Germany’s 20-year unbeaten run in WC qualifying ends

Germany’s 20-year, 35-match unbeaten run in World Cup qualifiers was surprisingly ended by North Macedonia on Wednesday, while England and Italy secured their third straight victories on the road to Qatar.

Germany was beaten 2-1 in Duisberg to lose a qualifying match for the World Cup for only the third time, and the first since a 5-1 thrashing by England in 2001. The other loss, by Portugal, came in 1985 when it was West Germany.

Somewhat improbably, the Germans find themselves third in their group after three games, behind North Macedonia and 99th-ranked Armenia, which beat Romania 3-2 for a third straight win having trailed after 87 minutes in Yerevan.

England also has a maximum of nine points after Harry Maguire scored an 85th-minute goal to clinch a 2-1 win over Poland, which was without injured striker Robert Lewandowski at Wembley Stadium.

Italy and Denmark are the other two teams to have won their opening three qualifiers.

Italy won 2-0 at Lithuania and is now 25 games unbeaten under coach Roberto Mancini, while Denmark beat Austria 4-0 away and has a continent-high 14 goals in qualifying.

Spain and France are recovering from opening-round draws and now have two straight wins after beating Kosovo 3-1 and Bosnia-Herzegovina 1-0, respectively.

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