Belgium took another big stride towards assuring their automatic qualification for the 2022 World Cup with a routine 1-0 win over Belarus.

The Red Devils – ranked number one in the world – made it three wins from three in this batch of qualifiers to all but ensure their place at Qatar.

With 16 points to their name, Belgium need just one win from their remaining two fixtures to seal top spot in Group E, with Dennis Praet's goal the difference on Wednesday.

Shorn of Romelu Lukaku and Kevin De Bruyne, Belgium did not make the most of their dominance, yet Belarus never threatened a comeback.

Toby Alderweireld played in a cross De Bruyne would have been proud of from the right-hand channel in the 20th minute – the ball falling to Batshuayi, who dragged his attempt wide.

Batshuayi headed in the rebound from Dedryck Boyata's effort against the crossbar soon after, only for the offside flag to cut short his celebrations.

Belgium had their lead two minutes later, however – Praet sweeping home across Sergey Chernik.

Dodi Lukebakio stretched his legs early in the second half, though made a poor decision to shoot from the edge of the area rather than slide in Leandro Trossard.

Batshuayi's search for a goal continued to prove fruitless as he saw an effort kept out by Chernik, Belgium missing the cutting edge to make the scoreline as comfortable as their performance warranted.

Artem Bykov tried to make them pay with a hopeful long-range attempt, but it never came close to testing Koen Casteels as Belgium eased to victory – Eden Hazard seeing a late free-kick saved well by Chernik at the other end.

Italy set a new all-time record of 37 matches without defeat as a Moise Kean brace helped them thump Lithuania 5-0 in World Cup qualifying on Wednesday.

Roberto Mancini's side equalled Brazil's record, set between 1993 and 1996, with a 0-0 draw against Switzerland at the weekend and the European champions moved clear of the Selecao in some style at Mapei Stadium.

The game was over as a contest by half-time courtesy of Kean's double either side of an own goal from Edgaras Utkus and Giacomo Raspadori's maiden international strike.

Giovanni Di Lorenzo rounded off the scoring early in the second half as the Azzurri moved onto 14 points at the summit of Group C, six points clear of second-placed Switzerland.

 

Italy wasted little time stamping their authority on the game, Mancini's men racing into a 2-0 lead after just 14 minutes.

Kean put them ahead with a clinical finish after a sloppy pass from Arvydas Novikovas, before Utkus inadvertently diverted Raspadori's 20-yard drive past Ernestas Setkus.

Sassuolo striker Raspadori did open his international account after 24 minutes, though, powering into the roof of the net from six yards, while Kean added another five minutes later, the Juventus man steering home a sumptuous volley from Federico Bernardeschi's lofted pass.

Di Lorenzo made it five nine minutes into the second half, the Napoli full-back scoring his first goal for his country with a cross that looped into Setkus' far corner. 

Gaetano Castrovilli thundered against the post from 18 yards in the closing stages as Italy cruised to a record-breaking three points with the minimum of fuss.

What does it mean? Fresh faces deliver for Mancini

Mancini shuffled his pack after admitting his players were "tired" following the draw with Switzerland and his new-look starting XI were anything but sluggish during an electric opening 45 minutes.

They slowed down after the interval, but the damage had been done against a sorry Lithuania side who have now lost all five of their Group C matches.  

Resurgent Kean shines

Kean doubled his international tally with two first-half strikes, the second of which will have had Juventus fans licking their lips at the prospect of what he can achieve this season after a torrid time in England with Everton.

Quiet game for Jorginho

Captaining his country for the first time, Jorginho endured a subdued game. The Chelsea midfielder failed to take a shot or play a single key pass during his 61 minutes on the pitch.

What's next?

Italy face Spain in the Nations League next month before wrapping up their qualifying campaign against Switzerland and Northern Ireland in November. Lithuania, meanwhile, face Bulgaria and Switzerland in Group C in October.

Louis van Gaal insisted "it will only get better" for the Netherlands after turning on the style in Tuesday's 6-1 World Cup qualifying win over Turkey in Amsterdam.

Memphis Depay scored his first international hat-trick and was joined on the scoresheet by Davy Klaassen, Guus Til and Donyell Malen in a dominant display from the Dutch.

