France and Spain enjoyed narrow wins in World Cup qualifying while Denmark hit eight past Moldova.
The world champions France, who had made a stuttering start to qualifying with Wednesday’s 1-1 draw at home to Ukraine, got their first win of the campaign by beating Kazakhstan 2-0 in Nur-Sultan.
Ousmane Dembélé broke the deadlock in the 20th minute with a right-footed shot after being set up by Anthony Martial following a defence-splitting pass from Paul Pogba. Les Bleus doubled the lead on the stroke of half-time when Sergiy Maliy headed a cross into his own net.
France were in comfortable control of the game and should have added a third in the 76th minute, but Kylian Mbappé’s penalty was saved by Aleksandr Mokin. France moved top of the Group D standings with four points, two ahead of Ukraine and Finland who drew 1-1 in Kyiv on Sunday night, and three ahead of Bosnia, whom they face away on Wednesday, .
It was a more nervous affair for Spain who needed a stoppage-time goal from the striker Dani Olmo to grab a 2-1 win away to Georgia. After being held 1-1 at home to Greece in their opener on Thursday, the Spanish fell behind two minutes before the interval.
Georgia thrilled the 15,000 fans in the Boris Paichadze Dinamo Arena when the 20-year-old winger Khvicha Kvaratskhelia fired them ahead after his side had coasted past a passive visiting defence.
Spain were on course for their first defeat in a World Cup qualifier in 28 years until Ferran Torres levelled in the 56th, sliding in to send a Jordi Alba cross into the roof of the net after Álvaro Morata had failed to connect with the ball.
Luis Enrique’s side pressed for a winner right until the end and finally found one when Olmo let fly from long range and although the goalkeeper Giorgi Loria got a hand to the shot it dropped just under the crossbar and into the net.
Georgia’s frustration was compounded when Levan Shengelia was sent off in the final seconds. Spain have four points, two behind leaders Sweden who maintained their 100% start with a 3-0 win in Kosovo.
Denmark have six points from their opening two games and a handsome plus 10 goal difference after crushing Moldova 8-0, their record win in major tournament qualifying.
Five goals in a 21-minute spell in the first-half did the damage, as the Danes ran away with the game – Sampdoria’s Mikkel Damsgaard and Kasper Dolberg both scoring twice.
Germany maintained their perfect start in qualifying after an early Serge Gnabry goal gave them a 1-0 win over Romania in Group J although they missed a string of chances against the home side. The Germans also kept a second successive clean sheet after Thursday’s 3-0 home win over Iceland but could have been punished for their profligacy as the Romania midfielder Nicolae Stanciu missed a 90th-minute sitter.
Armenia are level on six points with Germany after an impressive 2-0 win over Iceland secured with goals from Tigran Barseghyan and Khoren Bayramyan.
Italy’s Andrea Belotti and Manuel Locatelli secured a 2-0 win over Bulgaria on Sunday to make it two wins from two in Group C at the start of their side’s qualifying campaign.
Italy struggled to break down the hosts in the first half despite dominating possession but took the lead with a penalty won and converted by Belotti two minutes before the break. There were few second-half chances but the visitors put the seal on a fifth successive win – a run in which they have not conceded – eight minutes from time thanks to Locatelli’s fine finish.
Italy are top and will aim to continue their 100% start on Wednesday when they travel to Lithuania while Bulgaria, who have now lost their first two matches, visit Northern Ireland next. The Azzurri are ahead of Switzerland on goal difference after Xherdan Shaqiri’s second minute strike was enough for a 1-0 win over Lithuania in St Gallen.
Austria are on four points after recovering from a goal down to claim a 3-1 victory over the Faroe Islands.