of striker Krzysztof Piatek and Szczesny on the different finish of the sector that they nonetheless have lots to supply. 

Jakub Moder scored the equaliser for Poland, who held their own without Robert Lewandowski

Jakub Moder scored the equaliser for Poland, who held their very own with out Robert Lewandowski

Belgium’s power in depth among the many greatest 

Belgium might be among the many smaller nations in northern Europe however they current outcomes present their nationwide soccer aspect consists of an abundance of expertise.

Regulars Romelu Lukaku and Kevin De Bruyne had been heading in the right direction within the win in opposition to Wales whereas the Inter Milan ahead additionally scored within the draw in opposition to Czech Republic.

But giving among the fringe gamers an opportunity to stake their declare forward of this summer time’s Euros, Roberto Martinez’s males smashed no fewer than eight objectives previous a hapless Belarus.

Michy Batshuayi was one of the fringe players to showcase their talent against Belarus

Michy Batshuayi was one of many fringe gamers to showcase their expertise in opposition to Belarus

Michy Batshuayi spoke of feeling extra valued with Belgium than at Crystal Palace after netting the opener, and was joined by fellow Premier League stars Leandro Trossard, Dennis Praet and Christian Benteke find the web.

Both De Bruyne and Lukaku had been subsequently given the evening off whereas Youri Tielemans solely appeared in its place in Leuven.

Belgium reached the semi-finals of the 2018 World Cup, and with squad depth as glorious at this within the attacking areas, they appear destined for one more future in a serious event. 

Beware of Denmark 

Denmark have demonstrated a exceptional piece of type throughout the World Cup qualifiers, and their second-half goalscoring spree of their 4-0 win in Austria noticed no let up.

There was little to separate the perimeters within the first half however after Andreas Skov Olsen fired residence, a flurry of objectives adopted, together with one from Tottenham midfielder Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg.

They now prime Group F following their three current wins by an mixture rating of 14-0, which features a 2-0 win in Israel and an 8-0 thrashing of Moldova, 

Denmark are now unbeaten of their final 12 World Cup qualifying matches and have conceded simply 5 objectives within the course of. 

And with Leicester City’s Kasper Schmeichel, Chelsea’s Andreas Christensen, Bundesliga duo Thomas Delaney and Youssef Poulsen, they are going to definitely be a workforce to look at in opposition to Finland, Belgium and Russia on the Euros.

Denmark top Group F following their three recent wins by an aggregate score of 14-0

Denmark prime Group F following their three current wins by an mixture rating of 14-0


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