Sunday 03 September 2017, 22:53

Belgium book their ticket while minnows show mettle

  • Belgium beat Greece to seal ticket to Russia 2018

  • Luxembourg stun France to earn point

  • Switzerland maintain 100 per cent record

THE DAY REPLAYED – The streets of Brussels will be bouncing tonight, as Belgium became the first team to progress from the European groups, becoming the sixth side to reach the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia™ thanks to Romelu Lukaku’s winner in Greece.

Meanwhile, the picture is much less clear across Groups A, B and I, as France fired blanks against Luxembourg, Switzerland and Portugal remain relentless, and Croatia belatedly returned to top spot.

Results *3 September *Group A: Belarus 0-4 Sweden, Netherlands 3-1 Bulgaria, France 0-0 Luxembourg Group B: Faroe Islands 1-0 Andorra, Hungary 0-1 Portugal, Latvia 0-3 Switzerland Group H: Estonia 1-0 Cyprus, Gibraltar 0-4 Bosnia and Herzegovina, Greece 1-2 Belgium Group I: Croatia 1-0 Kosovo

Match of the day *Greece 1-2 Belgium* Having seen Greece held to a drab 0-0 draw to Estonia on Thursday, while Belgium fired nine past Gibraltar, some would have been forgiven for expecting Roberto Martinez and Co. to stamp their ticket with relative ease. However, the hosts they found in Piraeus were well organised an expansive, with only a superb fingertip save by Thibaut Courtois forcing the woodwork to rescue the qualification-chasing Belgians.

The game swung on a frenetic few minutes in the second half, though. Jan Vertonghen’s joy at hitting a sizzling opener was dashed when Zeca squared things up moments later, but Lukaku was on hand to head the Red Devils to Russia.

Elsewhere Group A A stunning display of resilience by Luxembourg has kept Group A well in the balance. France peppered the opposition goal in front of a frustrated Toulouse crowd, but only to come up short in an incredible 0-0 draw for their tiny neighbours. Having handed the onus to France on Thursday, Sweden rediscovered their winning step with a convincing display in Borisov, with Emil Forsberg helping them to a 4-0 win over Belarus. The Netherlands bounced back from their chastening defeat to Les Bleus with a Davy Propper-inspired victory against Bulgaria.

Group B Switzerland kept up their unblemished record at the top of Group B with a clinical 3-0 win over Latvia, with Haris Seferovic continuing his recent good form, before Blerim Dzemaili and Ricardo Rodriguez sealed the win. Portugal kept tabs on them though, eking out a narrow 1-0 win in Budapest thanks to Andre Silva. Meanwhile, Gilli Sorensen’s first goal for his country saw Faroe Islands earn their first win on home soil in the group, beating Andorra.

Group H An Edin Dzeko double saw Bosnia and Herzegovina bounce back from their defeat to Cyprus with a 4-0 win over a resilient Gibraltar, who conceded twice in the final ten minutes. Meanwhile, Estonia and Cyprus looked destined for a goalless draw, only to see Mattias Kait sink a superb 92nd minute volley to severely dent the islanders slim hopes of second spot.

Group I Croatia and Kosovo had to wait around 18 hours to complete their game, after postponement due to heavy rain, but a glanced header from Domagoj Vida earned a slender win to send the hosts clear in top spot.

Player of the day After facing 34 shots from a star-studded offence featuring Antoine Griezmann, Kylian Mbappe, Olivier Giroud, Alexandre Lacazette, Thomas Lemar, Paul Pogba, Kingsley Coman and Nabil Fekir across 90 minutes, Luxembourg goalkeeper Jonathan Joubert deserves plenty of plaudits. “Sometimes you need to be lucky, and we were. But we played with our weapons: heart and passion. We deserved it,” he jubilantly said at full-time.

What they said "I changed my mind just as I was about to take the penalty, and you should never do that. After that, I was determined to try and get another chance, and to make the game 2-0 as soon as possible. I think overall we were sensational tonight." Blerim Dzemaili on making up for his missed penalty to score and seal eight wins from eight for Switzerland