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World Cup qualifying: Sweden impress, host Japan shocked, 8 for Algeria

Joe Prince-Wright and the lads preview a pivotal and grueling international break for the U.S. Men's National Team, as they play three World Cup qualifiers over the next week.

Asian World Cup qualifying began with two big surprises, the biggest being Japan’s home loss to... Oman!

European qualifying also rolled onward with Sweden cementing its strong reputation with a win over Spain, while England had to deal with boos and racism in Hungary, and Italy matched an international record.

[ MORE: El Salvador - USMNT preview ]

Algeria got four goals from Islam Slimani in an absolute romp over Djibouti, as African qualifying continues ahead of South American and CONCACAF action on Thursday.

Here’s what we’ve seen so far Thursday across World Cup qualifying for the 2022 tournament in Qatar.

African World Cup qualifying -- CAF

Dijbouti was only down 1-0 to Algeria when Mohamed Youssouf Batio was sent off in the 23rd minute.

Islam Slimani’s fifth-minute goal was joined by three more goals, as the ex-Leicester City man led an eight-goal barrage that also featured markers by Riyad Mahrez, Baghdad Bounedjah, Ramy Bensebaini, and Ramiz Zerrouki.

Thursday’s results

Kenya 0-0 Uganda
DR Congo 1-1 Tanzania
Niger 0-2 Burkina Faso
Namibia 1-1 Congo
Madagascar 0-1 Benin
Algeria 8-0 Djibouti
Morocco 2-0 Sudan

Asian World Cup qualifying -- AFC

Surprises were on the docket in Asia, where two high-profile hosts dropped points when Japan lost and South Korea drew.

The top and fourth-ranked Asian teams in FIFA’s table (Japan is 24th and South Korea 36) couldn’t lock down all the points against No. 79 Oman and No. 70 Iraq, respectively.

Heung-min Son and South Korea played Iraq to a scoreless stalemate, but the real eyebrow-raiser was delivered in the first match of the day. An 88th-minute goal from Issam Al Sabhi gave Oman a result it very much deserved against a stunned Maya Yoshida and Japan at the Panasonic Stadium Suita.

Thursday’s results

Japan 0-1 Oman
South Korea 0-0 Iraq
Iran 1-0 Syria
UAE 0-0 Lebanon
Australia 3-0 China
Saudi Arabia 3-1 Vietnam

European World Cup qualifying -- UEFA

England’s players were booed upon taking the knee against racism, pelted with cups during goal celebrations, and allegedly dealt with racist chanting -- players and boss Gareth Southgate said they were disappointed but unaware during the game -- in a 4-0 win in Hungary.

Italy made history in a 1-1 home draw with Bulgaria, joining Spain and Brazil with the longest consecutive unbeaten runs in the history of international football with 35. To break it, they’ll face a very difficult trip to Switzerland on Sunday.

But how about a nod to FIFA No. 75 Bulgaria for drawing the EURO champs in Italy? The Fighting Berbatovs got a Kiril Despodov-produced Atanas Iliev goal 23 minutes after Federico Chiesa put Italy ahead in Florence.

And it’s probably worth reinforcing that Sweden’s success is not an accident or an anomaly. Dejan Kulusevski and Co. beat Spain 2-1 on goals from Alexander Isak and Victor Claesson to take a 2-point lead on Spain with a match-in-hand.

Germany struck twice for new boss Hansi Flick including this goal from Timo Werner in a 2-0 win at Liechtenstein. Armenia is still atop the group by a point but heads to Stuttgart to try and defend its place on Sunday.

Thursday’s results

Georgia 0-1 Kosovo
Liechtenstein 0-2 Germany
Czech Republic 1-0 Belarus
Andorra 2-0 San Marino
Poland 4-1 Albania
Italy 1-1 Bulgaria
Lithuania 1-4 Northern Ireland
North Macedonia 0-0 Armenia
Estonia 2-5 Belgium
Sweden 2-1 Spain
Iceland 0-2 Romania
Hungary 0-4 England

Follow @NicholasMendola