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Fifa has postponed Ukraine’s World Cup play-off semi-final against Scotland.

The nations were slated to meet at Hampden on March 24 but Ukraine requested last week that the world governing body push back the tie following Russia’s invasion of its country.

As a result, the play-off final for the winners against either Wales or Austria on March 29 will also be delayed.

A new date will now have to be found in the international calendar, with the Nations League window in June an option.

Fifa had already banned Russia from the 2022 World Cup but risk an appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

The World Cup finals take place from November 21-December 18 in Qatar, the first time football’s global showpiece will be held in the Middle East.

It follows Monday’s announcement by Fifa that foreign players and coaches working in Russia and Ukraine will be allowed to temporarily suspend their contracts and move elsewhere.

Sports bodies have barred Russia from international competition following the invasion of Ukraine and Fifa said the new measures were designed “to facilitate the departure of foreign players and coaches from Russia” should they wish to leave.

“Foreign players and coaches will have the right to unilaterally suspend their employment contracts until the end of the season in Russia [June 30],” Fifa said in a statement.

“Players and coaches will be considered ‘out of contract’ until 30 June 2022 and will therefore be at liberty to sign a contract with another club without facing consequences of any kind.”

The contacts will be suspended until the end of this season allowing players and coaches to work elsewhere, and they would then be free to move on permanently next season.

Fifa said the move was chiefly to provide players and coaches with the opportunity to work and receive a salary, and to protect Ukrainian clubs brought to a halt by invasion.

Minor players fleeing Ukraine will be treated by Fifa as refugee minors, allowing them access to the international transfer market normally closed to under 18s.

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Weston McKennie and Walker Zimmerman scored first-half goals to give the US an early spark on a frigid night and a fresh Christian Pulisic scored after entering in the second half to lead the Americans to victory over Honduras 3-0 in their World Cup qualifier.

Matt Turner didn’t have to make a single save for the Americans, who emerged from the pandemic-prompted winter session in second place in the Concacaf qualifying table with three matches remaining.

The kickoff temperature on Wednesday night was 3F (-16C) with a -14F (-25C) wind chill at a site picked by US Soccer along with Columbus, Ohio, for optimal home-field advantage over opponents from tropical countries. The Americans beat El Salvador 1-0 on Thursday, when it was 29F in Ohio and lost 2-0 to host Canada on Sunday in Hamilton, Ontario, when it was 22F. The weather in Minnesota was another level of cold, the lowest in US team history.

“It was freezing out here. I’m looking forward to getting into the locker room,” Pulisic said after the game.

McKennie had on two sets of gloves, peeling off one pair as he came to the bench after being replaced in the 84th minute. The star midfielder scored a header in the eighth minute, fittingly after joking the day before that his big head ought to minimize any discomfort from a frozen ball in the February chill. It was McKennie’s ninth international goal, his second in World Cup qualifying, and it would prove to be enough.

After failing to score from set pieces in the first 10 qualifiers, the US scored three on Wednesday.

The second goal developed from a free kick by Kellyn Acosta, who started as a defensive midfielder for the first time since the October loss at Panama. The ball whizzed past the head of a leaping Jordan Morris and Zimmerman pivoted around defender Denil Maldonado in the 37th minute. The ball glanced off Zimmerman’s left leg, and he kicked it in with his right from five-yards out for his third international goal. Zimmerman wore the captain’s armband for the night.

Pulisic scored three minutes after entering. Acosta’s corner kick was headed by Ricardo Pepi to Zimmerman, and the ball bounced off a leg to Pulisic. He scored from near the penalty spot with his second touch of the game, his 18th international goal.

“It’s my time to come in and make a difference, and I’m glad I did,” Pulisic said

The Americans played without Tyler Adams and Chris Richards, both of whom were injured against Canada. The US are also still missing midfielder Gio Reyna, sidelined by a hamstring injury sustained in the opening qualifier at El Salvador on 2 September.

The top three nations from Concacaf qualify for this year’s tournament in Qatar and fourth place advances to a playoff against the Oceania champion, who will most likely be New Zealand.

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Argentina qualify for World Cup after CONMEBOL rivals stumble

Argentina qualified for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, despite playing out a goalless draw with CONMEBOL rivals Brazil.

