Soccer: Germany stunned by North Macedonia in rare World Cup qualifier home defeat

·3-min read
World Cup Qualifiers Europe - Group J - Germany v North Macedonia

(Reuters) - Germany suffered their first home defeat in a World Cup qualifier in 20 years when they were stunned 2-1 by unheralded North Macedonia in Group J on Wednesday.

Armenia are the surprise group leaders after they struck two goals inside the final four minutes for a 3-2 victory over Romania in Yerevan to make it three wins out of three.

The results mean that coach Joachim Loew, who is quitting after the European Championship, will be leaving Germany in third place on six points, behind 65th-ranked North Macedonia after they scored an 85th-minute winner through Eljif Elmas.

Armenia's win was also impressive and the hosts, ranked 99th in the world, celebrated wildly in front of a crowd of more than 4,000 -- an oddity in COVID-19 times.

They had beaten Liechtenstein and Iceland before taking on a Romania side viewed as strong candidates to make the play-offs behind group favourites Germany, who had not lost a World Cup qualifier at home since a 5-1 loss to England in 2001.

Before the start of the game the German players unfurled a banner supporting human rights.

World champions France struggled to beat Bosnia 1-0 away to open up a four-point gap at the top of Group D.

Antoine Griezmann netted his 35th goal for France with a header from Adrien Rabiot's cross on the hour to put Les Bleus on seven points from three games.

Italy, who failed to qualify for the 2018 World Cup, continued their perfect start as goals by Stefano Sensi and Ciro Immobile in their third match earned them a 2-0 victory over Lithuania.

Italy are now unbeaten in 25 matches under Roberto Mancini, the joint-second longest run without losing, level with Marcelo Lippi, among Italian coaches.

The Azzurri lead Switzerland, who have a game in hand, by three points in Group C.

England also maintained their perfect start in Group I although they were made to wait to subdue Poland, who were without the injured Robert Lewandowski, in a 2-1 home victory.

Maguire smashed home a knock-down from a corner in the 85th minute to give England all three points as they were rewarded for their domination.

They had taken the lead after 19 minutes when Harry Kane fired home from the penalty spot, only for Jakub Moder to level in the second half following a John Stones error.

Spain lead Group B with seven points from three games after claiming a 3-1 home win against Kosovo, who were gifted a goal in the 70th minute when keeper Unai Simon lost the ball after rushing out of his box and Besar Halimi ruthlessly pounced and scored from a distance.

Spain were, however, already 2-0 up after goals by Dani Olmo and Ferran Torres and they put the result beyond doubt when Gerard Moreno headed home the third.

In Group F, substitute Andreas Skov Olsen scored twice in a scintillating second half as Denmark made it three World Cup qualifying wins out of three with a 4-0 demolition of Austria.

They lead Scotland, who beat the Faroe Islands 4-0, by four points.

(Reporting by Julien Pretot; Editing by Clare Fallon)