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World Cup qualifying: KDB, Lukaku lead Belgium; Surprise draw for France

World Cup qualifying

Belgium’s Jan Vertonghen, Belgium’s Toby Alderweireld, Belgium’s goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois and Welsh Gareth Bale pictured after a qualification game for the World Cup 2022 in the group E between the Belgian national team Red Devils and Wales (first out of eight games), Wednesday 24 March 2021 in Leuven. BELGA PHOTO BRUNO FAHY (Photo by BRUNO FAHY/BELGA MAG/AFP via Getty Images)

BELGA MAG/AFP via Getty Images

The first matchday of UEFA World Cup qualifying is genuinely out of its mind.

It began with the only early start of the day, a 1pm ET kickoff that saw Turkey’s massive takedown of the Netherlands, and the goals kept coming across Europe.

The late afternoon kickoffs began with the Norwegian team making a point of protesting what’s gone into building the stadiums on the backs of migrant workers in Qatar.

[ MORE: World Cup qualifying hub ]

The Czech Republic scored six. Gareth Bale and Kevin De Bruyne traded heroics early in Belgium - Wales but the favorites emerged with the points.

Portugal needed an own goal to beat Azerbaijan, while Malta properly scared Russia and Slovakia was flummoxed by 100th-ranked Cyprus.

Ukraine took advantage of poor finishing from France to remind the reigning World Cup winners that a place in Qatar is not a given. Slovenia issued a harsher warning to 2018 finalist Croatia.

Belgium 3-1 Wales

Going away to Belgium is the three points no Group E team is planning on, but Gareth Bale and Wales had some early dreams of it on Wednesday.

Bale worked a terrific team play with Connor Roberts and Harry Wilson that saw four one-touch plays including an outside-of-the-boot flick from the Spurs loanee en route to Wilson’s tidy finish.

But Kevin De Bruyne had an answer a dozen minutes later with a powerful bounding shot off a Thorgan Hazard assist, the latter making it 2-1 to the Red Devils in the 28th.

Romelu Lukaku rounded ou the scoring with a 73rd minute penalty as Roberto Martinez’s Belgium had 74 percent of the ball and 12 of the match’s 16 shot attempts.

France 1-1 Ukraine

Ukraine will be thrilled to have answered Antoine Griezmann’s delightful opener to take a point from the World Cup champs in France, a Presnel Kimpembe own goal putting Ukraine on level terms.

The visitors didn’t manage a shot on target but France only put three of their 18 attempts on frame as the misses were plenty.


Group A
Portugal 1-0 Azerbaijan
Serbia 3-2 Republic of Ireland

Group D
Finland 2-2 Bosnia and Herzegovina
France 1-1 Ukraine

Group E
Belgium 3-1 Wales
Estonia 2-6 Czech Republic

Group G
Gibraltar 0-3 Norway
Turkey 4-2 Netherlands
Latvia 1-2 Montenegro

Group H
Cyprus 0-0 Slovakia
Malta 1-3 Russia

Follow @NicholasMendola