Portugal suffer Euro 2016 hangover in Switzerland

France held by Belarus, Martinez gets first Belgium win, Netherlands draw in Sweden

Portugal were beaten 2-0 by Switzerland in their opening World Cup qualifier. Photograph: Afp

Portugal were beaten 2-0 by Switzerland in their opening World Cup qualifier. Photograph: Afp

 

Switzerland 2 Portugal 0

Switzerland struck twice in quick succession to stun Euro 2016 champions Portugal 2-0 in a World Cup qualifier on Tuesday and hand them a first competitive defeat in two years under coach Fernando Santos.

Ninteeen-year-old Breel Embolo headed Switzerland ahead in the 23rd minute and Admir Mehmedi doubled the lead six minutes later as Portugal’s defence, almost impregnable in France in June, dramatically unravelled.

Portugal, missing talismanic forward and record scorer Cristiano Ronaldo, regained their composure and dominated much of the rest of the game but were ineffective in attack.

Santos was appointed coach in September 2014 and had not previously lost in 14 competitive games, seven in the Euro 2016 qualifiers and another seven in the tournament itself.

Swiss midfielder Granit Xhaka was sent off for a second bookable offence in stoppage time as tempers flared.

Belarus 0 France 0

France got their World Cup qualifying campaign off to a poor start as they were held to a goalless draw in Belarus in Group A on Tuesday.

France, runners-up at this year’s European Championship, dominated the match but could find no way through with Olivier Giroud wasting their best opportunities.

Giroud pulled an effort wide when through on goal early in the second half and rattled the crossbar with a header.

In the group’s other games, Sweden and the Netherlands drew 0-0 while Bulgaria came out on top 4-3 in a seven-goal thriller against Luxembourg.

Sweden 1 Netherlands 1

Wesley Sneijder rifled home a second-half equaliser to cancel out Marcus Berg’s cool chip as the Netherlands claimed a point in their opening World Cup qualifier away to Sweden.

The Dutch, who came third at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil but failed to qualify for this year’s European Championship, struggled for long periods against a resolute Sweden side coming to terms with the departure of record goalscorer Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

Having last played at a World Cup finals in 2006, Sweden have recalled former Iceland manager Lars Lagerback as an advisor to new boss Janne Andersson, and the Scandinavians looked compact and organised, if occasionally a little shaky, in defence.

Cyprus 0 Belgium 3

Romelu Lukaku scored two headers to set Belgium on their way to a 3-0 win in Cyprus on Tuesday and a first victory for new coach Roberto Martinez at the start of their qualifying campaign for the 2018 World Cup finals.

Yannick Carrasco added the third as Belgium underlined their status as group favourites despite a change of manager following a disappointing Euro 2016 campaign in which they reached the quarter-finals.

Lukaku, who played under the Martinez at Everton, put Belgium ahead after 13 minutes with a diving header after a shot from Thomas Meunier had been touched on to the crossbar by Cyprus goalkeeper Constantinos Panayi and bounced back into the path of the striker.

The second goal came in the 61st minute as the promising keeper saved Carrasco’s effort but the ball ballooned up in the air and Lukaku easily converted with a simple header.

The third followed 20 minutes later when Panayi parried a stinging effort from Kevin de Bruyne, Eden Hazard picking up the rebound and unselfishly squaring for an easy tap-in for Carrasco.

Hazard was brought down in the last minute to allow substitute Michy Batshuayi the chance to score from a penalty but Panayi saved his spot-kick.

Belgium, jeered off by their own supporters when they lost a friendly to Spain in Brussels last Thursday, next play Bosnia at home while Cyprus travel to Greece.

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