The Netherlands opened the scoring inside 54 seconds and were three up with 38 minutes played, the fastest they have led 3-0 in a competitive match in a decade.

Turkey lost Caglar Soyuncu to a red card before half-time but profited from a mix-up at the back to add a late consolation through Cengiz Under, though it was still their heaviest defeat since losing 8-0 to England in 1984.

Oranje have won two and drawn one of their three games since van Gaal replaced Frank de Boer, scoring 11 goals in the process, yet van Gaal can see room for improvement.

"If you win 6-1, you can expect a lap of honour," he told NOS. "This is what I signed up for, for the competition. 

"I projected my vision onto the players. I did a lot of what the players wanted. I said after the Norway and Montenegro games that it was a fantastic group, and I'm saying that again now.

"They boys have lasted the whole game, which is not normal. The first goal was college football. We haven't worked on that in training, it just comes out. 

"I'm dealing with a very happy group. I have passed the first threshold and I'm very happy with it. From now on it will only get better. We were too careless in possession."

 

Depay has scored five goals for the Netherlands in their last two games and has 12 in total for 2021, equalling the record for goals in a calendar year set by Patrick Kluivert in 2000.

The Barcelona forward is now joint eighth on Oranje's all-time top-scorers list, level with Johan Cruyff and Abe Lenstra with 33 goals in 71 caps.

Depay, who made his debut under in the first of van Gaal's three spells in charge in 2013, is now looking to climb further up that legendary list.

"Cruyff and Lenstra are legends," Depay told NOS. "They have meant so much to the Dutch national team and put our football on the map.

"You can't compare anyone with that. I now have to make sure that I remain important for the team with my game and with my goals.

"I am now in the top 10 of top scorers, but I want to be in the top three one day."

The only blemish for the Netherlands came in added time when Virgil van Dijk failed to get to a short Justin Bijlow pass under pressure from Halil Dervisoglu.

Under walked the ball into an empty net and van Dijk stayed on the ground after being caught by Dervisoglu in what appeared to be an injury scare for Liverpool.

However, the centre-back – who led the way with 88 passes at the Johan Cruijff ArenA – has provided a positive update on the ankle issue.

"I'm lucky. I'm already over it," he said. "Maybe because I am so big, they think I am acting.

"But all-in-all it was a very nice evening. There is no doubt in our minds that the next two games are very important in a month's time."

The Netherlands are top of Group G with four games to go, ahead of second-placed Norway – who they still have to face at home – on goal difference.

Cristiano Ronaldo returning to Old Trafford will instil confidence and help Manchester United win titles, according to Bruno Fernandes.

Fernandes was United's key man last term, scoring 18 times and assisting 12 in the Premier League as Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's men finished second in the top flight.

Ronaldo now joins his Portugal team-mate, returning to Manchester after a 12-year absence having previously scored 118 goals in 292 appearances across all competitions in his first spell.

And Fernandes, who impressed with a game-high five passes including an assist in the absence of Ronaldo against Azerbaijan, hailed the quality and confidence the all-time leading international scorer will offer.

"We know that enthusiasm will be high, everyone knows Cristiano and is very happy and confident to have him back," Fernandes told RTP3 post-match on Tuesday.

"[Us] players are part of that confidence, we know what he can give us. Our focus and Cristiano's, because of what I've already talked to him about, is to win what there is to win.

"Our goals remain and obviously, with Cristiano, we have one more reference to help us get closer to that."

 

Ronaldo could feature as soon as September 11 against Newcastle United, who are the only club the 36-year-old scored a Premier League hat-trick against before departing Manchester in 2009.

Despite the supposed rivalry, Liverpool forward Diogo Jota, who scored in the 3-0 defeat of Azerbaijan but blasted a team-high five shots, is looking forward to a competitive Premier League campaign with Ronaldo returning.

"Yes, it always adds value and I think this year has everything to be another great English championship," Jota said to RTP3.

"There was a joke or two while he [Ronaldo] was here, but nothing special."

Fernando Santos felt Portugal deserved to win by an even bigger margin in their 3-0 victory over Azerbaijan in Tuesday's World Cup qualifier.

Portugal made it four wins in five Group A matches to reclaim top spot from Serbia, who were held 1-1 by the Republic of Ireland.

