World News

International roundup - 26 March: England, Spain & Germany win, Ireland hold Belgium

Sean Walsh
England were victorious on Saturday
England were victorious on Saturday / James Williamson - AMA/GettyImages

While the first week of March's international football has largely treated us to exciting World Cup qualification action, Saturday's evening of friendlies didn't quite match that hype.

But nonetheless, there were victories for a number of World Cup frontrunners as they continue their preparations for the winter's tournament in Qatar.

Here's the best of Saturday's action.

England 2-1 Switzerland

England fought from a goal down to beat Switzerland 2-1 at Wembley.

A towering header from Breel Embolo gave the visitors a shock yet deserved lead, but they weren't able to double their advantage and were brought back to Earth by a thunderous Luke Shaw strike on the stroke of half-time.

The Three Lions were able to grow into the game more after the break and completed the comeback when Harry Kane scored from the penalty spot after Steven Zuber handled the ball.

Republic of Ireland 2-2 Belgium

A resilient Republic of Ireland side twice battled back to earn a 2-2 draw at home to Belgium.

Roberto Martinez decided to make several changes to what has historically been a settled setup, with all eleven of his starters in Dublin making only 50 appearances or fewer for the senior side.

However, it was one of their old heads who gave them the lead when Michy Batshuayi drifted inside from the left and found the far corner just 12 minutes into the contest.

But Stephen Kenny's men were good value for their 35th-minute equaliser when Chiedozie Ogbene produced a stunning overhead kick to continue his prolific scoring streak for the Boys in Green.

A Hans Vanaken header notched Belgium back in front, though Ireland again came roaring back and Preston North End midfielder Alan Browne found the net to earn a momentous draw for the hosts.

Spain 2-1 Albania

Daniel Olmo, Jordi Alba
Dani Olmo grabbed the winner / Soccrates Images/GettyImages

Spain survived a late scare to beat Albania 2-1 in Barcelona.

Luis Enrique's side controlled the ball for most of the match - they ended with a staggering 82% possession - but had to be patient to break down their resolute visitors.

Ferran Torres broke the deadlock with 15 minutes remaining after being teed up by Yeremy Pino, but La Roja were soon pegged back after a horror-show at the back.

Pau Torres failed to deal with a high clearance and headed straight into the onrushing Myrto Uzuni, and the ball trickled beyond debutant David Raya after he had already began his charge to take claim of the previous phase of play.

However, Spain's blushes were spared at the last when Dani Olmo sumptuously curled Jordi Alba's cross beyond Etrit Berisha.

Germany 2-0 Israel

Kai Havertz, Munas Dabbur
Havertz's deft touch put Germany in front / Alex Grimm/GettyImages

Germany's preparations for the World Cup continued with a routine 2-0 win against Israel in Sinsheim.

Kai Havertz continued his fine form when he flicked in a teasing corner from David Raum, and Chelsea teammate doubled their advantage at the end of a dominant first half when he peeled away to the near post from an Ilkay Gundogan free-kick.

Hansi Flick has now won all eight of his games in charge of Germany and has tasted defeat seven times in his last 96 games since taking charge of Bayern Munich in 2019.

Thomas Muller missed the chance to add a third late in the second half but his penalty cannoned back off the post, while Yonatan Cohen's spot kick deep into added time was denied by Kevin Trapp.

Netherlands 4-2 Denmark

Christian Eriksen
Eriksen's back / Soccrates Images/GettyImages

Christian Eriksen grabbed a goal just two minutes into his return to international football in Denmark's 3-2 loss to the Netherlands.

Tottenham winger Steven Bergwijn headed the hosts into an early lead after rising highest to meet Daley Blind's cross, but Denmark found themselves on level terms when Joakim Maehle's ball was turned in by Jannik Vestergaard.

A quick-fire double from Nathan Ake and Memphis Depay saw the Netherlands head into the break with a comfortable lead.

After being brought on at the break, Eriksen wasted little time getting reacquainted with the international game with a superb strike from the edge of the box.

However, Bergwijn's second of the game - a delightful finish into the far corner - put the game beyond doubt.

Croatia 1-1 Slovenia

Croatia v Slovenia - International Friendly
Croatia battled Slovenia in Qatar / Pixsell/MB Media/GettyImages

Croatia extended their unbeaten run following their Euro 2020 elimination to eight games, but will have been disappointed to have only earned a draw at home to Slovenia.

An experienced Vatreni side including Luka Modric, Mateo Kovacic and Ivan Perisic were unable to put more than one past a resurgent Jan Oblak.

Andrej Kramaric put Zlatko Dalic's men in front minutes before the end of the first half and it looked likely that the hosts would see out the win.

However, they were pegged back in stoppage time at the end of the 90 minutes when 23-year-old Jaka Bijol headed in his first goal for his country.