England (7/1 to win World Cup) showed no signs of suffering from a Euro 2020 hangover as they claimed a routine 4-0 victory over Hungary in World Cup qualifying on Thursday, but some of the continent’s other big hitters were not so convincing.
Less than eight weeks after agonisingly losing the final of the Euros to Italy on penalties, Gareth Southgate’s side were back in action and facing a testing looking fixture in Budapest, but after a cagey first half, goals from Raheem Sterling, Harry Kane, Harry Maguire and Declan Rice helped them to a routine win.
The victory also maintains England’s 100% start to World Cup qualifying in Group I, and they can take a giant step towards sealing a place at next year’s finals in Qatar with further victories against Andorra at Wembley on Sunday and in Poland the following Wednesday (Poland 4/1, Draw 13/5, England 3/4 – Match Result).
England were not the only team that picked up where they left off at the Euros, as Denmark, who reached the semi-finals, maintained their perfect start to qualifying in Group J with a comfortable 2-0 victory over Scotland in Copenhagen.
Belgium and Germany also claimed victories, while Portugal needed two late Cristiano Ronaldo goals to come from behind to beat Republic of Ireland 2-1 – the returning Manchester United star became the all-time leading scorer in men’s international football with the first of his strikes.
However, many of the other traditional European powerhouses struggled, with European champions Italy, so impressive during the summer, being held to a 1-1 draw by Bulgaria – a result that has at least extended the Azzurri’s unbeaten run to 35 games.
World champions France were also forced to settle for a 1-1 draw on home soil against Bosnia and Herzegovina, while Louis van Gaal’s third spell in charge of the Netherlands also ended in a stalemate away to Norway.
Things went even worse for Spain, who lost their first World Cup qualifier since 1993, as Sweden came from behind to win 2-1 and move to the top of Group B.
La Roja cannot afford to drop any more points when they host Georgia on Sunday (Spain 1/10, Draw 9/1, Georgia 28/1 – Match Result), while Italy face a tough-looking trip to Switzerland on the same night (Switzerland 11/4, Draw 5/2, Italy evens – Match Result).
🇪🇸 | Last night, Spain lost their first World Cup qualifier since 1993 as they fell to a 2-1 defeat in Sweden. pic.twitter.com/kVKw6jyebK
— BETFRED (@Betfred) September 3, 2021
On Saturday, France’s away clash with Ukraine looks like a standout fixture (Ukraine 9/2, Draw 3/1, France 8/13 – Match Result), while Croatia’s trip to Slovakia also catches the eye in a tight looking Group H (Slovakia 16/5, Draw 12/5, Croatia 19/20 – Match Result).
There will also be plenty of interest closer to home, with Scotland and the Republic of Ireland set to face respective home matches against Moldova and Azerbaijan on Saturday, while Wales will be taking on Belarus on neutral territory in Russia the following day.