The 2016 European champions were two goals ahead inside 31 minutes thanks to Bernardo Silva's volley and Andre Silva's tap-in.

Diogo Jota added a third for the visitors 15 minutes from time, but only after the Liverpool attacker and Andre Silva had wasted some glorious opportunities.

Portugal scored from three of their 21 attempts in total, a third of those on target, and Santos was disappointed his side did not further improve their goal difference.

"The only thing about the result that is not good was the amount of goals we scored," he told RTP.

"When teams are not organised then they have difficulties, running a lot after the ball and wearing themselves out. When they have the ball they have more difficulties.

"Without some balance in the game it becomes difficult. We knew this was a game of patience as the opponents usually defend well. We knew an early goal would force them to change.

"That happened after the second goal when they went with a 4-3-3. We were always looking for the goal and creating spaces to enter, either through the middle or out wide."

 

Jota was responsible for a team-high five of Portugal's shots, finding the net from one of those having earlier claimed an assist for Andre Silva's goal.

He now has eight goals in 21 caps for the Selecao, who have put their Euro 2020 disappointment behind them with three wins from three over the past week.

"In these three games, one of which was a friendly, we did our job, which was to win each of them," Jota told RTP. "Today's performance was good and so was the result.

"This is what football is all about. You should never give up after missing. I'm glad I scored in the end. I always want to help individually, but the result is the most important thing."

Portugal were without the suspended Cristiano Ronaldo, who has now linked up with Manchester United, but are two points clear of Serbia in Group A with three more fixtures still to play.

"Every opponent and every match is tough and will be like a final for us," Andre Silva said. "We drew in Serbia and still have to play them in our last game.

"We have to focus on ourselves as we have those three finals to win."

Didier Deschamps praised France's determination after defeating Finland 2-0 in Tuesday's World Cup qualifier.

Les Bleus ended a five-game winless run with victory in Lyon as they continued their unbeaten streak and created a seven-point gap over second-place Ukraine in Group D.

Despite an underwhelming return after a poor Euro 2020 showing, it is the first time since 2006 that France have not lost any of their first six matches in qualifying for a major tournament (W3 D3).

Indeed, consecutive draws against Bosnia-Herzegovina and Ukraine had placed pressure on Deschamps, which is why he hailed Tuesday's win as crucial.

"It's easy to talk, I'm doing what I think is good for them and the interests of the France team," Deschamps told TF1 post-match.

"Even if we didn't do everything well, today there was more determination and from there, the technical quality is there.

"It was a very important result, but the job will have to be finished in November.

"We have never stayed for such a long period [without a win], it can happen.

"We must therefore appreciate this victory and especially during the last two qualifying matches in November, finish the job."

Antoine Griezmann's brace proved the difference, his first making him the fourth France player to score 40 goals, while his second saw him join Michel Platini in third on the list of all-time goalscorers.

The 30-year-old thrived after a change in system by Deschamps to a three-man defence and the Atletico Madrid loanee also recognised the importance of the result.

"We wanted this victory, to show that we are solid and that we had not lost anything," Griezmann said to TF1.

"Now we must keep this state of mind, this desire to give everything on the field, to win the duels and having to hurt like we did.

"Maybe we found a system that suits us best. We'll see. It's the coach who'll decide. But tonight, we were strong.

"Five draws was a long time. We wanted to win and we did it in the right way."

Antoine Griezmann's double ended a five-game winless run for France as they defeated Finland 2-0 in Tuesday's World Cup qualifier.

Didier Deschamps' men scored the opening goal for the first time in six matches, Griezmann delivering a stunning left-footed finish to become the fourth player to score 40 goals for France.

Finland were the most recent defeat team to triumph on French soil but rarely troubled in Lyon, Griezmann adding a second after the break to draw him level with Michel Platini in third on the all-time scoring list.

The hosts sit top of Group D and remain unbeaten despite their underwhelming return after a poor Euro 2020, while Markku Kanerva's men have won just two of their past 12 games across all competitions.

Urho Nissila brought the first save from Hugo Lloris, his looping strike forcing the Tottenham goalkeeper to tip over before Karim Benzema called Lukas Hradecky into action with a left-footed effort.

