Kai Havertz and Timo Werner ensured Germany became the first European nation to book their place at next year’s World Cup by scoring three times between them against North Macedonia on Monday night.
It finished 4-0 and made it seven wins from eight in qualifying for the team now managed by Hansi Flick. They have an unassailable eight-point lead over both Romania and North Macedonia with two qualifiers remaining.
On a rainy night in Skopje, the Germans were made to work harder for their victory than the final scoreline suggests. In the first half, North Macedonia displayed the defensive solidity and counter-attacking threat that earned them a place at Euro 2020 and has them well in the hunt to make the World Cup qualifiers, but they wilted in the face of immense German pressure after the interval.
Flick was without Toni Rudiger because of a back injury, but he did start Havertz and Werner in Germany’s attack. On the half-hour, Werner shot straight at the home side’s keeper Stole Dimitrievski, and he then twisted and turned closer in before thumping the post in first-half stoppage time.
Four minutes into the second half, Serge Gnabry split the Macedonian defence open and an unselfish Thomas Muller rolled the ball to his left as Dimitrievski came out, giving Havertz a tap-in. It was his second goal of this qualifying campaign.
Havertz was replaced on the hour, shortly after a booking which will rule him out of the next qualifier in November.
Germany doubled their lead in the 70th minute and it was a deserved goal for Werner, who raced on to Muller’s clever pass and smashed a first-time shot past Dimitrievski.
He only had to wait another three minutes for his next goal, beautifully curling a shot beyond Dimitrievski when a cross reached him at the far post just inside the box. He was full of smiles when withdrawn a minute later, Rudiger among those congratulating him on the bench.
Jamal Musiala, who replaced Havertz, scored his first international goal to complete the scoring late on.
In Tallinn, Wales secured a gritty 1-0 win over Estonia courtesy of an early Kieffer Moore goal. They remain third in Group E, although with a game in hand over second-place Czech Republic.
Ethan Ampadu played the full game on the left side of a back three. Wales could have been further ahead in the first half after Moore scrambled the ball over the line, but the hosts had chances of their own, too. Wales were grateful to Danny Ward for a couple of vital saves to preserve the clean sheet.
Wales’ qualifying campaign concludes next month with games at home to Belarus and Belgium. Four points there will guarantee them a play-off spot.
Without the suspended Mateo Kovacic, Croatia were held to a 2-2 draw at home to Slovakia. They slip to second in Group H after Russia won in Slovenia, and the 2018 World Cup finalists will likely need to beat Russia next month to guarantee their place in Qatar.
It was a successful day for three England youth teams who all won without conceding. Seven different Chelsea players featured across the different age groups.
England Under-21s made heavy weather of their European Championship qualifier in Andorra. With Conor Gallagher prominent in midfield, they struggled to break down the resilient hosts despite plenty of possession and territory, and were then reduced to 10 men on the hour when Rhian Brewster was harshly shown a second yellow card.
However, Andorra were undone by the first corner they won in the game, with England counter-attacking from it. Curtis Jones slipped in Emile Smith Rowe to finally break the deadlock with 20 minutes remaining. It finished 1-0, leaving England on seven points from three qualifiers ahead of a crucial fixture at home to Czech Republic next month.
Earlier today, England Under-20s thrashed Czech Republic 5-0 in Teplice. Tino Anjorin missed an early penalty for the Young Lions but did get his name on the scoresheet in the second half, sliding in to convert a low cross in the 70th minute. It was his last action before being replaced.
Henry Lawrence, on loan at AFC Wimbledon this season, completed the game at full-back.
At Under-18 level, England defeated Russia 3-0 in Marbella. Charlie Webster captained and Jude Soonsup-Bell and Lewis Hall also started. Hall rounded off the scoring in the 54th minute, sweeping a finish into the corner of the net.
Brodi Hughes was brought off the bench late on, with Silko Thomas an unused sub as Ryan Garry secured his first win as coach of the England Under-18s.