Qualifying for the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil got underway on Friday afternoon, starting with Russia playing host to Northern Ireland and 22 games in all being played on the same day in the UEFA section. Here's how the games went:
Wales 0-2 Belgium
The highly-rated Belgian side started their tie in Cardiff with 8 players contracted to English Premier League sides on the pitch. After a disappointing qualification attempt for Euro 2012, Marc Wilmots picked up maximum points in their opening game at the Millennium Stadium. Aided by James Collins' red card before even half hour was played, Vincent Kompany scored 4 minutes before half time before fellow defender Jan Vertonghen smashed home a free kick in the final 10 minutes.
Croatia 1-0 FYR of Macedonia
Igor Stimac's first competitive game as Croatia manager got off to a winning start over rivals Macedonia. Everton striker Nikica Jelavic scored the only goal in an unconvincing scoreline. Croatia travel to Belgium on Tuesday as a battle between the two sides who picked up maximum points on opening day.
Malta 0-1 Armenia
Of the four teams that played in this group, Armenia were the only side to pick up 3 points. They entered their game in Ta' Qali as favourites and didn't disappoint their support. Lokomotiv Moscow striker Artur Sarkisov scored the only goal of the game with 20 minutes remaining.
Bulgaria 2-2 Italy
Georgi Milanov rescued a point for Bulgaria midway through the second half as they held the Euro 2012 runners-up. Italy conceded just 2 goals in their 10 qualifying games leading up to Euro 2012 but are now winless in 3 games following their 2-1 victory over Germany in the semi-final of the summer tournament. Roma striker Pablo Osvaldo scored twice in 5 minutes towards the end of the first half after Stanislav Manolev had given Lubo Penev's side the lead on half hour.
Kazakhstan 1-2 Republic of Ireland
It wasn't the most convincing of performances from Giovanni Trapattoni's side but they will grateful to take home 3 points after a dramatic victory in Kazakhstan. Robbie Keane levelled the score in the 89th minute from the penalty spot before Kevin Doyle snatched all 3 points a minute later. Following 3 thrashings at Euro 2012, Ireland are back to winning ways, but have to wait until October for their next qualifying game... at home to Germany.
Germany 3-0 Faroe Islands
The scoreline wasn't as emphatic as most of us were expecting, but Germany end the day top of Group C with a 3-0 victory over the Faroe Islands. Joachim Löw's side had been wasteful in the first half, but lead at the break thanks to a solo effort from Mario Götze as he dribbled past a number of defenders before shooting across goal into Gunnar Nielsen's far post. The Manchester City goalkeeper made a number of saves in this match, albeit Germany were firing plenty of shots straight at him. Mesut Özil found his shooting boots for a change, first when he volleyed home Thomas Müller's cross on the counter attack and later connected with Marco Reus' through ball to fire between Nielsen's legs. A sloppy performance on Friday with a trip to Austria to come on Tuesday.
Netherlands 2-0 Turkey
The Netherlands ended a 4-game losing streak and a shocking Euro 2012 tournament with a 2-0 victory in Amsterdam. Robin van Persie had fired the Oranje in front after only 17 minutes, but the home fans wouldn't have been at ease until the 3rd minute of stoppage time when PSV Eindhoven's summer signing Luciano Narsingh made it 2-0.
Andorra 0-5 Hungary
Only one nation outscored Hungary's tally on Friday evening after they cruised to a 5-0 victory in Andorra. They will have a tough job qualifying for the World Cup, but there is a lot of talent in this side. They had 5 different goalscorers in this match, including West Bromwich Albion's Zoltan Gera, Alania Vladikavkaz's Tamas Priskin and former-Sampdoria player Vladimir Koman.
Estonia 0-2 Romania
Two second half goals for the visitors saw Romania start their World Cup qualifying campaign with 3 points. A home match with Andorra is to come on Tuesday for Victor Piturca's side who scored through goals from Granada-loanee Gabriel Torje and Schalke 04's Ciprian Marica in the second half.
Iceland 2-0 Norway
When the qualifying groups were draw, Norway came out of pot 1 and Iceland from pot 6. This result certainly wouldn't justify FIFA's World Rankings, but there's no doubting Iceland have a number of promising young attacking players in their side and that Norway haven't been playing very well in over a decade. Rotherham United's Kari Arnason opened the scoring midway through the first half before SC Heerenveen's Alfreð Finnbogason continued his fine start to the season with the 2nd 10 minutes from time. This group looks set to be wide open and Iceland have a chance to set the pace when they travel to Cyprus on Tuesday.
Albania 3-1 Cyprus
Albania scored two late goals to seal a 3-1 victory over Cyprus to start their World Cup qualifying campaign. The Eagles only recorded 1 victory in a disappointing attempt to qualify for South Africa 2 years ago and have 9 matches remaining to double their number of victories starting with a trip to Switzerland on Tuesday.