However, Hradecky was no match four minutes later as Griezmann beautifully curled into the bottom-right corner after an offload from Benzema, who was appearing in Lyon for the first time since 2011 after returning to his former club with Real Madrid.

Paul Pogba came close to adding a second, though he could only volley wide on the stretch as he sliced his right-footed strike from outside the area.

Griezmann doubled his and France's tally after the break, rolling a delicate shot through the legs of Hradecky after being teed up by Leo Dubois.

Atletico Madrid's new loanee should have completed his hat-trick, Benzema again acting as the creator, but he could only poke over before acrobatically volleying wide with his next attempt.

Benzema could have had a goal of his own in the closing stages, but Hradecky got down well to parry away after the forward had struck a left-footed volley.

What does it mean? Deschamps ends winless run and furthers Group D lead

France had stuttered after their poor showing at Euro 2020, drawing their five games in a row for the first time in their history before the visit of Finland.

However, Tuesday's win ensured their unbeaten run remains intact and extended their advantage at the top of Group D to a seven-point gap over second-place Ukraine.

Finland have played a game less than their closest rivals Ukraine but also sit on five points in third place, despite only picking up their first win against Kazakhstan last weekend.

Perfect Pogba

Griezmann will take the plaudits but Pogba appeared a class above at Groupama Stadium as he enjoyed a game-high 142 touches.

No player completed more passes than the Manchester United midfielder (113), who also recorded the most opposition-half passes (73).

In a complete midfield outing, Pogba managed 17 recoveries of the ball, 10 more than any other player on the pitch.

Poor Pukki

Teemu Pukki needs just three more goals to become Finland's all-time top scorer but fired a blank in a timid performance, with a second-half caution not helping his cause.

Only the two goalkeepers, Lloris and Hradecky (both 28), had fewer touches than Pukki's 29 and he won fewer than half of the nine duels he competed for.

To make matters worse, the Norwich City forward completed the fewest passes (14) of any outfield player in Lyon to play 90 minutes as he endured a torrid time up top.

What's next?

France face Belgium in the Nations League semi-final in October before hosting Kazakhstan the following month. Finland next play Ukraine at Helsinki Olympic Stadium.

Memphis Depay scored a hat-trick and set up another as the Netherlands thumped 10-man Turkey 6-1 at the Johan Cruijff ArenA to move to the top of their World Cup qualifying group.

Barcelona forward Depay played in Davy Klaassen to put the Dutch in front inside 54 seconds and then added a couple of his own – a brilliant strike and a penalty – before half-time.

Turkey were reduced to 10 men prior to the interval when Caglar Soyuncu was sent off and the Netherlands did not hold back, with Depay heading in from a yard out for his third of the day.

Cengiz Under profited from a defensive mistake to net a consolation, but only after substitutes Guus Til and Donyell Malen had added their names to the scoresheet in an emphatic victory for Louis van Gaal's men.

Turkey had gone unbeaten in their first five games to lead the way at the top of Group G but were behind in Amsterdam within a minute when Klaassen played a one-two with Depay and slotted in off the post.

The pair linked up again as Klaassen flicked a return pass into the path of Depay, who kept his composure to tuck the ball away from Ugurcan Cakir and put the Netherlands well on course for an eighth straight home win.

Turkey found themselves three goals down with seven minutes of the first half still to play – Depay dinking the ball down the middle from the penalty spot after Soyuncu tripped Klaassen in the box.

Soyuncu was booked for that challenge and was issued another yellow card eight minutes later for a foul Depay, who completed his first international hat-trick early in the second half.

Feyenoord midfielder Til spun his marker and blasted in his maiden Netherlands goal and fellow substitute Malen rolled a sixth into an empty net, rendering Under's late tap-in nothing but a consolation on a night to forget for Turkey.

Luis Enrique has reiterated he would love to see Pep Guardiola take over as Spain coach in the future.

Former Barcelona coach Guardiola suggested last month that he wishes to try his hand in international football after leaving Manchester City.

Guardiola's City deal runs until 2023, and while he plans to take a break whenever his time at the Premier League club is up, he also wants to experience coaching a national team.

Luis Enrique helped continue the legacy his former team-mate built at Camp Nou and said he would have no issues in standing aside for Guardiola.

