Mason Mount made his full England debut and Tammy Abraham his first competitive appearance as the Three Lions were beaten 2-1 in Czech Republic. Olivier Giroud scored the winner for France as they recorded a crucial victory in Iceland but N'Golo Kante suffered an injury in the warm-up, while Christian Pulisic netted a penalty as the US thrashed Cuba.
Mount had made his Three Lions debut last month, coming off the bench in the home wins over Bulgaria and Kosovo. Tonight he took his place in the starting XI for the first time, initially in the no.10 role behind Harry Kane and then, after the break and prior to his replacement by Ross Barkley, in a midfield three.
Fikayo Tomori was an unused sub, while Tammy Abraham came on for the closing stages as England’s 10-year unbeaten run in tournament qualifying, spanning 43 games, ended in Prague.
They had begun brightly and went ahead inside five minute through a Kane penalty, but the hosts equalised soon after from a corner and shaded the rest of a half as Gareth Southgate’s side struggled to find any rhythm going forward. Mount almost had a sight of goal with the interval approaching but the ball didn’t have enough on it to roll into his path.
England were a little brighter after the break, but at the other end the Czechs remained a threat and Jordan Pickford had to make two decent stops.
Barkley replaced Mount with 20 minutes left and showed a couple of bright moments, including a superb curled pass to Kane from which his shot was saved by the Czech keeper.
But it was the Czechs who had the final say with five minutes left, Zdenek Ondrásek netting on his debut. Abraham was thrown on as England sought a late leveller but it finished 2-1 in Prague, so they will have to wait before confirming their place at next summer’s European Championships. They can do so with victory over Bulgaria on Monday.
In Iceland, Giroud started for France up front and gave his country the lead from the penalty spot midway through the second half.
In what was a tight game in Reykjavik, Giroud stepped up from 12 yards after Antoine Griezmann was fouled and picked out the bottom right corner with his spot-kick.
Giroud was replaced with 12 minutes left and France held on to the victory which moves them six points clear of Iceland in third place in Group H. They could qualify on Monday when they meet Turkey, who they are level on points with at the top of the group. N'Golo Kante had been named in the starting XI but pulled out in the warm-up due to injury, while Kurt Zouma remained an unused sub.
On Kante's injury Didier Deschamps said: 'He felt a pain in the abductor muscle. He had a feeling where he did not feel comfortable to play. I made the decision because maybe it could get even worse. I do not think it's too serious for NG.'
Over the Atlantic, it was a good night's work for the USA and Christian Pulisic as they thumped Cuba 7-0 in their first CONCACAF Nations League fixture. Weston McKennie scored a hat-trick inside the first 13 minutes and it was 6-0 by half-time. Pulisic, who captained the States, scored the seventh goal from the penalty spot shortly after the hour mark.
He was replaced with 20 minutes left, while Matt Miazga completed the match. The USA are next in action in Canada on Wednesday (UK time).
Earlier on Friday, Callum Hudson-Odoi and Conor Gallagher made their first England Under-21 appearances as they drew with Slovenia. Marc Guehi played the full game in defence.
Hudson-Odoi featured for the first 45 minutes of the friendly in Maribor, while Gallagher came off the bench midway through the second half. The midfielder on loan at Charlton was a late call-up to the squad.
England led through goals from Eddie Nketiah and Sam Surridge but conceded twice late on to draw 2-2. They host Austria on Tuesday in an important Euro 2021 qualifier in Milton Keynes.
Thierno Ballo came on at half-time for Austria Under-19s and helped them overturn a goal deficit in a friendly against Wales to eventually win 3-1.
In the Netherlands, Ian Maatsen played 45 minutes as Holland Under-18s beat Belgium 3-2.
Frank Lampard and HRH Prince William watch England together and help promote mental health campaign