Slovenia 0-2 Switzerland
The Swiss national team have been going downhill since they opened their 2010 World Cup with a shock 1-0 victory over Spain. Failure to progress from their group was followed by finishing 3rd in a 5-team group for Euro 2012. Borussia Mönchengladbach's highly-rated Granit Xhaka opened the scoring in the 20th minute for Ottmar Hitzfeld's side before Gokhan Inler doubled their lead just after the break. Tranquillo Barnetta was sent off late on.
Russia 2-0 Northern Ireland
The 2018 World Cup hosts went top of group F with a straightforward 2-0 victory over Michael O'Neill's Northern Ireland. Viktor Fayzulin scored the opening goal of the qualifying games after 30 minutes at the Lokomotiv Stadium in Moscow. The visitors were never in the match which Fabio Capello's side put to bed with 12 minutes remaining when Roman Shirokov coolly slotted home from the penalty spot.
Luxembourg 1-2 Portugal
Portugal had to come from behind to record an unimpressive-looking 2-1 victory in lowly-ranked Luxembourg. Daniel da Mota had given the home nation the lead inside the opening quarter of an hour. From then on it was a barrage of attacks from the Euro 2012 losing semi-finalists. Cristiano Ronaldo equalised one-on-one in the 28th minute but Portugal only went in at half time on level despite numerous chances and hitting the goal frame on more than one occasion. Paulo Bento's 3 points were claimed when Helder Postiga beat the offside trap and finished with a neat volley into the bottom corner. In truth, the margin of victory deserved to be greater but Portugal do need to improve their performance none-the-less.
Azerbaijan 1-1 Israel
Two sides that are unlikely to find themselves on the plane to Brazil in two years time played out a 1-1 draw in Baku. The visitors were missing a number of first choice players but threw away a lead in the second half. Bibras Natkho gave Israel the lead in the 50th minute before Ruslan Abishov equalised 15 minutes late.
Liechtenstein 1-8 Bosnia and Herzegovina
The most-emphatic victory on Friday came in Liechtenstein as the small country were thrashed 8-1 at home to Bosnia and Herzegovina. Manchester City's Edin Dzeko and VfB Stuttgart's Vedad Ibisevic both helped themselves to hat tricks but tougher ties await the winners of this game further down the road. A trip to Slovakia awaits for Bosnia and Herzegovina on Tuesday.
Lithuania 1-1 Slovakia
Neither side helped their chances of qualifying for the World Cup by opening with a draw in Vilnius on Friday. 4 years ago, Lithuania opened with 3 wins from their first 4 qualifiers in a failed attempt to get to South Africa. Heart of Midlothian defender Marius Zaliukas gave his country the lead on 18 minutes in this qualifier before Marek Sapara equalised shortly before half time. Neither side could find the net in the second half as they settled for a point each.
Latvia 1-2 Greece
The Euro 2012 quarter-finalists had to come from a goal down at the break to win their opening qualifier for the 2014 World Cup. CSKA Moscow's Aleksandrs Cauna gave Latvia the lead just before half time from the penalty spot, but goals from Nikos Spyropoulos and Theofanis Gekas turned the tie on its head.
Moldova 0-5 England
There weren't many great surprises about this scoreline as Roy Hodgson started the game with a number of attacking midfielders to take the game to Moldova. Frank Lampard converted a penalty inside 3 minutes before doubling England's lead after half hour when he headed home Glen Johnson's cross. Jermain Defoe's effort managed to squeeze past the goalkeeper minutes later before James Milner and a deflected free kick from Leighton Baines in the second half rounded off the score. A tougher task awaits for England on Tuesday when they play Ukraine on Tuesday, a rematch of their controversial 1-0 victory at Euro 2012 in June.
Montenegro 2-2 Poland
Neither side could join England at the top of Group H on Friday as Montenegro and Poland shared the points in Podgorica. Borussia Dortmund's Jakub Blaszczykowski scored the first goal of the game with a 6th minute penalty. Montenegro would lead at half time thanks to Mirko Vucinic's stoppage time strike after Nikola Drincic had drawn the sides level. Adrian Mierzejewski's goal 10 minutes into the second half saw the visitors take a point home.
Finland 0-1 France
Abou Diaby scored the only goal of the game in Helsinki and put in another good performance after shining in Arsenal's 2-0 victory over Liverpool at the weekend. Didier Deschamps should be pleased to pick up a win in his first competitive game in charge, but France need to raise their game in the latter rounds when they face the defending World and European champions, Spain.
Georgia 1-0 Belarus
In the race for third place, Temuri Ketsbaia's Georgia recorded a 1-0 victory over Belarus in Tbilisi. Shakhtar Donetsk youngster Tornike Okriashvili scored the only goal of the game early in the second half.
The European section of qualifying continues on Saturday with Scotland playing host to Serbia and Czech Republic travelling to Denmark. There is then a full round of games on Tuesday.