In fact, it is something Luis Enrique wants to see.

"I'd love that, I wish [Guardiola] was the Spain coach. I'd love it – it would be perfect," he enthused in a news conference ahead of Spain's World Cup qualifier against Kosovo.

"What's more, I'd love to see our national team with his stamp on them.

"I don't think Spain could have a better coach."

Spain have not had it all their own way in qualification but nevertheless sit top of Group B after they bounced back from a 2-1 loss to Sweden by thrashing Georgia 4-0.

The Euro 2020 semi-finalists only hold a one-point advantage over Sweden, however, having played two games more.

As was the case for the Euros, Luis Enrique again did not select any Real Madrid players in his latest squad, though he played a straight bat when pressed on his decision on Tuesday.

"My actions speak louder than words [with regards to Real Madrid players]," he said.

"I could only dig myself a hole with an explanation."

Portugal reclaimed top spot in Group A as they cruised to a 3-0 victory over Azerbaijan in Tuesday's World Cup qualifier.

In the absence of the suspended Cristiano Ronaldo, who became the all-time international top men's goalscorer against the Republic of Ireland, the goals were shared around by Fernando Santos' men.

Bruno Fernandes played a part in the first two, teeing up Bernardo Silva for the opener before crossing for Diogo Jota to set up Andre Silva for the second.

Without Sahruddin Mahammadaliyev, matters could have been far worse for Azerbaijan, but the goalkeeper was powerless to stopping Jota add a third in the second half.

The visitors dominated the opening stages, registering 66.7 per cent possession in the first 15 minutes but Fernandes lashed the only half-chance over.

Portugal's possessional patience eventually paid off, Bernardo Silva ghosting in to latch onto Fernandes' deep cross and volley home via the left-hand post with his left foot.

Fernandes was involved in the second goal, too, crossing from the right flank to find Jota, who redirected back across goal for Andre Silva to tap in inside the six-yard area.

Andre Silva should have doubled his account four minutes later after being rolled through by Fernandes, only to drag a glorious chance wide with the goal at his mercy.

A minute after the break, Jota failed to make it three as he sliced wide of an almost open net after profiting from Fernandes' drilled teaser from the right flank.

Fernandes looked for a goal of his own from range, but Mahammadaliyev parried the dipping effort away before keeping out Bernando Silva's fizzing left-footed strike.

After being denied from close range by Mahammadaliyev and blasting over, Jota finally found the back of the net, nodding home after Joao Cancelo's delivery from the right.

What does it mean? Portugal wrestle back top spot

It was always going to be an uphill task for Azerbaijan after Bernardo Silva's opener, given Fernando Santos' men are unbeaten since 2009 when scoring the opening goal in World Cup qualifiers.

Indeed, Portugal boast the best defensive record in Group A, but they are by no means cruising in qualification, topping the table on 13 points with second-place Serbia three points behind by the virtue of playing later on Tuesday.

Azerbaijan, who ended a two-game losing streak with a draw against the Republic of Ireland last time out, sit bottom on goal difference after collecting just the sole point.

Cruise control for Cancelo

Fernandes may take credit for his playmaking clinic, which saw him produce three key passes including his assist.

However, Cancelo sneaked under the radar as he produced a dominant display. The right-back assisted Jota's header with a deep cross from the right flank and was seemingly everywhere in Baku.

The Manchester City defender recorded 121 touches and 77 successful passes – both game-leading figures – while also completing a team-high four tackles in a complete showing.

Awful Alasgarov

Namiq Alasgarov cut an isolated figure up top, with matters made worse by his first-half caution for a reckless challenge on Joao Moutinho.

The forward's 38 touches were the lowest of any outfield player to play 90 minutes and he only won a third of the nine duels he competed for as he struggled against Ruben Dias and Pepe.

What's next?

Portugal host Luxembourg in their next qualifier on October 12 after a friendly against Qatar, while Azerbaijan invite the Republic of Ireland to Baku on October 9.

Gareth Southgate insists England will be prepared for another hostile atmosphere when they travel to Warsaw to face Poland.

England have enjoyed a productive international break thus far, coasting past Hungary and Andorra by an aggregate score of 8-0 to make it five wins in five games.