Lionel Messi returned to the line-up but he was unable to inspire Argentina, who played out a stalemate against Qatar-bound Brazil in San Juan on Tuesday.

That underwhelming performance left Copa America champions Argentina waiting to discover their World Cup fate.

Argentina only had to wait less than an hour as 10-man Chile lost 2-0 at home to Ecuador, sealing La Albiceleste’s qualification after Colombia and Uruguay also failed to win.

Lionel Scaloni’s Argentina – riding a 27-game unbeaten streak – are second in the CONMEBOL standings with five matches remaining, six points behind leaders Brazil and six clear of third-placed Ecuador.

Argentina and Brazil have both played a game less following September’s qualifier in Sao Paulo, which was sensationally abandoned after Scaloni’s men left the field as Brazilian health officials tried to detain visiting players due to coronavirus regulations.

Having ended their 28-year wait for silverware via July’s Copa America, Messi’s Argentina will now look to conquer the World Cup.

Two-time champions Argentina – eliminated in the round of 16 at Russia 2018 – have not won the World Cup since Diego Maradona inspired the country to 1986 glory, though they reached the final in 2014.

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Moore equaliser seals home advantage for Wales

Kieffer Moore secured a home World Cup qualifying play-off semi-final for Wales as Belgium were held to a 1-1 draw at Cardiff City Stadium on Tuesday.

Robert Page’s side were already assured of a play-off spot, but they headed into the final Group E game desperate to be among the six top seeds.

Although Kevin De Bruyne put an under-strength Belgium – already assured of a place in the tournament in Qatar next year as group winners – in front, Moore equalised in the first half.

Neither side could fashion a winner, but Wales sealed second place and face a home play-off tie in March when they will hope to have captain Gareth Bale – absent here – back to full fitness.

De Bruyne silenced the Wales fans when he opened the scoring 12 minutes in, the stand-in captain finding the bottom-right corner with a measured finish after a poor attempted clearance from Chris Mepham.

Wales took that setback on the chin, capitalising on slack defending to equalise when Arthur Theate missed his kick as he tried to deal with Dan James’ cross and Moore finished clinically with his left foot 13 minutes before half-time.

Thorgan Hazard struck the post when he met a pinpoint De Bruyne corner with a sublime volley from just outside the penalty area as Belgium finished the first half strongly.

An unmarked Connor Roberts spurned a chance to put Wales in front when he sliced a long way wide after a James cross fell nicely for him early in the second half.

Dante Vanzeir came on to make his debut as Roberto Martinez made a triple substitution before the hour-mark.

Neco Williams almost won it when he cut in from the left and brought a fine save from Koen Casteels, but a point was enough for Wales to achieve their objective.

A play-off spot was already in the bag for Wales, but they capped an impressive qualifying campaign by finishing runners-up ahead of the Czech Republic and ensuring they will avoid the likes of European champions Italy and Portugal in the semi-finals.

The Dragons have only played in one World Cup, way back in 1958, but will be hoping a raucous Cardiff crowd can help them into a play-off final and then book a ticket to Qatar. They will face one of Austria, North Macedonia, Poland, Ukraine, Turkey or Czech Republic at the semi-final stage.

Belgium are now unbeaten in their past 28 World Cup qualifiers, this point secured without a whole host of key men such as Eden Hazard, Romelu Lukaku and Thibaut Courtois.

The powerful Moore delivered when Wales needed him on his home ground and led the line superbly. Since his international debut in September 2019, the Cardiff City striker has scored more goals in all competitions than any other Wales player with eight.

Theate was at fault for Moore’s goal, while Dedryck Boyata also looked shaky at the back. The 21-year-old lost possession 12 times and Boyata nine, with Timothy Castagne much more solid alongside them.

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Netherlands secure Qatar 2022 qualification

Steven Bergwijn and Memphis Depay made sure of the Netherlands’ place at the 2022 World Cup with late goals in a 2-0 victory against Norway on Tuesday.

Turkey’s 2-1 win against Montenegro kept the pressure on the Netherlands, but they still needed only a point to secure their qualification and got more than that in the closing stages at De Kuip.

