International

Batshuayi and Giroud net in international victories

Michy Batshuayi and Olivier Giroud were among the goals for Belgium and France respectively as both sides recorded UEFA Nations League victories on Tuesday night.

Batshuayi led the line up front for the Red Devils, who had kicked off their group campaign with a 2-0 win in Denmark at the weekend.

Roberto Martinez’s side, currently ranked number one in the world, conceded a shock opener to Iceland but quickly regained their composure and turned the score around, with Batshuayi making it 2-1 from close range after just 17 minutes of action in Brussels.

His second, Belgium’s fourth, with 69 minutes on the clock was arguably the pick of the bunch for the hosts. A patient and precise team move immediately became dangerous when Kevin De Bruyne threaded a pass forward for Yari Vershaeren and the Anderlecht teenager delivered invitingly towards the near post for Batshuayi.

With a sharp dart to the front post and an elegant back-heeled flick, the striker beat the keeper to notch a seventh goal in his past five starts for Belgium, who eventually ran out 5-1 winners and lead the group with maximum points. Batshuayi completed the full 90 minutes.

In the other game in the group, Andreas Christensen was involved for the duration for Denmark as they played out a goalless draw with England in Copenhagen. Chances for both sides were few and far between, though the visitors did look brighter after the introduction of Mason Mount on the hour mark.

The best chance fell right at the death to Harry Kane, who rounded Kasper Schmeichel but saw his effort cleared off the line. Denmark went closest when Jordan Pickford made a smart save to deny Christian Eriksen. The result leaves Gareth Southgate’s men trailing the leaders Belgium by two points ahead of their meeting next time out at Wembley next month.

Also in Nations League A, France came out on top of a six-goal thriller with Croatia in Paris, a repeat of the scoreline in the 2018 World Cup final. N’Golo Kante and Mateo Kovacic started on opposite sides in midfield, both banking important game time ahead of Chelsea’s Premier League opener at Brighton in six days’ time.

After Dejan Lovren fired Croatia ahead early on, the world champions hit back with two goals in a couple of minutes at the end of the first half, scored by Antoine Griezmann and an own goal. Kovacic claimed an assist when Wolfsburg striker Josip Brekalo equalised but it was France who ended the half strongly again, Dayot Upamecano making it 3-2 before Giroud came off the bench to score from the penalty spot.

It was the 33-year-old’s 40th goal for France, taking him one behind the legendary Michel Platini in the nation’s all-time goalscoring list. The victory means Didier Deschamps’s side keep pace with Portugal at the top of the group.

England Under-21s continued their impressive record in European Championship qualification as they made it six wins from six in this campaign with a 2-1 victory over Austria. Marc Guehi, who recently returned on loan to Swansea City, completed 90 minutes at centre-back for the young Lions, as did Callum Hudson-Odoi.

The forward also claimed an assist for England’s second goal as his inswinging corner was turned in at the back post by Ben Godfrey. The result takes the team six points clear of Austria with a game in hand and within touching distance of qualification for next summer’s finals in Hungary and Slovenia.

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