Last Thursday in Budapest, England players were subjected to racist abuse by the crowd, Raheem Sterling being the main target as he celebrated his opener.

Southgate expects a tough test on Wednesday, with five of the last seven games on Polish soil finishing as a draw between these two sides.

"We have to approach the game as we did the other night," said the England boss.

"We know keeping possession of the ball can be a big factor in managing those situations.

"But the flow of the game will be different and we are playing a level of opponent who I think is in a better moment.

"They have won their last two games and have good footballers in the team who will keep the ball a little bit better than Hungary were able to against us.

"Then there is a balance of not inflaming situations and giving a home crowd something to live off and get behind the team more.

"That's the balance and experience. I'm sure our players will manage that no problem."

 

Poland have failed to beat the Three Lions in their last 17 attempts and Southgate appreciates the visitors can take control of their World Cup qualification destiny.

"It's a big opportunity for us, we can take a really positive step to the World Cup if we win in Warsaw," he continued.

"There's a high level of motivation, but we're also guarding against any feeling that we're better than we are.

"The team is playing well and we have a squad, any of whom are more than comfortable coming into the side and playing well when they come into the team.

"But those moments can be dangerous if we get any sense of complacency, then we're going into a game where we can be really challenged."

Louis van Gaal compared the self-confidence of his Netherlands side to being like that of Formula One star Max Verstappen.

Van Gaal's Netherlands will face Turkey in a crucial top-of-the-table World Cup Group G qualifier on Tuesday.

The Netherlands are a point adrift following their 4-0 rout of Montenegro last time out and Van Gaal is happy with his team since taking over from Frank de Boer.

Van Gaal likened the Netherlands' confidence to that of Dutch driver Verstappen, who reclaimed the F1 world championship lead from Lewis Hamilton with his Dutch Grand Prix success last week.

"The most important thing, which Max [Verstappen] also has, is to have self-confidence," Van Gaal told reporters.

"Very strong confidence, and you just heard from Memphis [Depay] that he also has very strong confidence in the team.

"I am happy about that because I also have a lot of self-confidence. So, we are all on the same wavelength."

After being held 1-1 by Norway in Van Gaal's first game in his third spell in charge, Oranje turned on the style in Saturday's World Cup qualifier with Montenegro at Philips Stadion.

Memphis Depay opened the scoring from the penalty spot and added a second just after the hour mark to put the Netherlands on course for a seventh straight home win.

That was the first time in 70 caps Depay had scored the first two goals for his country in a match, the Barcelona forward taking his goals tally to 30 across that period.

Captain Georginio Wijnaldum put the result beyond doubt with the hosts' third and Cody Gakpo rounded off the scoring 14 minutes from time with his first international goal.

On Turkey, Van Gaal added: "[Turkish coach Senol Gunes] has made his team play in a very disciplined way. It's really very good to have Turkey play with discipline, and Turkey has some smart players, with players who play at top clubs, actually.

"They only have two players who play in Turkey, at least in the team we're expecting to face."

Wissam Ben Yedder has been called up to the France squad as Kingsley Coman struggles with a calf injury. 

Coman played just over an hour of France's 1-1 draw with Ukraine on Saturday – their fifth straight match without a victory. 

With the Bayern Munich winger a doubt to face Finland in Les Bleus' next World Cup qualifier on Tuesday, head coach Didier Deschamps decided to call up a reinforcement. 

Ben Yedder was added to the squad on Monday for France's third game in seven days. 

Deschamps confirmed Jules Kounde would miss the Finland match through suspension following his red card in last week's 1-1 draw with Bosnia-Herzegovina, while Aurelien Tchouameni and Thomas Lemar were struggling for fitness. 

The France boss called on his team to be more proactive against Finland and bring an end to their winless streak. 

"In those two matches [against Bosnia-Herzegovina and Ukraine], we were more reactive than proactive, with chances not in our favour," said Deschamps. 

"We are aware of it and tomorrow we must reverse this trend. Defence is important, too, but this is a less happy time because of the results. We know what we have to do to stay in control of our destiny. 

"The players are not happy. They cannot be satisfied with these results. We will do everything to reverse the trend.  

"I will redouble my efforts. The players are in the same state of mind, to add a little more and get what we want." 

