Spain and Poland maintained perfect records in qualifying for the 2020 European Championship by winning their third straight games on Friday. Spain took a 4-1 victory home from Faeroe Islands while Poland also won away, 1-0 at North Macedonia.
Israel beat Latvia 3-0, thanks to Eran Zahavi’s hat trick, to surprisingly stay in contention for a spot in the final tournament and Ukraine routed Serbia 5-0. In the last rounds of qualifiers before the summer break, world champion France and powerhouses Croatia, Germany and Italy will be in action on Saturday while the Netherlands, Portugal, England and Switzerland wrap up play in UEFA’s inaugural Nations League final four on Sunday.
Sergio Ramos put Spain in front after six minutes with his 19th international goal and Jesus Navas followed with his first score for “La Roja” since 2013. Klaemint Olsen beat goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga to reduce the lead, but an own goal by goalkeeper Teitur Gestsson made it 3-1 before halftime and Jose Gaya closed things out in the 71st minute.
Assistant coach Robert Moreno once again took charge of Spain with Luis Enrique absent due to personal reasons. Enrique continues to do most of the planning for Spain’s training and receives also video of the sessions at his home in Barcelona. It’s unclear when he might return.
Spain tops Group F with nine points, two more than Sweden, which beat Malta 3-0. The two leaders face off on Monday.
SCHICK ON TARGET
England had taken command of Group A with big wins over the Czech Republic (5-0) and Montenegro (5-1), but its participation in the Nations League gave the others a chance to catch up. In Prague, the Czech Republic came from a goal down to spoil the coaching debut of Bulgaria’s 1994 World Cup star Krasimir Balakov. Ismail Isa headed home from close range to put Bulgaria in front after just three minutes. But Patrik Schick slotted home a first-half equalizer and scored the winner early in the second half.
The Czechs, who have qualified for each European championship since the 1993 breakup of Czechoslovakia, are three points behind England in second. Bulgaria has two points, the same as Montenegro and Kosovo, which drew 1-1 in Podgorica
Ukraine moved to the top of Group B with seven points by routing Serbia. Viktor Tsygankov scored twice in a three-minute span of the first half and Yevhen Konoplyanka sandwiched a pair of goals around one from Roman Yaremchuk after the break. Luxembourg drew 1-1 at Lithuania to stay second in the group with four points. It will face a more serious test on Monday when it plays at Ukraine. Portugal has two points after a slow start, one more than Serbia.
Krzysztof Piatek’s overhead kick goal early in the second half may have proved Poland’s favorite status, but it was again Israeli’s Zahavi who stole the show in Group G. Zahavi curled in a free kick in the ninth minute and added two more goals in the second half, giving him seven in three qualifiers. Poland’s nine points are two more than Israel, while Austria registered its first points with a 1-0 win over Slovenia.
DUFFY THE RESCUER
Shane Duffy scored with five minutes remaining to give Ireland a 1-1 draw with Denmark that kept it at the top of Group D. Substitute Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg put Denmark in front in the 76th minute, only for Duffy to equalize late with a header. Ireland has seven points, three more Switzerland. Georgia is third with three points after beating Gibraltar 3-0, and Denmark has two points.