The Netherlands slumped to a dramatic 4-2 defeat by Turkey in their opening 2022 World Cup qualifier on Wednesday, while reigning champions France were held by Ukraine.
European champions Portugal battled to a 1-0 victory over Azerbaijan, but 2018 World Cup runners-up Croatia lost 1-0 in Slovenia as they started their bid to reach the finals in Qatar.
In Istanbul, Turkey led 3-0 shortly after halftime through two Burak Yilmaz goals and a Hakan Calhanoglu strike, but substitutes Davy Klaassen and Luuk de Jong gave Frank de Boer’s Dutchmen hope.
Yilmaz’s wonderful free-kick sealed him a hat-trick and Turkey a crucial win, though, in a match between the two favourites to qualify from Group G.
The defeat was a dreadful start to the campaign for the Netherlands, who failed to qualify for either Euro 2016 or the 2018 World Cup, but are one of the fancied sides ahead of the delayed Euro 2020 finals this year.
France kicked off their title defence with a 1-1 draw against Ukraine at the Stade de France.
Antoine Griezmann curled a fine finish from outside the box into the top corner in the 19th minute to draw level with David Trezeguet in fourth place on France’s all-time goalscoring list, with 34.
But Presnel Kimpembe put through his own net before the hour mark to draw Ukraine level.
The Paris Saint-Germain defender had a late chance to make amends, but headed too close to away goalkeeper Georgiy Bushchan.
The other game in Group D saw Finland and Bosnia and Herzegovina draw 2-2, with Teemu Pukki netting twice for the Finns in Helsinki.
Belgium, the world’s number-one-ranked side, fell behind early against Wales but fought back to outclass their opponents 3-1.
Harry Wilson scored an excellent 10th-minute opener for Wales in Leuven, but Kevin De Bruyne and Thorgan Hazard netted in the space of six minutes to put the hosts ahead before the half-hour mark.
Belgium’s record goalscorer Romelu Lukaku wrapped up the points with a penalty 17 minutes from time, gaining the Red Devils a measure of revenge for their Euro 2016 quarterfinal loss to Wales.
Portugal, who defend the title at Euro 2020 later this year, struggled in their Group A opener against Azerbaijan in Turin.
But Maksim Medvedev’s own goal nine minutes before halftime was enough, despite Cristiano Ronaldo, on 102 international goals, failing to close the gap to Iranian Ali Daei’s all-time record of 109.
Portugal’s group rivals Serbia battled back to beat the Republic of Ireland 3-2, as Aleksandar Mitrovic came off the bench to grab a second-half double.
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