England, Germany and Italy all head their groups after victories in World Cup qualifying on Sunday.
Kane inspires England win
Harry Kane scored his first England goal since 2019 to lead his side to a comfortable 2-0 win against Albania in a World Cup qualifier on Sunday to top Group I.
Albania initially made things difficult for England but once skipper Kane headed home in the 38th minute for his 33rd goal for his country it was a relatively straightforward assignment for Gareth Southgate’s team.
Kane also hit the woodwork, as did Phil Foden, before midfielder Mason Mount doubled England’s lead just past the hour mark with a deft finish from Kane’s pass.
Albania were left to rue an early chance squandered by Myrto Uzuni, after which they rarely threatened an England side who followed up their 5-0 rout of San Marino on Thursday with a sure-footed display against much stiffer opposition.
They top the standings with six points from two games ahead of their home clash with most-likely group rivals Poland at Wembley on Wednesday. Albania have three points following their victory over Andorra in midweek.
Italy continues positive run
Italy’s Andrea Belotti and Manuel Locatelli secured a 2-0 win over Bulgaria on Sunday to make it two wins from two in Group C at the start of their side’s 2022 World Cup qualifying campaign.
Italy struggled to break down the hosts in the first half despite dominating possession but took the lead with a penalty won and converted by Belotti two minutes before the break.
There were few second-half chances but the visitors put the seal on a fifth successive win – without conceding in that run – eight minutes from time thanks to Locatelli’s fine finish.
Italy are top and will aim to continue their 100% start on Wednesday when they travel to Lithuania while Bulgaria, who have now lost their first two matches, visit Northern Ireland next.
“There are no easy games,” said Italy coach Roberto Mancini. “We always think we can win but knowing there are opponents who get everyone behind the ball we have to be careful. The opponent played to not lose and playing away from home is tough too.
Wasteful Germany maintain perfect start
Germany maintained their perfect start in 2022 World Cup qualifying after an early Serge Gnabry goal gave them a 1-0 win over Romania in Group J on Sunday although they missed a string of chances against the home side.
The result left the Germans top of the group on six points from two games ahead of Armenia on goal difference before their next match at home to North Macedonia on Wednesday.
The Germans also kept a second successive clean sheet after Thursday’s 3-0 home win over Iceland but could have been punished for their profligacy as Romania midfielder Nicolae Stanciu missed a 90th-minute sitter.
Germany coach Joachim Loew conceded his team plunged themselves into a tense finish after failing to add to their tally in the second half.
“We worked hard for the ball and had some good moves, but we have to criticise the way we used our chances,” he said. “We could have made it a lot easier by scoring the second goal.
“Maybe we did not play enough balls behind their defence. We also could have had more runs behind, and that’s something we can improve on.”