Bergwijn netted with six minutes left when he fired high into the net before Depay put the result beyond doubt with a goal on the break in injury time.

While the Oranje finished as Group G winners, Norway slipped to third and missed out on a place in the play-offs having failed to register a shot on target across the entire contest.

With coach Louis van Gaal watching from the stands in a wheelchair after falling off his bicycle and suffering a hip injury, the Netherlands were the more adventurous side in a tepid first half.

However, Depay scarcely tested Orjan Nyland with two straightforward attempts, first flicking a Denzel Dumfries cross towards goal and then striking an ambitious volley too close to the goalkeeper.

Norway offered precious little without injured superstar Erling Haaland, although Kristian Thorstvedt wastefully missed the target when a long throw dropped for him in the second half.

Needing the victory more than the Netherlands with Turkey winning, Stale Solbakken’s side pressed higher up the pitch, only to be picked off at the other end.

Bergwijn received the ball from Arnaut Danjuma and struck decisively beyond Nyland, and Depay then put the gloss on the win when he converted after being unselfishly found by Bergwijn following a counter-attack.

What does it mean? Oranje back but heartbreak for Norway

After failing to qualify for the 2018 World Cup in Russia, securing automatic qualification for next year’s tournament in Qatar was mission accomplished for the Netherlands.

The Oranje had not lost to Norway since 1992 and their miserly defence never gave their opponents a sniff in this encounter.

For Norway, who have neither qualified for a World Cup since 1998 nor reached any major tournament since Euro 2000, the defeat was heartbreaking.

Deadly Depay

Depay had six shots, including four on target, and his attacking intent kept Norway on the back foot and prevented the Netherlands from retreating. He finished with 12 goals in the qualifying campaign.

Sloth-like Sorloth

Norway’s attack was led by Alexander Sorloth but the number nine was largely anonymous as he failed to have a single shot in the game and did not touch the ball inside the opposition box.

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England hit 10 in San Marino to book World Cup spot

England qualified for the World Cup in record-breaking style as Harry Kane scored four times in a 10-0 demolition of San Marino that ranked as the Three Lions’ biggest ever victory in a competitive match.

Needing a draw from their last Group I qualifier to reach next year’s tournament in Qatar, England went goal crazy on Monday as they scored 10 in a single game for the first time since a 1964 friendly against the United States.

Harry Maguire put Gareth Southgate’s side in front early on before Filippo Fabbri’s own goal doubled England’s lead.

England captain Kane took centre-stage after that, scoring four before the break to rewrite the record books.

Arsenal midfielder Emile Smith Rowe notched his first senior international goal in his maiden start.

Tyrone Mings headed his first England goal after San Marino’s Dante Rossi was sent off, before Tammy Abraham and Bukayo Saka completed their country’s record-breaking win.

Kane has scored 16 goals in 2021 for England, setting a calendar year record for the Three Lions as he surpassed the 12-goal tallies of George Hilsdon in 1908 and Dixie Dean in 1927.

The 28-year-old moved level with Gary Lineker on 48 England goals, with only Bobby Charlton (49) and Wayne Rooney (53) above him.

Kane is the first England player to score four times in a single game since Ian Wright against San Marino in 1993.

After bagging a hat-trick in Friday’s 5-0 win over Albania, Kane is the first England player to score three or more in successive games since Tommy Taylor in 1957.

Southgate’s men ended a memorable 2021 on a fitting high note after they reached the Euro 2020 final in July — missing out on a first trophy since 1966 in a painful penalty shoot-out against Italy.

Group winners England finished the qualifying campaign unbeaten in their 10 matches.

They will head to Qatar in 12 months established as one of the main contenders to win the World Cup.

Ruthless Kane

San Marino famously scored after just eight seconds against England in a qualifier 28 years ago.

But there was never any danger of similar embarrassment for Southgate’s team as they took the lead in the sixth minute against a woeful San Marino team bottom of FIFA’s world rankings.

Phil Foden’s corner reached Maguire and he rose highest to score with a powerful header, making it two goals in two games for the defender.

With San Marino completely out of their depth, England struck again in the 15th minute.

Maguire’s pass found Saka, who cut in from the left-hand side of the San Marino area and drilled a low shot that deflected in off Fabbri’s out-stretched boot.

