World Cup Qualifiers roundup: Republic of Ireland humiliated, Belgium stutter, Portugal collapse & more

Max Cooper
Mar 27, 2021, 9:53 PM GMT
Jota was vital for Portugal on Saturday
Jota was vital for Portugal on Saturday | PEDJA MILOSAVLJEVIC/Getty Images

The World Cup is on its way, folks!

What's that? The Euros are on their way first? Well, forget about the summer tournament for a second, and let's indulge in some qualification chat...

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The 2022 World Cup is only a year and a half away (give or take a month or two), but we still have no idea who's going to be competing in the prestigious competition in Qatar. Luckily, we have this system called 'qualifying', which helps us all to decide who is making the journey, and who's watching from the comfort of their homes with the rest of us.

So, what went down in Saturday's round of World Cup qualifying matches? Let's dive in, shall we?

We kick off in Group A with an absolutely barnstorming 2-2 draw between Serbia and Portugal. Cristiano Ronaldo and co blitzed into a two-goal lead after 36 minutes, with Liverpool star Diogo Jota grabbing both strikes for the visitors.

But Serbia fought back in the second half, first through Aleksandar Mitrovic, who became his nation's all-time leading goalscorer in the 46th minute, and then thanks to a calm Filip Kostic finish.

It was miserable viewing for Republic of Ireland supporters on Saturday evening, as they watched their side slip to a humiliating 1-0 defeat to Luxembourg in Dublin. Stephen Kenny's side were restricted to two shots on target all game, and were then beaten by a lovely Gerson Rodrigues strike late on, leaving their qualification hopes already hanging in the balance.

Defeat to the side ranked 98th in the FIFA world rankings is a damaging blow to Kenny's reign, and he is still searching for his first victory as the national team coach.

Turkey went from strength to strength in Group G, hammering Norway 3-0 to cement their place at the summit, following their previous victory over the Netherlands. The visitors got off to a lightning start, going ahead through Ozan Tufan after four minutes.

Caglar Soyuncu doubled the advantage on 28 minutes, and Tufan completed the scoring on the hour mark, condemning Norway to a surprise defeat in match week two.

Elsewhere in Group G, the Netherlands recovered from their shock loss to Turkey by beating Latvia 2-0 in Amsterdam, with Steven Berghuis and Luuk de Long making the difference for Frank de Boer's side.

But it's Montenegro who sit joint-top of the group, after they put Gibraltar to the sword in a 4-1 win for the hosts. Fatos Beciraj got the scoring underway on 25 minutes, but the visitors equalised five minutes later through a Reece Styche penalty.

Mark SImic put Montenegro ahead for a second time just before the break, and Zarko Tomasevic and Stevan Jovetic added some gloss to the scoreline.

*This* close to qualifying | DIMITAR DILKOFF/Getty Images

In Group H, Russia grabbed top spot with a narrow 2-1 victory over Slovenia, thanks to an Artem Dzyuba first-half brace. Atalanta star Josip Ilicic halved the deficit a minute after Dzyuba's second, lashing home a wonderful first-time strike from outside the box.

Unfortunately for Slovenia, they were unable to find a way through the Russian defence again, and the hosts held on to claim a vital three points in their World Cup qualification ambitions. Croatia collected their first points of the qualification round on Saturday, as Mario Pasalic's 40th minute header was enough to secure a 1-0 win over a plucky but blunt Cyprus side.

And finally in Group H, Slovakia and Malta played out an entertaining 2-2 draw, which Luke Gambin kicked off for the visitors, bending an absolute stunner into the top corner with his left boot. Alexander Satariano put Malta two to the good, but the second half saw the game flipped on its head.

David Strelec pulled one back for Slovakia, before Milan Skriniar made it 2-2 with over an hour to play. Neither side could find a winner, meaning Malta picked up a famous point on their travels.

Belarus came out on top in a dramatic clash against Estonia, roaring back from a losing position to win 4-2 in their opening qualifying match. The hosts fell behind on the half-hour mark after Henri Anier beat Aleksandr Gutor, but a Vitali Lisakovich spot-kick restored parity before the break.

Anier put Estonia back in control on 55 minutes, but Belarus recovered to score three goals in the final half an hour, through Yuri Kendysh, Pavel Savitskiy and a second for Lisakovich.

And Belgium stumbled in a 1-1 tie against the Czech Republic, falling behind to a Lukas Provod goal on 50 minutes. Romelu Lukaku brought them level 10 minutes later, wriggling and twisting through the Czech defence to slot home past Tomas Vaclik. The Red Devils couldn't find a winner despite all their fire power, meaning they were forced to drop points in Prague.


Republic of Ireland 0-1 Luxembourg

Serbia 2-2 Portugal

Belarus 4-2 Estonia

Czech Republic 1-1 Belgium

Montenegro 4-1 Gibraltar

Netherlands 2-0 Latvia

Norway 0-3 Turkey

Russia 2-1 Slovenia

Croatia 1-0 Cyprus

Slovakia 2-2 Malta