Friday 09 June 2017, 22:19

Favourites triumph; a record and a milestone

  • Historic victory for Andorra  

  • Sweden beat France

  • Wesley Sneijder becomes the Netherlands' most-capped player 

THE DAY REPLAYED – An initial glance at June's opening 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia™ qualifying fixtures shows wins for favourites Belgium, Portugal and Switzerland. However, a closer look reveals two further talking points: Wesley Sneijder became the Netherlands' most-capped player of all time and Andorra ended a negative run. Furthermore, Sweden recorded a last-gasp victory over EURO 2016 runners-up France.

Results*9 June*Group A: Netherlands 5-0 Luxembourg, Belarus 2-1 Bulgaria, Sweden 2-1 France Group B: Faroe Islands 0-2 Switzerland, Andorra 1-0 Hungary, Latvia 0-3 Portugal Group H: Bosnia and Herzegovina 0-0 Greece, Estonia 0-2 Belgium, Gibraltar 1-2 Cyprus

Match of the day*Sweden - France *Ola Toivonen scored the last of the evening's 21 goals in European qualification, netting a sensational effort from the halfway line in the Swedish municipality of Solna. Olivier Giroud had put the visitors in front in the 37th minute, only for Jimmy Durmaz to equalise two minutes before half-time. The two teams are now neck-and-neck at the top of Group A, just ahead of a rejuvenated Dutch side.

The other matches While Sweden's triumph over France saw them leapfrog Les Bleus at the top of the Group A standings (both teams have 13 points), the Netherlands* (ten points) kept their Russia 2018 qualification hopes alive under new coach Dick Advocaat. A 5-0 thrashing of Luxembourg moved the Oranje* ahead of Bulgaria (nine points), who slipped to a surprising defeat in Belarus. It was the hosts' first victory in the current qualifying campaign.

In Group B, Switzerland remain on course for next year's World Cup thanks to a sixth victory in as many games. However, Portugal (15 points) remain hot on their heels after warming up for the FIFA Confederations Cup Russia 2017 with a win of their own. Once again, it was The Best FIFA Men's Player 2016, Cristiano Ronaldo, who led the Iberians to success, netting a brace in a 3-0 win in Latvia. Yet, it was Andorra who caused the biggest surprise of the evening, ending a 34-game winless streak in World Cup qualifying with a 1-0 triumph over Hungary. Marc Rebes's 26th-minute strike sealed the nation's first qualifying victory since a 1-0 win over FYR Macedonia 13 years ago.

Belgium's place at Russia 2018 looks to be all-but assured following a comfortable Group H victory over Estonia (four points). The Belgians (16 points) now have a clear lead at the top of the table after closest pursuers Greece (12 points) and Bosnia and Herzegovina (11 points) shared the spoils in a goalless draw. Gibraltar appeared to be heading for an historic draw for a long time until Pieros Sotiriou scored Cyprus' winner three minutes from time, dashing the hosts' hopes of earning their first-ever point during a qualifying campaign for a major tournament.

Player of the day Wesley Sneijderhad no fewer than three reasons to celebrate on Friday evening. Not only was it the midfielder's 33rd birthday, he also made his 131st international appearance to become the Netherlands' most-capped player of all time. His goal to put his side 2-0 up was the icing on the cake.

The words

("We have second place almost assured, that is remarkable after six games." Switzerland coach Vladimir Petkovic)