Trent Alexander-Arnold conceded he struggled in the midfield experiment with England against Andorra on Sunday.

The Liverpool star has been a key asset for Jurgen Klopp at right-back, who allows Alexander-Arnold and left-back Andrew Robertson licence to attack.

However, with Reece James, Kieran Trippier and Kyle Walker offering Gareth Southgate a wealth of depth at right-back, England opted to move Alexander-Arnold, who has registered 40 assists in all competitions since the start of 2018-19.

The 22-year-old recorded an 81 per cent passing accuracy in the first half, which increased to 87.1 per cent at the end of the game after a second-half change back to the right flank.

He also produced a game-high six crosses and two key passes – only bettered by Jude Bellingham (three) – but was uneasy when asked to reflect on his performance.

"It's a new role for me, a bit different, I think there's been a lot of questions being asked whether I can or cannot play in there and a lot of opinions being voiced over the last few weeks," Alexander-Arnold said to talkSPORT.

"It was an experiment the manager wanted to try out, but it was difficult to get on the ball for me, I found it a lot more difficult to get on the ball in those spaces.

"But whether I'm starting in there or starting [at] right-back I think naturally I just find myself drifting into midfield, getting the ball and affecting the game."

 

Since his debut in October 2016, Alexander-Arnold has created two chances per 90 minutes across all competitions for Liverpool.

Given he also averages 76.95 passing accuracy in that time frame, his self-assessment of the performance against Andorra perhaps seems harsh.

Those numbers increase minimally to 2.45 chances created per 90 minutes and 77.58 accuracy since his standout season in 2019-20 but the Liverpool academy graduate remained frank in his opinions of his first international midfield outing.

"The only difference was I was starting in there [in midfield] and it was a bit more difficult to really find the space that I wanted to," he continued.

"The second half we changed the system a little bit and I was able to find a lot more space and get time on the ball and get in positions that were fairly similar to playing in midfield anyway."

England cannot just focus on Robert Lewandowski in Wednesday's World Cup qualifier with Poland, Three Lions boss Gareth Southgate has warned his players.

Lewandowski scored three times across Poland's victories over Albania and San Marino last week to make it 72 goals for his country in 124 caps.

Picking up from where he left off in 2020-21, when setting a new record for the most goals ever scored in a single Bundesliga campaign (41), the prolific striker has been in fine form this term.

He has scored in all six matches he has played for club and country, and netted 10 times in total to strengthen his status as arguably the finest striker on the planet.

The Bayern Munich man was injured when Poland lost 2-1 at Wembley in March but is fit and firing for this latest encounter between Group I's top two teams.

But while acknowledging Lewandowski's quality in front of goal, Southgate insists there is more to Poland than just one player, as Paulo Sousa's men showed in the reverse fixture six months ago.

"They played at Wembley without him and they gave a very good account of themselves," he said.

"We only scored really late on in the game to win it, so of course it's no different if we didn't have Harry Kane or Raheem [Sterling], then they would be a big loss to us.

"The very top players for any team in the world are a loss if you don’t have them and every coach will feel the same way.

"But when we're preparing the team to play against Poland, we're not just looking at Lewandowski.

"We absolutely respect what he brings and we know what a threat he is, but they've got some other very dangerous players as well."

 

Lewandowski's run of goals includes scoring in 13 successive Bundesliga matches stretching back into last season – only the late Gerd Muller (16 in 1969-70) found the net in more consecutive league games.

The 33-year-old surpassed 300 goals for Bayern with his recent hat-trick against Hertha Berlin, reaching 301 in just his 333rd appearance for the German giants. 

Again, that is a haul only bettered by Muller (566 goals in 607 matches) in Die Roten's history.

Lewandowski's goals in September's qualifiers have helped Poland to two wins from as many games, but they remain five points adrift of group leaders England at the midway point.

England have yet to drop any points and will be as good as assured of a place at Qatar 2022 should they extend that winning run in Warsaw this week.

"Clearly with Hungary's last result [losing 1-0 to Albania], Poland look like being the nearest challengers, which we probably thought when this group was drawn," Southgate said.

"It's a great incentive for us now. If we can go to Warsaw and win then we really are in control of the group."

© 2020 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.