Germany stunned by North Macedonia in rare World Cup qualifier home defeat

Germany suffers its first home defeat in a World Cup qualifier in 20 years; it goes down to unheralded North Macedonia in Group J.

Eljif Elmas celebrates after scoring North Macedonia’s second goal during the FIFA World Cup qualifying match in Duisburg, Germany.   -  Getty Images

Germany suffered its first home defeat in a World Cup qualifier in 20 years when it was stunned 2-1 by unheralded North Macedonia in Group J on Wednesday.

Armenia is the surprise group leader after it struck two goals inside the final four minutes for a 3-2 victory over Romania in Yerevan to make it three wins out of three. The results mean that coach Joachim Loew, who is quitting after the European Championship, will be leaving Germany in third place on six points, behind 65th-ranked North Macedonia after it scored an 85th-minute winner through Eljif Elmas.

Armenia's win was also impressive and the host, ranked 99th in the world, celebrated wildly in front of a crowd of more than 4,000 - an oddity in COVID-19 times.

It had beaten Liechtenstein and Iceland before taking on a Romania side viewed as strong candidates to make the playoffs behind group favourite Germany, which had not lost a World Cup qualifier at home since a 5-1 loss to England in 2001.

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Before the start of the game the German players unfurled a banner supporting human rights.

World champion France struggled to beat Bosnia 1-0 away to open up a four-point gap at the top of Group D.

Antoine Griezmann netted his 35th goal for France with a header from Adrien Rabiot's cross on the hour to put Les Bleus on seven points from three games.

Italy beats Lithuania

Italy, which failed to qualify for the 2018 World Cup, continued its perfect start as goals by Stefano Sensi and Ciro Immobile in its third match earned it a 2-0 victory over Lithuania. Italy is now unbeaten in 25 matches under Roberto Mancini, the joint-second longest run without losing, level with Marcelo Lippi, among Italian coaches.

The Azzurri lead Switzerland, which has a game in hand, by three points in Group C.

Ferran Torres (right) scores Spain's second goal against Kosovo on Wednesday.

 

England also maintained its perfect start in Group I although it was made to wait to subdue Poland, which was without the injured Robert Lewandowski, in a 2-1 home victory. Maguire smashed home a knock-down from a corner in the 85th minute to give England all three points as it was rewarded for its domination.

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It had taken the lead after 19 minutes when Harry Kane fired home from the penalty spot, only for Jakub Moder to level in the second half following a John Stones error.

Spain beats Kosovo

Spain leads Group B with seven points from three games after claiming a 3-1 home win against Kosovo, which was gifted a goal in the 70th minute when keeper Unai Simon lost the ball after rushing out of his box and Besar Halimi ruthlessly pounced and scored from a distance.

Spain was, however, already 2-0 up after goals by Dani Olmo and Ferran Torres and it put the result beyond doubt when Gerard Moreno headed home the third.

In Group F, substitute Andreas Skov Olsen scored twice in a scintillating second half as Denmark made it three World Cup qualifying wins out of three with a 4-0 demolition of Austria. It leads Scotland, which beat the Faroe Islands 4-0, by four points.

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