Sweden defeated former world champions Italy 1-0 in the first leg of their 2018 World Cup playoff on Friday night but a raft of international friendlies same evening made great headlines too.
England held world champions Germany at Wembley as two experimental sides played out a 0-0 draw in their first friendly since sealing World Cup qualification.
The Three Lions had been expected to feel the absence of key men Dele Alli, Raheem Sterling and Harry Kane, among others, while Joachim Low’s visitors were similarly missing stars Manuel Neuer, Leon Goretzka and Thomas Muller.
But there was no lack of quality on display in a match that was more entertaining than the scoreline suggested, as the in-form Leroy Sane starred for Germany and struck the woodwork with the best effort of the first half. Antoine Griezmann proved his worth to France with a scintillating individual display as his volley, combined with Olivier Giroud’s second-half strike, helped Didier Deschamps’ side claim a 2-0 friendly win over Wales on Friday.
Having cruised through their World Cup qualification campaign, the hosts were in fine form at Stade de France, with Griezmann at the heart of a vibrant first-half performance in Les Bleus’ first meeting with Wales since 1982.
Romelu Lukaku and Hirving Lozano both scored braces as Belgium and Mexico played out an entertaining 3-3 draw at the King Baudouin Stadium in Brussels.
Captain Eden Hazard opened the scoring for Roberto Martinez’s side in the 17th minute after Lukaku’s shot had been blocked, before Mexico levelled through Andres Guardado’s penalty after 38 minutes.
Lukaku grabbed his first shortly after half-time, only for PSV Eindhoven midfielder Lozano to take centre stage with an impressive double.
His first was a cool finish from outside the area and his second was a superb first-time volley after Thibaut Courtois had saved his initial shot.
Lukaku was to have the final say, though, as he grabbed his second 20 minutes from time to ensure the game Goncalo Guedes was the star turn with a goal and an assist as Portugal beat Saudi Arabia 3-0 without their big names in a friendly at the Estadio do Fontelo on Friday.
In a game arranged as a fundraiser for victims of the Portugal wildfires, the hosts were without star forwards Cristiano Ronaldo, Ricardo Quaresma and Nani in Viseu.
Manuel Fernandes ensured Portugal’s first-half dominance was reflected on the scoresheet by finishing off a fine move involving Guedes, who had earlier missed two chances.
Guedes got the goal he deserved for a lively performance early in the second half, Ricardo Pereira setting the 20-year-old up to score his first international goal.
And Joao Mario capped off a handsome win by scoring the best goal of the night, also his first for the national team, with a drive from outside the area in the 90th minute. Artur Boruc bowed out on the international stage as World Cup qualifiers Poland and Uruguay fought out a lacklustre 0-0 draw in Warsaw on Friday.
Despite combining to produce 24 shots between them, the key absences of star strikers Robert Lewandowski and Luis Suarez – both rested to nurse niggling injuries – saw the nations draw a blank.
The visitors, who qualified for next year’s World Cup behind Brazil in the CONMEBOL section, controlled possession for long periods of the game but struggled to create many clear-cut opportunities.
Striker Edinson Cavani was denied five minutes into the second half by Swansea City’s Lukasz Fabianski, who had replaced veteran Boruc just before the interval.
Earlier on Friday, Brazil defeated Japan 3-1 in a friendly held in France.