Reigning champions France beat Finland 2-0 in a World Cup qualifier on Tuesday thanks to Antoine Griezmann’s double strike to snap a five-game winless streak while Scotland kept their hopes alive with a 1-0 win in Austria.
In other action, Portugal and the Netherlands stayed on track to reach the finals in Qatar next year, with Memphis Depay grabbing a hat-trick for the Dutch in a 6-1 demolition of Turkey.
France were roared on by 57,000 passionate spectators in Lyon where Griezmann — who ended an unhappy spell at Barcelona with a loan move back to Atletico Madrid in the transfer window — combined well with Karim Benzema as their side overcame a disjointed start.
Benzema’s delightful backheel released Griezmann inside the box and he supplied a smooth finish after 25 minutes.
Griezmann made it 41 goals for his country when he beat Finnish ‘keeper Lukas Hradecky at the near post to make it 2-0 in the 54th minute.
After a frustrating 1-1 draw with Ukraine in their last game, the victory was a welcome boost for the French who are still smarting after crashing out of Euro 2020 at the last 16 stage this summer.
“We did not do everything well but we have rediscovered our confidence,” said France coach Didier Deschamps.
“This puts our fate in our hands and we must finish the job in November.”
– ‘I believe in these players’ –
Scotland grabbed a valuable three points in their bid to qualify for Qatar with a 1-0 win against the Austrians in Vienna as Australian-born Lyndon Dykes’ VAR-awarded penalty proved the difference.
The victory moved the Scots up to second in Group F, seven points behind Euro 2020 semi-finalists Denmark who are cruising with a 100 percent record after thrashing Israel 5-0.
“Some people in (Scotland) don’t believe in this group of players, but I do,” Scotland manager Steve Clarke told Sky Sports. “I love my players. We’re a good team.”
The Netherlands were ruthless against Turkey as Depay’s hat-trick took the Barcelona forward’s international goal tally to 33 goals.
The Dutch led 3-0 by half-time and any remaining chance for the Turks vanished when Leicester defender Caglar Soyuncu was sent off for a second bookable offence shortly before the break.
Louis van Gaal’s side moved into top spot in Group G by virtue of goal difference above Norway who outclassed minnows Gibraltar 5-1, with Erling Braut Haaland notching a hat-trick.
Serbia’s bid to qualify for a second successive World Cup finals suffered a setback as Nikola Milenkovic’s late own goal and a superb display from teenage goalkeeper Gavin Bazunu gave the Republic of Ireland a battling 1-1 draw in Dublin.
Lazio midfielder Sergej Milinkovic-Savic had put Serbia ahead in the first half.
The Serbs trail Portugal – who were 3-0 winners in Azerbaijan – by two points in Group A.
The Portuguese did not miss the suspended Cristiano Ronaldo as Bernardo Silva scored a sparkling opener on 26 minutes before Andre Silva added a second five minutes later in Baku.
Liverpool forward Diogo Jota completed the job with a second-half header to continue his bright early season form.
Travel Agent Scams Cristiano Ronaldo of £250,000, Jailed
A travel agent, named Maria Silvia scammed Manchester United striker, Cristiano Ronaldo, out of £250,000 (about N140 million) after the football star entrusted her with his credit cards and pin.
The 53-year-old travel agent also scammed Ronaldo’s super-agent Jorge Mendes of £14,000 and Manchester United winger, Nani, of over £1,500.
Due to her wrongdoing, Silvia got a four-year suspended prison sentence on Sunday after being earlier convicted by a Porto criminal court in 2017.
It was also revealed that Ronaldo was targeted for three years between February 2007 and July 2010.
The paper read, “Afterwards the travel agent had to plug the hole in the firm’s accounts. She, therefore, began to bill those trips to Cristiano Ronaldo, who had an account at Geostar and for practical reasons, handed the agent a virtual credit card and pin code. It was a green route to taking money out.”
Quoting a renowned Portuguese daily Jornal de Noticias, Sun Sports reported that the 36-year-old Ronaldo submitted a statement to the police after flying to the court to meet up with his lawyer.
The travel agent, who currently works as a cleaner, was first interrogated in 2011 before her eventual sentence on Sunday, September 19, 2021.
I am Getting Better, Says Hospitalised Pele
Brazilian football legend Pele said Sunday he is “punching the air” to celebrate “every better day” after the 80-year-old suffered his latest health scare.
“As you can see, I’m punching the air in celebration of every better day,” Pele wrote on Instagram beside a photograph of him sitting in a hospital chair, watched over by two medical staff.
The three-time World Cup winner was Friday briefly transferred back to an intensive care unit at the Albert Einstein Hospital in Sao Paulo, where he underwent surgery earlier this month, after suffering breathing difficulties.
“A good mood is the best medicine and I have plenty of that. It couldn’t be different,” he added Sunday.
“I have received so much affection that my heart is full of gratitude. Thanks to all the amazing staff at Albert Einstein Hospital!”
His condition had been described as stable.
Pele’s daughter Kely Nascimento also posted a photo of herself next to her father in the hospital on Friday, seeking to cheer up his fans.
We Won’t Accept Second Position in 2023 – NEF
The Northern Elders Forum has said the north was in the process of rebuilding itself and was not prepared to play second fiddle in a nation where it clearly enjoys numerical strength.
Director of Publicity and Advocacy of the NEF, Dr. Hakeem Baba-Ahmed, said this while delivering a keynote address at the maiden Maitama Sule Lecture Series organized by the students’ wing of the Coalition of Northern Groups, held at Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, on Saturday.
He said, “We will lead Nigeria the way we have led Nigeria before whether we are President or Vice President, we will lead Nigeria. We have the majority of the votes and democracy says vote whom you want.
“Why should we accept a second class position when we know we can buy a form and contest for first class and we will win?
“Why does anybody need to threaten us and intimidate us? We will get that power but be humble because power comes from God. We inherited leadership and being honest is not being stupid.
“The North has pride; we are humble enough to know that we are going to run Nigeria with other people but we are not going to pay a second fiddle to anybody. We may not have the most robust economy, there are people who are trying to strangulate us even more than we are being strangled.
“We are ready for this. We will consider every economic adversity, challenge. We will fix the Northern economy and we are the only one who can fix this Northern economy. For that reason, we are not for sale. We are in the process of rebuilding the North and we will rebuild the North from 2023.
“Whether the North holds power in 2023 or not anybody who wants to break up in this country will say so, they are just looking for excuses. This is democracy. If they don’t like what Nigeria is, they will say they want to break up from this country, we don’t pay attention to those people, we are focused on the fact that we are running a democratic system.
The NEF’s spokesman added, “If the majority of Nigeria voters vote for a candidate from the North and he becomes the President and somebody doesn’t want to live under the Nigeria President, the person can leave.”