Kane’s goal-spree started in the 27th minute after Rossi put his hand up to get the slightest of touches on Foden’s scissor kick, leading to a penalty that the Tottenham striker stroked in with ease.

England showed no mercy and Kane got his second in the 31st minute, guiding Smith Rowe’s cross into the bottom corner.

Eight minutes later, Kane’s header was blocked by Alessandro D’Addario’s arm and he smashed the resulting spot-kick high into the top corner for his fifth England hat-trick.

Kane grabbed his fourth in the 42nd minute, weaving through the shambolic San Marino defence to slot home.

It was the first time England had scored six in the first half since 1946.

Smith Rowe got the seventh with a predatory finish in the 58th minute.

After Rossi’s red card for tripping Conor Gallagher, Mings headed in Trent Alexander-Arnold’s free-kick in the 69th minute.

Abraham made it nine in the 78th minute and, with England fans chanting “we want 10”, Saka obliged with a close-range header 60 seconds later.

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Azurri flops in World Cup qualifying

Italy could go from winning Euro 2020 to missing the 2022 World Cup in the span of just a few months.

The Azzurri failed to secure a direct ticket to next year’s World Cup, dropping into the playoff round after shooting blanks in Monday’s 0-0 draw in Northern Ireland.

Switzerland powered past Bulgaria 4-0 to knock Roberto Mancini’s side out of first place in Group C and claim an automatic berth in Qatar.

Italy famously missed the 2018 World Cup in Russia after falling to Sweden in the playoffs. Its last appearance in the tournament came in Brazil in 2014 when it failed to advance from the group stage.

The playoff draw will take place Nov. 26.

Twelve teams – including the 10 runners-up from Europe’s first round of qualifying and the two best group winners from the 2020-21 UEFA Nations League – will vie for the final three qualification berths.

The teams will be divided into three groups of four and play one-off semifinals and a final to determine the best of each lot.

Portugal, Russia, Italy, and Scotland will make up four of the six seeded teams, with two yet to be determined.

Sweden, Poland, and North Macedonia will also take part in the draw as runners-up. Wales, currently in second in Group E, is likely to follow suit, with one of the Netherlands, Turkey, and Norway to finish in second place in Group G and one of Finland and Ukraine to drop down from Group D.

Austria will advance as one of the top-ranked teams from the Nations League, with the Czechs likely to follow if they can’t dislodge Wales from second place in Group E.

Italy will have flashbacks of the infamous goalless draw against Sweden in November 2017 that forced the four-time World Cup winner to miss the quadrennial tournament for the first time in decades.

It would be a far greater blow to national morale this time around. Just a few months ago, Italy won the Euros for the second time in its history following an intense penalty shootout against England at Wembley Stadium.

The Italians entered Monday’s qualifier at Windsor Park needing to match Switzerland’s result against Bulgaria. Starting without a recognized striker in the lineup, they struggled to break down Northern Ireland’s back five, often resorting to ineffective long balls.

Italy’s chances of direct qualification took a hit well before Monday’s stalemate. It succumbed to a 1-1 draw at home to Bulgaria in September before blowing a chance to beat Switzerland on Friday. Jorginho missed a late penalty in the latter match to deny his country a win that would’ve put it in a commanding position in Group C.

“We should have won against Bulgaria and had two penalties against Switzerland,” Mancini said. “These are games that could have finished in our favor. I’m completely confident about the playoffs.”

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Raphinha turned in another eye-catching performance for Brazil on Thursday by scoring twice in the home side’s 4-1 victory over Uruguay in a World Cup qualifier.

Brazil took the lead after 10 minutes when Neymar chested down a pass from Fred and rounded the keeper before firing low between two defenders on the goal-line.

Raphinha made it 2-0 after 18 minutes when he bundled home a parried shot from close range and then made it 3-0 after 58 minutes, completing a superb counter-attack with an angled shot.

Luis Suarez scored a consolation goal for Uruguay with a 77th minute free kick before Gabriel Barbosa restored Brazil’s three-goal cushion with a header seven minutes from time.

“This couldn’t be more memorable for me,” Raphinha said. “This is me fulfilling my childhood dream. It’s so gratifying to score.

