Czechs stun England in Euro qualifying; France, Portugal win
England conceded a late goal against the Czech Republic on Friday and paid the price with its first defeat in a qualifying game in 10 years, while France and Portugal made progress in their bids for places at next year’s European Championship.
As for Andorra, it ended a 56-match losing streak.
A goal five minutes from the end halted England’s unbeaten streak in qualifying for a major competition with the Czechs beating Gareth Southgate’s team 2-1. A victory in Prague would have secured a spot for England at the finals with three games to go.
Instead, England squandered a one-goal lead and lost its first match in European or World Cup qualifying since falling to Ukraine in 2009. That loss came with England already qualified for the 2010 World Cup. Its last meaningful defeat in qualifying was against Croatia in 2007.
“We didn’t play well enough, simple as that,” said Southgate.
Captain Harry Kane gave England the lead in the fifth minute from the penalty spot.
But Jakub Brabec leveled for the Czechs four minutes later and substitute Zdenek Ondrasek completed the comeback late with his first international goal. He scored with a low right-foot shot from inside the area.
“I just wanted to hit the ball right and put it in the net,” said Ondrasek, who plays for FC Dallas. “I saw tears in the eyes of my father probably for the first time in my life. It’s a great win and great feeling.”
Top-ranked Belgium became the first team to qualify for next year’s tournament on Thursday.
The top two teams of each group advance automatically. The other four qualifiers will come through four tiers of playoffs in March.
PORTUGAL ROLLS ON
Cristiano Ronaldo scored his 94th goal for Portugal to help the defending European champions brush aside Luxembourg 3-0 in Lisbon.
Ronaldo pounced on a bad pass near the area and chipped the goalkeeper in the 65th.
Bernardo Silva put Portugal in control from the 16th. With Portugal 2-0 ahead, substitute Goncalo Guedes added a third goal.
Ukraine kept its lead of Group B after midfielder Ruslan Malinovskyi scored twice in a 2-0 victory over Lithuania.
Unbeaten Ukraine has 16 points. Portugal has 11, ahead of Serbia with seven. Both Portugal and Serbia have one more game to play than Ukraine.
Portugal plays at Ukraine on Monday.
FRANCE ON PACE
World champion France and Turkey both took big steps in qualifying with wins which consolidated their Group H lead.
Olivier Giroud scored to help France earn a hard-fought 1-0 win at Iceland, while Turkey needed a 90th-minute goal from Cenk Tosun to push it past Albania 1-0 in Istanbul.
Both France and Turkey have 18 points. Iceland, the revelation of Euro 2016, is in third place with 12 points and at risk of missing the 2020 edition.
France hosts Turkey at Stade de France on Monday.
Giroud converted a penalty in the 66th after a foul earned by Antoine Griezmann. Giroud set up Griezmann by heading down a long ball for his fellow forward, who was then fouled by Iceland’s Ari Freyr Skulason.
France midfielder N’Golo Kanté was ruled out of the match reportedly for a hamstring problem.
It was game No. 200 for Didier Deschamps as player and now coach of France. He played 103 games for France and has directed 97 from the dugout.
Steve Mandanda played in goal for France in place of Hugo Lloris, who is out with a broken elbow.
Andorra made history of its own in Group H with a 1-0 win over Moldova, the first time the tiny mountainous nation had avoided defeat in 57 European qualifiers.
Midfielder Marc Vales headed in the Andorran goal in the 63rd after Moldova had been reduced to 10 men.
Andorra, with fewer than 80,000 residents nestled in the Pyrenees between Spain and France, had lost all 56 of its previous games in European qualifying.