“It’s going to be very difficult to forget this night.”

Both Neymar and Raphinha could have scored more, with Uruguayan keeper Fernando Muslera thwarting both in quick succession early in the second half.

It was a measure of Brazil’s superiority that Muslera was Uruguay’s best player on a poor night for the visitors, who have now won only two of their last nine qualifiers.

Brazil are now six points clear in the South American qualifying group, ahead of second-placed Argentina who beat Peru 1-0 on Thursday.

The top four qualify automatically for Qatar 2022 and the fifth-placed side goes into an inter-regional playoff.

Also on Thursday, Chile beat Venezuela 3-0 to record their second successive win. Erick Pulgar scored twice in the first half, both off Alexis Sanchez assists, and Ben Brereton made it 3-0 17 minutes from time to lift Chile onto 13 points in sixth place.

Venezuela, who have lost nine of 12 qualifiers, are bottom of the group on seven points, four adrift of Peru.

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Lyndon Dykes scored a controversial goal four minutes from full-time to hand Scotland another dramatic late victory, as they beat the Faroe Islands 1-0 in their World Cup qualifier in Torshavn on Tuesday.

After Scotland snatched a stoppage-time win over Israel at the weekend, Dykes scored to move them closer to qualifying for the March playoffs for places in next year’s Qatar finals.

Tuesday’s win kept them second in Group F, four points ahead of Israel and able to make sure of a top-two finish if they beat Moldova away in their next qualifier on November 12th. Denmark won the group and booked a World Cup place by beating Austria on Tuesday.

It took some time for VAR to verify Dykes’ goal as it looked to come off either his chest or hand, with TV replays inconclusive.

A clearance from Nathan Patterson’s cross hit Dykes and flew in for the winner after a frustrating game for the visitors, who are looking to return to the World Cup finals for the first time since 1998.

Dogged defending by the Faroe Islands in the pouring rain provided Scotland with few opportunities despite them dominating possession.

The Faroes squandered an inviting chance inside the first five minutes when Joan Simun Edmundsson fluffed a shot from close range and Scotland goalkeeper Craig Gordon pulled off a point-blank save to deny Ari Jonsson just under 20 minutes later.

Scotland had their best opportunities in the last 15 minutes as Billy Gilmour and John McGinn were both denied before Dykes delivered with a fourth goal in his last four games for his country.

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Denmark became the second European nation to reach the 2022 World Cup after a 1-0 home win over Austria on Tuesday left them top of qualifying Group F with an unassailable seven-point lead over second-placed Scotland with two games to spare.

After Germany advanced to the 32-nation tournament in Qatar on Monday, the Danes secured their own berth as a 53rd-minute goal from Joakim Maehle helped them to an eighth successive qualifying victory.

Denmark and Germany joined Qatar, who gained an automatic spot in the finals as the host nation. Only the group winners from European qualifying advance directly while the runners-up enter the playoffs.

Denmark have scored 27 goals and conceded none so far in World Cup qualifying, with their run to the finals underpinned by some impressive free-flowing football.

They did, however, look jittery for long spells against a well-organised Austria side.

Visiting goalkeeper Daniel Bachmann denied Andreas Skov Olsen and Mikkel Damsgaard in the first half and then kept out a Thomas Delaney effort in the 48th minute as the home side struggled to create clear-cut chances.

But Bachmann was powerless five minutes later as Denmark’s best moment of the match produced a brilliant goal with Delaney at the heart of a breathtaking move.

The central midfielder weaved his way past four markers through the middle and then teed up Maehle to plant his shot from eight metres inside the near post and delight the home fans in a packed Parken stadium.

Delaney was elated after the match as Denmark made it to their second successive World Cup, having reached the round of 16 in the 2018 tournament before advancing to the Euro 2020 semi-finals this year.

“It’s a pleasure throughout, in every match,” Delaney told the country’s Kanal 5 television.

“The support we’ve had. It is unique, what we have created, we can be proud of. There have been winds against us in other qualifying campaigns. This is something quite unique to us.”

Maehle added: “It means a lot, it’s one of the coolest nights in the Park in a long time. It is fantastic. It’s strong for us to win here, and we got this ticket to the World Cup.”